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JAMA 100 Years Ago
February 17, 1999


Author Affiliations

JenniferReiling, Editorial Assistant

JAMA. 1999;281(7):592R. doi:10.1001/jama.281.7.592R-JJY90001-2-1

In New York City, several of the police magistrates have refused to require witnesses to kiss the Bible in taking oaths. One judge, in speaking to a reporter, stated that he had had his attention forcibly called to the perils of the kissing-oath by an apparently well-authenticated case wherein death was said to have resulted to a young witness who had occasion to testify in his court. He believed that this young girl contracted her fatal malady from the cover of the court Bible, which had been handled and kissed by persons innumerable. . . . He further said that the covers of some of the court Bibles have been noticed by him to be filthy and to be worn through in spots by the pressure of the lips of witnesses and prisoners. As there is no legal obligation resting upon magistrates to insist upon the ordinary form of Bible-oath, he had determined to discontinue the use of the book in his court, and he did so principally because he felt that the old form might result in the communication of infectious diseases. . . . The question must arise in the inquiring mind how it is that the judges and attendants at the various lower courts permit the books to be continued in use after they have become worn and filthy in appearance; the price of Bibles is not so exorbitant but that the supply could be renewed at least once a week.