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19/10/2013 05:06 BST | Updated 19/10/2013 05:14 BST

Bible Oaths Could Be Axed In Courts In England And Wales

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Queries have been raised over whether the Bible is a necessity when asking people to being honest in court.

Magistrates are to debate whether to do away with the swearing of oaths on the Bible and other holy books in courts in England and Wales.

The move would see the end of the familiar sentence: "I swear by Almighty God, to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

Instead there would be a statement in which people would promise "very sincerely" to tell the truth.

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Experts will discuss whether the current oath and affirmation are "fit for purpose" during the Magistrates' Association annual conference in Cardiff today.

Witnesses currently have the option of swearing an oath on a Bible or other holy book, or making a non-religious affirmation before a judge.

Other faiths can take the oath on their own holy books, for example, Muslims on the Koran and Jews on the Old Testament.

But now the Magistrates' Association is to debate whether the holy books hold any moral force in modern society.

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The plan has been put forward by a Bristol magistrate, Ian Abrahams, who argues people are no more likely to tell the truth by using the Bible.

He believes what is needed is a greater sense of how seriously lying in court is treated, the BBC reported.

He told the Daily Mail: “More and more I see people shrug their shoulders or say 'whatever' when asked to take it.

“Instead, people will have to show they understand they could be sent to prison if they don’t tell the truth," he said.

But critics point out non-believers already have the option of promising to tell the truth without any reference to a sacred text, and that the change would further erode Britain’s Christian heritage.

Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester, said: “This could be the slippery slope towards the increasing secularisation of society.

“Where will it end – with the Coronation Oath? The Bible is bound up with the constitution, institutions and history of this country," he told the Bristol Post.

“It is right for people to have a choice of oath, a religious or non-religious one.

“But we are being urged, in the name of tolerance and secularisation, to restrict that choice.”

The practice is so old that it is not clear whether it is simply custom or if the move to alter it would require a change in the law.