Q: Does the presidential oath of office have to be sworn using the Bible? For example, if Mitt Romney had won the election, would he have been allowed to take the oath with his hand on the Book of Mormon had he wished to do so?
A: Using a Bible while taking the presidential oath of office isn’t a law. It’s a tradition started by George Washington, according to constitutional scholars. President Barack Obama didn’t use a Bible at his second swearing-in ceremony in 2009, which was taken one day after Chief Justice John Roberts said a word out of sequence in the public ceremony during his first inauguration.
Several presidents haven’t used a Bible, including John Quincy Adams, who used a book of law in 1825. Theodore Roosevelt didn’t use a book of any kind during his 1901 swearing-in after President William McKinley was assassinated, according to the Library of Congress and Architect of the Capitol. Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office with a Roman Catholic missal, a liturgical book, but only because it was mistaken to be a Bible in the hours after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
In any case, Jana Riess, a religion scholar and author, told CNN.com before the election that she didn’t think Romney would have used the Book of Mormon to take the oath of office. Romney used a Bible when he was sworn in as governor of Massachusetts in 2003; it reportedly was the same one his father, George Romney, used when he was sworn in as Michigan’s governor in 1963.
Q: During inaugural coverage, Vice President Joe Biden’s wife was referred to as Dr. Jill Biden. What kind of doctor is she?
A: Jill Biden earned a doctorate in education from the University of Delaware in 2007, according to her White House website bio. Her dissertation was on maximizing student retention in community colleges. The second lady also has master’s degrees from West Chester University and Villanova University and is an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College.