Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema made history on Thursday when she was officially sworn into office as the first woman to represent Arizona in the Senate, and the first ever openly bisexual member to serve in that chamber as well.
Yet Sinema’s day in Congress was unique in another way — unlike many of her colleagues in Congress, she didn’t use a religious text for her swearing-in ceremony. Instead, Sinema used an Arizona lawbook to take her oath of office, according to reporting from Friendly Atheist.
Sinema does not officially declare herself as an atheist, to be sure, instead listing her beliefs as being “unaffiliated.” It’s not unfamiliar ground for the lawmaker: Sinema did the same thing in 2013 as well, when she was first sworn into the House of Representatives, at which point she also used a lawbook to be officially sworn in as a lawmaker in that chamber.
Although very uncommon in American politics, Sinema is not the first individual to refuse usage of a religious text while affirming an oath of office. In fact, a pair of presidents have done so as well: Teddy Roosevelt and John Quincy Adams.
Roosevelt’s reasoning for refusing to use a bible to be sworn in on aren’t as well-documented, but we do know why, without any doubt, Adams refused to use one. Adams was a devout Christian, but he simply didn’t believe church and state should be co-mingling with one another, per reporting from CNN.
— Hemant Mehta (@hemantmehta) January 3, 2019
Several other lawmakers in Congress used other texts, including a diverse array of religious books, for their swearing-in ceremonies.
Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib used a Quran for her oath of office, and a very special one to be sure: the book she used was owned by Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States. Tlaib said she was proud to have used the book for her ceremony, explaining that it would hopefully open some people’s minds to understand that Muslims have been in America for quite some time.
“I like that it’s kind of pushing against the stereotype that somehow we’re new to this country,” Tlaib said, per reporting from the Miami Herald.
The 116th Congress was sworn into office on Thursday, and is considered to be the most diverse Congress to ever serve, the Huffington Post reported. This session has more women serving than ever before, including two Muslim women and two Native American women in office, both firsts for Congress.