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Sworn into public office on a Bible? That's so 2013

Published: Friday, July 18 2014 5:20 a.m. MDT

Updated: Monday, July 28 2014 10:36 a.m. MDT

Businessman taking oath.

milla1974, Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Technological advancements have changed the way the world worships. Developments like smartphone spirituality apps and preacher podcasts enable believers to engage with their faith in new ways.

However, some religious leaders resist innovations that affect sacred texts. It may be convenient to have the Bible on an iPad, but is something lost when Christians stop using printed copies?

This debate was in the news last month when the new U.S. ambassador to Switzerland, Suzi LeVine, became the first ambassador to be sworn in on a Kindle. Although her device displayed an excerpt from the Constitution, media coverage of the ceremony noted that using digital versions of the Bible at official events might soon be commonplace.

"E-readers are a growing trend for oath-taking," Slate reported. "How long until the president is sworn in on a smartphone?"

Before LeVine, the trend appeared to be contained in low-profile ceremonies. "In February, New Jersey firefighters were sworn in on an iPad edition of the Bible when nobody could find a version in print. The month before, a Long Island official did the same," The Washington Post reported.

And with the market for print books quickly declining, the Post's Brian Fung wrote that it is only natural for swearing in ceremonies to go in a digital direction.

"In 2008, the market for consumer print books was north of $15 billion. Now it's more like $10 billion — and that number is expected to continue falling until it reaches parity with e-book sales at about $8 billion in 2017. It's no surprise that with e-books on the rise, more and more public officials will be sworn in on them," Fung wrote.

In a recent piece addressing the phenomenon, Fox News Latino interviewed one faith leader who disagrees with the use of digital Bibles at official ceremonies. "There is an inherent respect given to the print version of the Bible that doesn't attach itself to a Kindle or the iPad," said Donald Whitney. "If you have a digital device it may contain the Bible but it also contains other things."

According to Whitney, the "other things" affect the sanctity of the oath. BibleGateway users agree.

The website, which is predominately a tool for looking up Bible verses, published a poll on the use of digital Bibles during inaugural ceremonies. Nearly six out of 10 people (57 percent) say a digital Bible on a mobile device does not hold the same significance as a print Bible in political and judicial swearing-in ceremonies.

Email: kdallas@deseretnews.com Twitter: @kelsey_dallas

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