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False Claim Targets Muslim Congresswomen-Elect

Quick Take

Facebook posts shared by thousands of people make the unsupported assertion that “3 Muslim congress women” are refusing to uphold the Constitution.

Full Story

The 116th Congress, which will convene next month, will include a record 102 women serving in the House — two of whom will be the first Muslim women to serve in Congress.

The new representatives will take an oath of office, not just as a matter of tradition, but as a constitutional obligation.

The oath, the same since 1966, reads:

5 U.S. Code § 3331 – Oath of office: I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

That’s not all. Since the 80th Congress (1947-1949), representatives also have been required by federal law to sign two copies of the oath — “one to be filed in the records of the House of Representatives, and the other to be recorded in the Journal of the House and in the Congressional Record.” U.S. Code also says the copies are considered “conclusive proof of the fact that the signer duly took the oath of office in accordance with law.”

Even though the swearing-in ceremonies won’t happen until Jan. 3, social media posts shared by thousands on Facebook have spread the unsupported claim that “3 Muslim congress women” have “refused” to uphold the Constitution. There is no evidence to back up that claim.

Also, it’s two — not three — Muslim women who will serve in the House. Democrats Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were elected in November to represent congressional districts in Minnesota and Michigan, respectively. They will join Rep. André Carson, a Democrat from Indiana, who is also Muslim.

Tlaib, for her part, has already made public her preparations for taking the oath. She plans to wear a traditional Palestinian dress, known as a thobe, made by her mother, the Detroit Free Press reported. The newspaper also reported Tlaib “is expected to use a copy of Thomas Jefferson’s Koran — which belongs to the Library of Congress — for her ceremonial swearing in.”

Departing Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat who in 2006 became the first Muslim elected to Congress, also used Jefferson’s book for his ceremonial oath — which follows the official group swearing-in. No religious text is required to take the oath of office.

Omar, who will take Ellison’s seat in Congress, has said that she will probably use a Koran at the swearing-in. Her campaign told us in an email that the claims in the posts are “not true.”

Misinformation about Muslims and public office is nothing new.

Another recent falsehood we debunked, for example, claimed that a 1952 law “bans Muslims from holding public office in the United States.” It doesn’t.

In fact, Article VI of the Constitution, which requires federally elected officials to be “bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution,” stipulates that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on the social media network.

Update, Dec. 20: This story has been updated to include a response from Omar’s campaign.


2 U.S. Code § 25 – Oath of Speaker, Members, and Delegates. U.S. Government Publishing Office. Accessed 19 Dec 2018.

5 U.S. Code § 3331 – Oath of office. U.S. Government Publishing Office. Accessed 19 Dec 2018.

Article VI, U.S. Constitution. Constitution Center. Accessed 19 Dec 2018.

Boorstein, Michelle. “First two Muslim women win congressional seats from Minnesota, Michigan.” Washington Post. 7 Nov 2018.

DeSilver, Drew. “A record number of women will be serving in the new Congress.” Pew Research Center. 18 Dec 2018.

Oath of Office.” Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives. Accessed 19 Dec 2018.

Spangler, Todd. “Rashida Tlaib will wear traditional Palestinian thobe to swearing-in.” Detroit Free Press. 18 Dec 2018.

Karnowski, Steve. “Congress bound, Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar enjoys another first.” Associated Press. 7 Nov 2018.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2018