N.C. judge: Witnesses may swear oath on religious text of their choice
posted at 6:04 pm on May 25, 2007 by Allahpundit
Specifically, in this case, the Koran:
Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway ruled that a witness or juror can take a court oath using a text “most sacred and obligatory upon their conscience,” citing common law and precedent of the state Supreme Court.
The judge didn’t declare the law unconstitutional or rule on whether the term “Holy Scriptures” could be reasonably interpreted to mean any sacred text other than the Bible. But the ACLU still considered the ruling favorable…
State law allows witnesses preparing to testify in court to take their oath in three ways: by laying a hand over “the Holy Scriptures,” by saying “so help me God” without the use of a religious book, or by an affirmation using no religious symbols…
In January, the ruling was reversed by an unanimous three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals, after the ACLU had added Syidah Mateen as a plaintiff. In its decision, the appeals court cited Mateen’s claim that her request to place her hand on the Koran as a witness in a domestic violence case in Guilford County was denied in 2003.
I’ve gotten a couple of “wow” e-mails about this story and can’t understand why. It’s a no-brainer. Like I said when the issue came up during the Keith Ellison/Dennis Prager brouhaha:
[I]f the oath is a way of impressing upon the swearer the seriousness of his duties then it’s stupid to have him swear on a book he doesn’t regard with the utmost seriousness. If the oath is a way of demanding allegiance to America’s Judeo-Christian heritage then it’s a violation of the Constitution’s “religious test” clause.
Arguably there’s no “religious test” violation here because we’re not dealing with qualifications for a public “office,” but that’s irrelevant; it’s a violation of the Establishment Clause in any event. Is anyone seriously arguing that people should be forced to swear on a Bible regardless of their own religious affiliation, particularly when the statute authorizes oaths that eschew religion entirely?