Friday, May 25, 2007
North Carolina judge says court witnesses can take
oath with Quran or any religious text
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Witnesses and jurors being sworn
in at state courthouses can take their oath using any
religious text, not just the Bible, a judge ruled
Judge Paul Ridgeway said both common law and state
Supreme Court precedent allow witnesses and jurors to
use the text "most sacred and obligatory upon their
The ruling came after the American Civil Liberties
Union argued that limiting that text to the Bible
alone was unconstitutional because it favored
Christianity over other religions.
The issue surfaced when Muslims tried to donate copies
of the Quran to Guilford County's two courthouses. Two
judges declined to accept the texts, saying that
taking an oath on the Quran was illegal under state
State law currently 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.
The group sought a court order clarifying that the law
was broad enough to allow the use of multiple
religious texts, or else declare the statute
Though the judge stopped short of that, the ACLU still
considered the ruling "a great victory."
"As of today all people can use the holy text of their
choice," said Seth Cohen, an ACLU attorney who argued
A trial court judge initially dismissed the ACLU's
suit in December 2005, ruling it was moot because
there was no actual controversy at the time.
An appeals court panel allowed the case to go forward
in January, after the ACLU 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 Quran as a witness in a domestic violence case was
denied in 2003.
The state has 30 days to appeal Thursday's ruling.