Posted May 09, 2007 02:29 am CDT
Putting one’s hand on the Bible to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is a relic of history in most American courtrooms today. But not in North Carolina, where the Christian holy book is still routinely handed to witnesses as they are about to testify.
Although they have the option to follow what is already common practice in other states, and affirm to tell the truth without using a holy book or mentioning God, that option isn’t emphasized. And that presents a problem, says the American Civil Liberties Union in an ongoing lawsuit against the state. As long as a holy book is used, the ACLU argues, witnesses should have the option of requesting, say, a Quran, reports ABC.
Others see such a scenario as problematic. “As a practical matter, when the person to be sworn walks into the courtroom, who is going to be required to provide the Quran and the Book of Wicca,” says Valerie Bateman, an assistant attorney general. Two judges in Guilford County earlier refused to accept donated copies of the Quran, saying the Muslim holy book could not be used for a legal courtroom oath under current state law, according to a Raleigh News & Observer article.
The issue is expected to be decided soon by Judge Paul Ridgeway, who has the case following a state appellate court ruling earlier this year that it raises Constitutional issues that must be decided. The case had initially been dismissed for lack of standing. A copy of the Jan. 16, 2007 appellate ruling can be found at this North Carolina Web site.