Archive for Wednesday, July 27, 2005

ACLU suing N.C. to allow religious texts in courtroom oaths

July 27, 2005

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— When witnesses are sworn in, the religious texts of non-Christian faiths should be allowed in North Carolina courts along with the Bible, the ACLU argued in lawsuit filed against the state Tuesday.

Denying the use of other religious texts would violate the Constitution by favoring Christianity over religions, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina said in its lawsuit.

State law allows witnesses preparing to testify in court to take their oath either by laying a hand over a "Holy Scripture," by saying "so help me God" without the use of a religious book, or by using no religious symbols.

"We hope that the court will issue a ruling that the phrase `holy scripture' includes the Quran, Old Testament and Bhagavad-Gita in addition to the Christian Bible," said Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina.

A spokeswoman for the state Attorney General's Office, which represents the state in lawsuits, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The ACLU last month called on the state Administrative Office of the Courts to adopt a policy allowing use of the Quran and other religious texts in North Carolina courtrooms.

Muslims from the Al-Ummil Ummat Islamic Center in Greensboro had tried to donate copies of the Quran to Guilford County's two courthouses last month. The two top judges in the county decided that Muslims could not legally take an oath on the Quran.

AOC director Ralph Walker replied in a letter July 14 that his office would not sanction use of religious texts other than the Bible until the General Assembly or the courts settled the matter.

The language of the state's law on court oaths is already broad enough to include other religious texts, so the Legislature need not clarify it, Rudinger said.

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