RALEIGH –Any religious text, and not just the Bible, can be used to swear in a witness or juror in North Carolina’s courtrooms, a Wake County judge ruled Thursday.

“As of today, all people can use the holy text of their choice,” said Seth Cohen, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who argued the case. “We think it’s a great victory.”

The ruling from Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway came after the ACLU argued that limiting the text to the Bible was unconstitutional because it favored Christianity over other religions. Citing common law and precedent of the state Supreme Court, he said those taking a court oath can use a text “most sacred and obligatory upon their conscience.”

The issue surfaced after Muslims from Greensboro 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 law.

N.C. 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.

Ridgeway didn’t declare the law unconstitutional or rule that the term “Holy Scriptures” could be reasonably interpreted to mean any sacred text other than the Bible. But the ACLU and others who supported the lawsuit still considered the ruling a victory.
“We welcome this ruling as an expression of our nation’s constitutional commitment to religious diversity and tolerance,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, legal director for Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.