Paula Zahn: American Courts and the Koran


AMERICAN COURTS AND THE KORAN

We're talking about religious intolerance and whether Muslims here in the U.S. should be allowed to take an oath using the Koran instead of a bible. Let's hear what our "Out in the Open" panel thinks about that.

Amy Holmes, Keith Boykin, Miguel Perez, welcome back.

Let's quickly review what the North Carolina statute says. Right now it says, "Judges and other persons who may be empowered to administer oaths shall require the party to be sworn to lay his hands upon the holy scriptures..."

But nowhere in the statute does it say anything about taking their oath on the bible. Who's to say what a holy scripture is?

HOLMES: Certainly not a judge. And we do have separation of church and state. And it's not appropriate for the judge to be making that assessment.

However, I do think it is a little aggressive. She is presumably not the first non-Christian ever to swear in that court. And then to be going through the process of a lawsuit in order to get the Koran in there, I can understand why people have kind of got their back up on this.

BOYKIN: I don't get so aggressive. Was Rosa Parks being too aggressive because she had the nerve to want to have a seat on the bus?

HOLMES: No, I believe that this woman absolutely has the right...

BOYKIN: What's so aggressive? She's just one person who wanted to exercise her rights. This is America.

HOLMES: I do. But the ACLU, who I think is being very disingenuous in backing this case...

BOYKIN: The ACLU has the right to defend the Constitution because...

ZAHN: One at a time here. Finish your though.

HOLMES: This is the same organization that is trying to take Christianity out of the public square, taking nativity scenes out of the public square.

BOYKIN: No.

HOLMES: So, for the ACLU to be backing this, I do think is disingenuous.

BOYKIN: And then you had people who were trying to put the Ten Commandments into schools, public prayer in schools, trying to do all this other stuff that's trying to put Christianity as the -- as the one religion of our country. We have a country where we have different religions, not just one religion.

HOLMES: Certainly. And I think she has every right to swear on the Koran. But, however, for this to be getting to the case of a lawsuit I think is going too far.

ZAHN: You say she has every right to swear on the Koran, but that doesn't appear to be the case right now.

PEREZ: In this case, in order for her to be able to do this, a lawsuit is necessary. That's the bottom line here.

But look, don't you want people to swear on something they really believe in? If this woman is a Muslim and you give her the bible, she can lie. She can just put her hand on the holy bible and say, OK, I'm going to tell the truth and be lying. I want this person to really believe in the book she's placing her hand on. So it's only logical that we would give her the book that she believes in.

ZAHN: What length can this go to? Then that means a Jewish person says I don't want to swear on a bible that has the New Testament in it? I'm only going with the old book not the new one?

PEREZ: Why not?

BOYKIN: Why have religion involvement in the first place? People should have the right not to swear on the bible at all, which is part of the North Carolina law.

But why do we have -- why do we have a separation of church and state? Because we don't want the government telling people how to practice their religion. And we don't want religion telling people how to run our government. They're supposed to be separate.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: You already checked on the ACLU tonight. So I want to put up on the screen now what a conservative radio talk show host -- his name is Frank Pastore -- had to say about this.

"The ACLU is revealing their contempt for the bible, and their lack of appreciation to the set of Judeo-Christian values that gave birth to western civilization in general and America specifically."

Are you telling me tonight you see this as Muslims and liberals waging a war on Christianity?

HOLMES: No, I certainly don't. And frankly...

ZAHN: Do you see it going too far?

HOLMES: ... I think if she wanted to swear on her grandmother's recipe book she should be able to do that. However, for conservatives looking at this and seeing who is backing her in this case, it is an extreme secular organization that doesn't want Christmas break in schools to be called "Christmas break". It's now called "winter break". And so from that organization, yes, there has been an assault on religion in the public square. And it's appropriate to have religion...

PEREZ: Whoever is threatened by this is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. What is so threatening about this woman wanting to use the Koran?

BOYKIN: Because the ACLU is the typical conservative bogeyman. Every time the ACLU gets involved in something, the conservatives want to jump up and scream -- scream bloody murder about it. And so there's something wrong with defending the Constitution...

HOLMES: Well, it's because we know the cases that they have -- that they have pursued.

BOYKIN: Well, at least the president -- the president doesn't defend the Constitution. So at least the ACLU should.

HOLMES: Well, the president of the United States I think certainly defends the Constitution. That's sort of a bizarre remark to be making.

BOYKIN: Well, after everything that's been going, it's clear that he hasn't been defending the Constitution. And the people who are -- who you're defending aren't really interested in defending the Constitution.

So let's talk about who's going to do that. If not the ACLU, who is going to do it?

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: In fact, conservatives want to put strict constructions on the Supreme Court to defend the Constitution.

(CROSSTALK)

BOYKIN: I know that there are differences of interpretation, but I also know...

HOLMES: Well, as a lawyer, I think you would understand that being a conservative doesn't mean...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: All right. A quick final thought?

BOYKIN: Well, I think this is a whole -- this is just a scapegoating issue on the part of the right wing to try to vilify the ACLU. And she has the right -- this woman has a right to worship as she pleases.

ZAHN: Amy Holmes, Keith Boykin, Miguel Perez, stay right there. We're bringing you back.

 


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