Local News

ACLU Lawsuit Could Mean Taking Bible Out Of Court Oath

Posted August 3, 2005

— Placing a hand on the Bible and swearing to tell the truth is a common practice for witnesses in a court of law.

But what if the witness is a Muslim or practices some other non-Christian faith? The American Civil Liberties Union argues that making witnesses swear on a Christian bible discriminates against their religions.

So, the ACLU has filed suit against the state.

  • "The government cannot favor one set of religious values and discriminate against the others," says Jennifer Rudinger, the executive director of the ACLU in North Carolina.

    Last year, a Guilford County woman of Islamic faith asked to be sworn in on the Quran and was refused. The state statute is broad. It provides that a person place his or her hand upon "holy scriptures."

    "I think that that's kind of where the rubber meets the road on this whole case -- what is the interpretation, or will there become an interpretation as to what 'holy scriptures' means," says Wake County District Court Judge Paul Gessner.

    But what if the witness was a Satan worshiper? Rudinger says the government cannot discriminate and must treat all religions equally.

    The state does allow witnesses to take an oath without putting their hands on the Bible. And that may be an answer to the lawsuit -- eliminate the courtroom Bible altogether.

    But that could create an even greater conflict.

    It is up to the state now to respond to the ACLU's lawsuit.

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