Let them swear on their faith

By: - July 28, 2005 5:25 am

Richmond County Daily Journal

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the state to allow people of religious faiths other than Christianity to swear oaths on their specific religious texts.

We’re not much for lawsuits, but this one has merit and the ACLU should win its case quickly.

State law allows witnesses preparing to testify to take their oath either by laying a hand over a ”Holy Scripture” – in most, if not all, cases the Christian Bible – by saying ”so help me God” without the use of a religious book, or by using no religious symbols.

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. The request came after the two top judges in Guilford County decided Muslims could not legally take an oath on the Quran.

The language of the state’s law on court oaths is already broad enough to include other religious texts, so General Assembly need not clarify it, the ACLU’s Jennifer Rudinger told The Associated Press.

”The lawsuit is seeking a declaration by the court that this is what Holy Scripture means in the law,” she said.

This lawsuit is a no-brainer.

The First Amendment clearly states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

If the Christian Bible is the only religious text that can be used for swearing oaths, then the First Amendment has been violated. Period.

The courtroom isn’t a place for religious conversions.

There are plenty of churches, synagogues, mosques, kingdom halls, etc., in North Carolina that would welcome such activity.

The courtroom is a place for truth and justice.

If a person doesn’t believe in the Christian Bible, then swearing to "solemnly tell the truth, so help me God" on a Christian Bible doesn’t mean a thing to him.

It only makes sense in these increasingly diverse times to allow people to swear oaths on the religious text of their faith. And if they don’t believe in anything, as is their right to do, let them simply affirm that their testimony will be accurate.

This isn’t about putting Christianity – or any other faith, for that matter – first or last.

It’s about accommodating folks of different beliefs and promoting diversity – both principles upon which our country was founded.

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066