Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Religion and State In The News

In North Carolina, there is a debate over the use of the Koran to swear in witnesses to testify in Court. Of course, you would think that this would upset the ACLU, what with allowing a holy book in a public building and all. Ah, but you forget. The book is not a Christian holy book. Thus, the Protest Warrior bumber sticker:

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Now, one can sort of see the other side's point I suppose. According to Fox News, the statute uses generic "holy scriptures" language, though I think any idiot knows what the Legislature meant.

Chief District Court Judge Joseph Turner says taking an oath on the Koran is not allowed by North Carolina state law, which specifies that witnesses shall place their hands on the “holy scriptures,” which he interprets as the Christian Bible.

“We’ve been doing it that way for 200 years,” he said. “Until the legislature changes that law, I believe I have to do what I’ve been told to do in the statutes.” But the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the American Civil Liberties Union are challenging the Guilford County Courts.

“This was the first time that we had a judge … going on record and stating unilaterally what is a holy scripture and what is not — what we believe to be a violation of the establishment clause,” said Arsalan Iftikhar of CAIR.

As one law professor put it:
“I have absolutely no doubt that higher courts, if it gets there, will say that persons of Muslim faith can swear on a Koran rather than a Christian Bible,” said Erwin Chemerinsky. “The case law is so clear here that a person doesn’t even have to swear on a Bible to be a witness so long as they’re willing to promise to tell the truth.”

The latter point merits several comments. First, I suppose that hurts the state's position that only a Christian Bible can be used. If no Bible is necessary, then why can't the person insist on swearing in on the Augst issue of Field & Stream Magazine. OTOH, if no holy text is required, then the Muslim can swear in on nothing, and no offense of having to use an infidel holy text is required.

A cynic, like myself, might ask what if the point is to acquire moral absolution for lying in Court? After all, some Muslims believe that they should not be required to testify against other Muslims, and some believe that lying to an infidel is perfectly consistent with Islam (related to the doctrine of Taqyia) as an unbeliever does deserve the repect accompanying a sworn oath from a Muslim, and lying to an unbeliever for a Muslim's protection is an obligation.

Whatever the purpose here, two things are clear: (1) The ACLU wants religion out of the government in all ways, unless (2) it isn't Christian.

The book upon which an oath taken in court is now an "Establishment Clause" violation? Does anyone even know the meaning of that word any longer?


At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Eric said...

KJ asked: "The book upon which an oath taken in court is now an "Establishment Clause" violation? Does anyone even know the meaning of that word any longer?"



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