If North Carolina is going to let people use a religious text when taking an oath in court, the Bible shouldn't be the only book allowed, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union argued in court Tuesday.
A lawsuit filed by the ACLU of North Carolina challenges a state policy that allows only the Bible to be used in such court procedures.
"If the state is going to get into the religious oath business, the state has to be fair," said Seth Cohen, the ACLU's lead counsel on the case.
But an attorney from the state Attorney General's Office urged Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway to dismiss the case.
"The main complaint of the ACLU and the plaintiff is a political one, not a legal one," attorney Valerie Bateman said.
Filed in July 2005, the lawsuit argues that state law is unconstitutional because it favors Christianity over other religions. It names Syidah Mateen, a Muslim woman who said she was denied the use of the Quran in court.
The ACLU is seeking a court order clarifying that the law is broad enough to allow the use of multiple religious texts, or else rule the statute unconstitutional. The group expects Ridgeway will issue a ruling as early as next week.
State 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.
The state law gives Christians three options "and everybody else two options," Cohen said.
The ACLU and the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations had called for a statewide policy permitting use of the Quran and other religious texts in courtrooms. But the director of the state court system refused, saying the General Assembly or the courts need to settle the issue.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Posted by Audrey Hudson at Friday, May 11, 2007