johnsu01 (johnsu01) wrote,

My book is holier than yours

A North Carolina judge rules that the state Constitution forbids witnesses swearing in with a hand on the Quran.

A North Carolina judge is won't allow swearing in using the Quran. Here's the story in the News & Record.

The North Carolina 1777 Constitution apparently says that witnesses have to either swear with a hand on the "Holy Scripture", or affirm the truth of their testimony.

In this judge's interpretation, the Quran does not count as Holy Scripture.

This is superficial exegesis at its worst. I'm sure that the authors of the 1777 Constitution were talking about the Christian Bible. I'm also sure that allowing people to swear in with a book that somewhere around 1 billion people in the world consider holy would be entirely consistent with the "spirit" of the law.

Why do we have swearing in with holy books at all? In the court case in question, the concern of the woman testifying was that the jury would judge her in a negative light if she chose to just affirm the truth of her testimony rather than swear on a holy book. It depends on the jury, of course, but her concern seems quite reasonable to me.

One argument mentioned against allowing the Quran is that the court would then have to allow other books that people say are holy as well. Without a standard to judge what is holy, any book would have to be allowed. If I said Harry Potter was holy to me, they'd have to let me swear on it.

But apparently, limiting it to just the Christian Bible does not open the door to those possibilities. The clear implication is that the Christian Bible is authentically religious in a way that the Quran and other books are not. You can't make the slippery slope argument without having this premise --- a premise that explicitly establishes an official religion.

The argument also begs the question of why we have the oath on the Holy Scripture to begin with. What does it mean?

A charitable interpretation of this event would be that the judge is aiming to force the legislature to confront the issue and change the law to remove any doubt. I hope that's the case.

Tags: constitution, court, quran, religion
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