Dispatches from the Creation Wars

NC Okays Oaths on Quran

AP reports that a judge in North Carolina has ruled the right way in a suit filed by the ACLU, saying that witnesses and jurors may be sworn in on the Quran rather than the Bible, or whatever book they consider to be sacred:

Judge Paul Ridgeway said both common law and state Supreme Court precedent allow witnesses and jurors to use the text “most sacred and obligatory upon their conscience.”

This should be stunningly obvious to all but the most irrational Christian Nation advocate.


  1. #1 Will E.
    May 25, 2007

    So, of course, it will follow that mean ol’ atheists will swear on Origin of Species!

  2. #2 coturnix
    May 25, 2007

    The other side’s main objection was that each courthouse would have to purchase every darn version of every possible book that can possibly be deemed sacred by anyone. The judge ruled that this is not the case and that people who don’t care about King James’ Bible should bring in their own book of choice.

    I’d swear on the Constitution. I am assuming there would be a copy of it lying around in a courthouse somewhere…

  3. #3 J-Dog
    May 25, 2007

    coturnix said: I’d swear on the Constitution. I am assuming there would be a copy of it lying around in a courthouse somewhere.

    YES! Sounds like a great movie plot line – maybe Nicholas Cage could play this guy that thinks there is a secret code written on it somewhere.
    Oh. Wait. Never mind.

    But seriously, I like your idea, and it’s the only way I would do it. So far I have never made it past the first jury selection questions becasue I refuse to swear on a bible.

  4. #4 jba
    May 25, 2007

    But what if you dont find any book sacred? Ive really never liked this whole ‘swearing on a holy book’ requirement. What would happen if I refused? Would they allow me to swear on nothing? Ive mentioned in the past, in a post about the senator swearing on the quran I believe, that I think if swearing must be done it should all be on the constitution. It just makes more sense from a seperation of church and state sense, at least to me. Not everyone cares about religion, but evveryone should, IMO, care about the constitution.

  5. #5 flatlander100
    May 25, 2007

    I don’t want to rain on the parade, here, and I agree the matter was decided rightly, but I can see problems down the road. Sooner or later, someone is going to want to swear on the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster or The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy or some such. Which could, and I suspect would, lead to courts trying to decide what is a sacred and holy text and what is not [for court oath-taking purposes]. And the idea of judges even attempting to determine what is a sufficiently holy book for oath taking purposes and what is not is not a question I look forward to them dealing with.

    As for swearing on the Consitution… that also makes me nervous. We have enough trouble dealing with the “this is a Christian Nation” crowd, who think the Constitution is a divinely inspired document[common belief here in Utah] without having Courts accept it as a religious holy text for oath taking purposes.

  6. #6 mark
    May 25, 2007

    I think I would prefer to place my hand on my testicles to testify. I wouldn’t be worried about finding a set lying around the courthouse–I’ve always got my own with me.

  7. #7 Matt Penfold
    May 25, 2007

    Do courts in the US not allow you to affirm to tell the truth without having to swear using a book you find sacred ?

  8. #8 Son
    May 25, 2007

    “On my mother’s grave.” But don’t you guys go digging her up!

  9. #9 TomDunlap
    May 25, 2007

    Yes, isn’t there something of a religious nature in this “swearing” stuff? I mean aren’t “swear” words the naughty ones that “take the lords name…” etc. So an atheist can’t actually swear, huh?

    It’s moot. Once they find out you’re an atheist you are off the jury any who. And if you the witness, no one is going to believe what you say either.

  10. #10 JScarry
    May 25, 2007

    From my limited experience in California courts, no mention of god or use of a holy book is required for jurors or witnesses.

  11. #11 MJ Memphis
    May 25, 2007

    I suppose, as a Theravadin, that I could insist on swearing in on a copy of the Pali canon (which generally runs 40+ thick volumes). However, I suspect I will just affirm instead.

  12. #12 Ed Brayton
    May 25, 2007

    No book is required at all, that’s not the point of the ruling. One can simply affirm that they will tell the truth.

  13. #13 Matt Penfold
    May 25, 2007

    Thank you Ed, I suspected that was the case but a couple of comments just make me question it.

  14. #14 jba
    May 25, 2007

    “One can simply affirm that they will tell the truth.”

    Oh, good. I was under the impression (Ive never had to serve jury duty or bear witness in court) that it was required. I think the options of nothing or the holy book of your choice is perfectly reasonable. I never understood being forced to say something you dont believe (ie, the bible has special properties for oath keeping) in order to promise you wont lie.

  15. #15 Russell
    May 25, 2007

    In many US communities, one isn’t even offered a book. One simply swears or affirms to tell the truth. Since the various gods all have poor track records at striking dead or otherwise blighting those who have falsely sworn in their name, on their scriptures, it seems rather foolish to me that a jury would presume a Christian is more likely to tell the truth, by virtue of swearing on the Bible itself. The 9th commandment (8th, for Catholics) makes no reference to how courts do their business, and most Christian sects seem to hold it is an equally bad thing to perjure oneself, regardless of the ceremony surrounding it.

    But there’s no rationalizing superstition.

  16. #16 The Ridger
    May 25, 2007

    It’s probably not ridiculous to think that many Christians are indeed more likely to tell the truth if they swear on the Bible. There’s a great deal of validity to self-selecting superstition like that, as witness the many ways people can rationalize it.

    What is ridiculous is assuming that a non-Christian will do so. Unless you believe touching the Bible to be magic, of course, which many seem to.

    Equally ridiculous is another notion which may lurk here, and that is that the [Quran/Rig Veda/Torah/Popul Veh/whatever] will somehow damage the bailiff and the rest of the good Christians around the courthouse…

  17. #17 anon1234
    May 25, 2007

    It won’t damage the bailiff, but it may damage the credibility of the witness, at least in the eyes of the jury. There are lots and lots of communities where the jurors are likely to think “He swore on the Koran, so I’ll assume his testimony is exactly as true as the Koran, which means he’s lying.”

  18. #18 Bill Jarrell
    May 25, 2007

    Concern that swearing on the Koran might prejudice the jury would probably compel people to swear on the Bible for appearance’s sake. Here in North Caroina officials usually present the Bible for swearing oaths, which puts a burden on people who prefer making an affirmation without it.

  19. #19 Sastra
    May 25, 2007

    My recollection is that my local jury had us all raise our right hands at once and swear to be honest jurors or whatever “so help me God.” So what does an atheist do in that situation? Pipe up in the middle of the group with “except for me and that God part?” Or just go with the flow and contribute to the common impressions that “everybody believes in God” or that only oaths to God are binding?

    I didn’t say anything at the time (it was years ago), but the situation bothered me.

  20. #20 Coin
    May 25, 2007

    So, of course, it will follow that mean ol’ atheists will swear on Origin of Species!

    If I ever found myself in this situation, what I would find myself overwhelmingly compelled to do is have myself sworn in on a copy of Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica, Volume One. Mostly just to mess with people. Is this immature?

  21. #21 Skemono
    May 25, 2007

    If I ever found myself in this situation, what I would find myself overwhelmingly compelled to do is have myself sworn in on a copy of Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica, Volume One. Mostly just to mess with people. Is this immature?

    Of course not, Coin. After all, only math teachers can impart perfect universal truths.

  22. #22 daenku32
    May 25, 2007

    I can swear on whatever goddamn thing I want!

  23. #23 Jim Ramsey
    May 26, 2007

    Aren’t all those “swear or affirm” sequence in the Constitution there because of the Quakers.

    I believe the Quakers among several other groups (Jehovah’s Witnesses?) refuse to swear or pledge of allegiance.

  24. #24 Tom Jackson
    May 26, 2007

    >I believe the Quakers among several other groups (Jehovah’s
    >Witnesses?) refuse to swear or pledge of allegiance.

    Right — on direct orders from one Jesus of Nazareth. See Matthew, chapter 5, 33 to 37. How the fundies manage to miss this is not quite clear…

  25. #25 Jim Ramsey
    May 26, 2007


    YUP. Something about let your Yes be Yes, etc.
    I knew that. It also has to do with turning the Bible into idol / icon to be worshiped.

  26. #26 Kenneth Fair
    May 27, 2007

    I can’t comment on other state’s laws, but I do know how we do things here in Texas. As a notary public for the State of Texas, the form that I use for administering oaths is as follows:

    “Do you swear or affirm under penalty of perjury that the testimony you are about to give (or the statements in this affidavit) are the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

    I’ve been in a number of courtrooms around the state; I’ve never seen anyone actually sworn on a Bible. It’s definitely not required by Texas law.

New comments have been disabled.