North Carolina Judge Allows Oaths Without Bible

A North Carolina judge has ruled that court oaths may be administered on other religious texts besides the Bible.

Superior Court Judge Paul C. Ridgeway ruled May 24 that consistent with state court precedent, “oaths are to be administered in a form, and upon such sacred texts, including texts other than the Holy Bible, that a witness or juror holds to be ‘most sacred and obligatory upon their conscience.’”

The case was brought by the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a Muslim who was not allowed to swear an oath using the Quran in a civil case. Her case was tossed out of court, but earlier this year the North Carolina Court of Appeals overturned that decision, saying the woman had a justifiable claim and sent it back to the Superior Court for re-consideration.

In his 18-page opinion, Ridgeway said, “In today’s courtrooms, the primary purpose for the administration of oaths is to impress upon the witness the obligation to tell the truth and the solemnity of the occasion. The highest aim of every legal contest is the search for the truth. To require pious and faithful practitioners of religions other than Christianity to swear oaths in a form other than the form most meaningful to them would thwart the search for truth.”

The North Carolina attorney general had not made a decision as to whether to appeal the ruling in Matteen v. State of North Carolina at the time Church & State went to press.