Lawsuit Over Quran Oath in Courtrooms Can Go Forward

January 16, 2007

Source: Beliefnet

Wire Service: AP

RALEIGH, North Carolina, Jan. 16 - A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and a Muslim woman over the use of the Quran and other non-Christian texts for state courtroom oaths should be allowed to go forward, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

A three-judge panel voted unanimously to reverse a trial court decision that had dismissed the challenge to state law and policy. Currently, only the Bible can be used by witnesses when swearing or affirming truthful testimony.

The lawsuit was filed in July 2005 and the trial judge determined it was moot because there was no actual controversy at the time warranting litigation. But the appeals court said that was not so, pointing to the individual plaintiff, Syidah Mateen, who said her request to place her hand on the Quran as a witness was denied in 2003.

On Jan. 4, the first Muslim member of U.S. Congress, Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, took office with a ceremonial oath from a Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson.

Several Jewish members of the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union have filed affidavits indicating they would prefer to swear upon the Old Testament, one of the religious texts of their faith, Chief Judge John Martin wrote.

"We conclude the complaint is sufficient to entitle both plaintiffs to litigate their claims ... though we are careful to express no opinion on the merits of those claims," Martin wrote. Judges Ron Elmore and Barbara Jackson concurred.