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News & Record North Carolina – July 6, 2005

North Carolina faith leaders supporting Quran oath

By Jason Hardin, Staff Writer

A push to allow the use of the Quran in courtrooms is spreading to other religions, as a group of area leaders from several faiths is asking that texts from all world religions be allowed for courtroom oaths.

The group -- made up of more than 20 religious leaders from the area, including those of Christian, Jewish and Buddhist faiths -- sent a letter Tuesday to Guilford Superior Court Judge W. Douglas Albright, who has said an oath on the Quran is not lawful.

The letter notes that North Carolina is an increasingly diverse place and says that religious differences need to be respected.

"In North Carolina, we continue to be people who take our religious beliefs and practices very seriously. But we no longer live in the Bible Belt. Today, we live in the Bible-Talmud-Qur'an-Veda-Dhammapada-Guru Granth Sahib-Kitabiiqan Belt," the letter states. "It is imperative for our civic leaders, school teachers, judges, and law enforcers to appreciate and respect the religious differences found in our population."

The Rev. Mark Sills, executive director of FaithAction, an interfaith organization that promotes understanding among different groups, said the Quran issue "struck us as an issue that needs to be confronted." He said Christians might imagine what it would be like to live in a place where the Bible was not allowed for oaths.  "That just feels like a slap in the face," he said.

Others who signed the letter sounded similar themes. "I think it's an opportunity to foster greater respect for all the traditions we have in Greensboro," said the Rev. Julie Peeples, pastor of Greensboro's Congregational United Church of Christ.

The Rev. Frank Stith, superintendent of the Greensboro District of the United Methodist Church, said it makes sense for people to be able to use a book that means something to them. "The point is to have something that stands behind someone's word," he said.

The issue rose to the surface after a local Islamic group tried to donate copies of the Quran to local courthouses. Albright, who sets policy for Guilford County's nine Superior Court courtrooms, has said that an oath on the Quran is not a lawful oath under state law, which refers to using the "Holy Scriptures." ….


News & Record - June 30, 2005

North Carolina Muslims ask judges
 to reconsider Quran oath

GREENSBORO — North Carolina's Muslim leaders said today they are not seeking legal action at this time but want judges to reconsider their refusal to allow Muslims to swear on the Quran in court.

Muslims should have the right to take their oaths in all North Carolina courts using the Quran, said leaders of the North Carolina Consultative Body of Imams, a group of Muslim leaders.

The leaders held a press conference Thursday at the Al-Ummil Ummat Islamic Center in Greensboro following controversy surrounding a decision by local court officials to deny the use of the Quran for oaths.

Guilford Senior Resident Superior Court Judge W. Douglas Albright has said an oath taken on the Quran is not a lawful oath under state law. The law refers to laying one's hand on the "Holy Scriptures."

On Thursday, the Muslim leaders described Albright's interpretation as too narrow….


News & Record – June 22, 2005

Judge's statements spark controversy

By Eric Collins,

GREENSBORO — The decision by local court officials to deny the use of the Quran for oaths has garnered national media attention and the scrutiny of a Washington-based Islamic civil rights group.

Officials with the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Tuesday that statements by Guilford County's top judge seem to endorse a particular religion and could be a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Guilford Senior Resident Superior Court Judge W. Douglas Albright told the News & Record last week that an oath taken on the Quran is not a lawful oath under state law. The law refers to laying one's hand on the "Holy Scriptures."

"Everybody understands what the holy scriptures are," Albright said then. "If they don't, we're in a mess."

Arsalan Iftikhar, the council's legal director, said Tuesday that his organization sees those statements as a possible state endorsement of religion and thus perhaps a violation of the establishment clause in the First Amendment. The clause says, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that any local, state or federal law that seems to place a preference on Christianity above any other religion would probably violate the establishment clause, he said.

If someone brought a lawsuit to challenge the policy, "It very well could make its way up the federal legal ladder," he said.

The issue surfaced after an Islamic Center in Greensboro tried to donate copies of the Quran to the county's two courthouses. The idea came from one of the center's members, who asked to be sworn in on the Quran during a court hearing but was turned down. State law allows people who do not wish to swear on oath on the Christian Bible to give an affirmation to tell the truth -- which is treated the same by law.

On Friday, the county's top two judges conferred and told officials with the Al-Ummil Ummat Islamic Center in Greensboro that state law precluded them from allowing people to be sworn in using the Quran.

A lawyer with the state Administrative Office of the Courts, however, gave a preliminary ruling last week stating that the practice was legal.

AOC officials have said they plan to form a statewide policy on the issue after discussing it with the state's judges during conferences in Asheville and Wrightsville Beach this week. The final say would be with state Supreme Court Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake Jr., AOC spokesman Dick Ellis said….