February 2015 Church & State | AU Bulletin

A Pennsylvania judge forbade a Muslim woman from swearing on the Quran before taking the witness stand in a custody dispute. The ruling upholds a state law that requires witnesses to swear on the Christian Bible or make a non-religious affirmation before offering testimony.

The woman had argued that the state’s law violated her religious liberty rights and exhibited a preference for Christianity over Islam and other religions.

Her estranged husband, who opposes her in the custody dispute, swore on a Bible, although he too identifies as Muslim. He told the court that the woman’s refusal to swear on a Bible or make a non-religious affirmation served as a sort of witness intimidation, since it could be construed to imply that his testimony would be less than truthful as he swore on a non-Islamic book. 

As the mother noted in her objection to the requirement, other states, like North Carolina, permit the use of holy books that are not the Bible. But the judge rejected that argument, finding instead that the statute as worded applied to the case.

The case is Musaitef v. Musaitef.