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Do you swear to tell the truth?
July 19, 2005 1:19 PM   Subscribe

So help me Allah The Koran is not Holy Scripture, according to a North Carolina judge, who says a Muslim can't swear to tell the truth on it, citing a 1777 law.
posted by teaperson (88 comments total)

 
I never understood why people think putting your hand on a book will ensure truthfulness. Maybe if god had struck somebody down for lying just once...
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:25 PM on July 19, 2005


Well, the Bible's just a bunch of stories put together in a strange way, nothing holy about it either. It wasn't written by God, it was written by alot of men.

I'd rather the oath to tell the truth have something to do with the person getting their nuts chopped off (and the similar female equivalent) if they lie, that would go alot further towards ensuring truth in court and cutting down on perjury rather quickly.
posted by fenriq at 1:29 PM on July 19, 2005


This is just the kind of backwards ass shit that does no one any good. It's like MetaTalk, but in real life. [Deity of your choice] save us all.
posted by OmieWise at 1:31 PM on July 19, 2005


the problem is they often get their genitals chopped off just for being a girl. Islam should focus on it's own internal problems before it demands "equal rights."
posted by TetrisKid at 1:32 PM on July 19, 2005


Didn't we discuss this a couple of weeks ago?
posted by clevershark at 1:34 PM on July 19, 2005


If this kind of thing happens to me I'll demand a phone book to swear on to illustrate how invalid this methodology is . . .
posted by mk1gti at 1:36 PM on July 19, 2005


That's incredibly pertinent--one woman is "Islam" now?

I did like this quite a bit:
"We don't have a state-run religion in this country and it's an honor to worship here, but some traditions that we've had for 200 years need to stay," says Michele Combs, communications director at the Christian Coalition in Washington.
posted by hototogisu at 1:36 PM on July 19, 2005


Is TetrisKid real?
posted by Jairus at 1:37 PM on July 19, 2005


IANAL, but I've always thought that a person lays their hand on a Bible out of respect for the faith represented therein, not because they are a believer. You don't have to share a belief or faith to respect what it represents. It is kind of an abstract concept, but the alternative is that the swearer actually fears personal reprisal from Lord God Almighty ... which I doubt.

With that in mind, a judicial system has to pick one (or a very limited number of) book(s) of faith out of several. The Bible is the most readilly available and you just don't get to pick your own brand, color or typeface. I might hold the complete works of William Shakespeare to be holy -- and I do -- but I can't bring my own copy into court. By the same token (again, not a lawyer), I don't think you can ask for your own Koran, Talmud, Bhagavhad Gita, Tao Of Pooh or Principia Discordia .... can you?
posted by grabbingsand at 1:38 PM on July 19, 2005


With that in mind, a judicial system has to pick one (or a very limited number of) book(s) of faith out of several.

No they don't. When I testified, I didn't put my hand on anything.
posted by Happy Monkey at 1:45 PM on July 19, 2005


The oath is superflous anyhow. People can affirm to tell the truth whenever they want. Even if you don't swear before God, you are still held to the same levels. This is important because this argument is obviously going to be couched in a lot of "rights" rhetoric. And the question becomes: what right is deprived by not letting one take an oath on the book of their choice? None. One's "practice of religion" is not impinged by not allowing a person to make an oath on a book they select. Nor is the state requiring people be Christian; people can choose not to make an oath.

Basically, the system is thus: "You have to affirm under the fear of perjury that you will tell the truth. Alternatively, if you want to do it the old archaic way, you can swear on this old Bible over here that I keep in my court room. No, sorry, I don't keep other books in here because this isn't a library."

Personally, I think I should be able to make my oath on my copy of Lying is The Right Thing to Do. That should be productive, and I demand my rights!
posted by dios at 1:46 PM on July 19, 2005


No they don't. When I testified, I didn't put my hand on anything.

Like I said ... not a lawyer. If someone who is a lawyer -- or who wants to be one -- could school us all on the taking of civil oaths, we'd all be better off in this thread.
posted by grabbingsand at 1:50 PM on July 19, 2005


Was I the only one that thought this was the end-around defense for the guards at Club Gitmo putting the Koran in the toilet?
posted by fenriq at 1:51 PM on July 19, 2005


ike I said ... not a lawyer. If someone who is a lawyer -- or who wants to be one -- could school us all on the taking of civil oaths, we'd all be better off in this thread.

From the article:

"Already, witnesses in American courts do not have to take a religious oath and can instead simply testify on pain of perjury. It's up to judges to decide what passes for an oath."

Does this help?
posted by Moral Animal at 1:54 PM on July 19, 2005


Like I said ... not a lawyer. If someone who is a lawyer -- or who wants to be one -- could school us all on the taking of civil oaths, we'd all be better off in this thread.
posted by grabbingsand at 1:50 PM PST on July 19


I just did; and the article mentioned as well.

The oath is superflous and archaic. Any court in this land, one has to affirm under the fear of perjury that one is being truthful. That doesn't require oathes. Alternatively, a judge can make an instruction that all testimony by any witness must be truthful.

The vast majority of the Courts that I am aware of and have practiced in don't even give the "Swear... so help me God thing" anymore.
posted by dios at 1:54 PM on July 19, 2005


There is no logic of any kind to support this bullshit.

You either ditch the Bible, or you let someone swear an oath on the holy book of their choice.

Any other position on this is dogmatic bullshit.
posted by teece at 2:00 PM on July 19, 2005


" Is TetrisKid real?"

Yeaaah... forgot how we aren't suppose to criticize abuse when it's Muslims who do it.
posted by TetrisKid at 2:01 PM on July 19, 2005


From what I recall, in the Bible it is a sin to bare false witness while in the Koran it is permissible to lie to "infidels" to protect your hide. I am guessing the use of the Bible to swear oaths stems from the sin of baring false witness whereas asking someone to swear to the Koran might encourage them to lie (to save their hide). Either way, people will lie and not care, lie and ask forgiveness, or lie justifiably.
posted by Ron at 2:07 PM on July 19, 2005


I think grabbingsand meant a real lawyer.
posted by delmoi at 2:09 PM on July 19, 2005


Ignore the troll
posted by delmoi at 2:09 PM on July 19, 2005


grabbingsand writes "I don't think you can ask for your own Koran, Talmud, Bhagavhad Gita, Tao Of Pooh or Principia Discordia .... can you?"

If you are going to demand a religious oath in a State proceeding, and if the said State can still be considered separated from any Church, pray tell, why the Hell not? Principia Discordia is a good one. Another one is demanding Star Wars full set DVDs so you can swear by the Force and the Powers of the Jedi Order.

I think the Honorable Judge W. Douglas Albright from Guilford County is a troll. If he done it here we would have a long Meta thread on him with lots of calls for a ban or at the very least a one-week timeout. Someone should ask the Federal Meta-Courts to knock some sense into his head.

On preview, I bite:

TetrisKid writes "Yeaaah... forgot how we aren't suppose to criticize abuse when it's Muslims who do it."

Are you real? If so, do you feel the need to point to bad things about Islam every time you see the word? Because there are a lot of bad things to say about any religion (or any human activity). Nevertheless, we try to keep the discussion more or less on-topic, so you won't see the sentence "born-again Christians are abort-clinic bombers" every time George Bush is mentioned or "These Nazis should all burn in Hell" in every discussion about something that happened in German.

And another:

Ron writes "I am guessing the use of the Bible to swear oaths stems from the sin of baring false witness"

And how exactly does anything written on the Bible affect a non-Christian?

[Sorry, delmoi]
posted by nkyad at 2:14 PM on July 19, 2005


I would rather have my witnesses swearing over the book he finds most holy rather than the one I find most holy.
posted by caddis at 2:16 PM on July 19, 2005


Are you people even reading Dios' comments in this thread? Because twice he's posted a comment from his professional experience as an attorney and then someone posts a question five minutes later that he just addressed.
posted by jperkins at 2:17 PM on July 19, 2005


From what I recall, in the Bible it is a sin to bare false witness while in the Koran it is permissible to lie to "infidels" to protect your hide.

Ron: this section mentions false witness, dosn't say anything about the people needing to be muslim.
[4:135] O you who believe, you shall be absolutely equitable, and observe GOD, when you serve as witnesses, even against yourselves, or your parents, or your relatives. Whether the accused is rich or poor, GOD takes care of both. Therefore, do not be biased by your personal wishes. If you deviate or disregard (this commandment), then GOD is fully Cognizant of everything you do.
posted by delmoi at 2:18 PM on July 19, 2005


Oh, and before I climb down from my soapbox, please ignore TestrisKid. Any response to a troll means that you lose by being drawn into their sad little world.
posted by jperkins at 2:18 PM on July 19, 2005


If you are going to demand a religious oath in a State proceeding, and if the said State can still be considered separated from any Church, pray tell, why the Hell not? Principia Discordia is a good one.

Well, they don't force you, so the question is moot. You have the choise to sware or affirm. No one's ever asked me to sware on anything when I was in court, just sware in general.
posted by delmoi at 2:20 PM on July 19, 2005


You have the choise to sware or affirm.

Or you can pull a G. Gordon and refuse to sworn in or affirmed. But then they hold you in contempt.
posted by jperkins at 2:23 PM on July 19, 2005


I think grabbingsand meant a real lawyer.
posted by delmoi at 2:09 PM PST on July 19


Do you have any basis for such a statement?

Or do you feel compelled to be a prick because you disagree with me?
posted by dios at 2:25 PM on July 19, 2005


Ignore the troll

What evidence is there that he's a troll rather than just not very bright? His posts seem pretty much consistently dim as opposed to intentionally provocative.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 2:26 PM on July 19, 2005


jperkins, nope, I have learned to skip right over dios' comments. Actually, I follow the advice you give in this comment. Of course, the problem is that I tend to miss comments with any substance but since they are so few and far between, I think I'll continue to risk it.
posted by fenriq at 2:29 PM on July 19, 2005


What evidence is there that he's a troll rather than just not very bright? His posts seem pretty much consistently dim as opposed to intentionally provocative.

Does it matter if he's a nitwit and not an unskilled troll? The results of his inane postings are generally derailment and bad blood. I prefer to treat him (and those like him) like a black box: I don't care what's going on inside, but it sure does seem to emit an awful lot of noise and confusion if we let it.

jperkins, nope, I have learned to skip right over dios' comments. Actually, I follow the advice you give in this comment. Of course, the problem is that I tend to miss comments with any substance but since they are so few and far between, I think I'll continue to risk it.

IMO, Dios has his moments. And given his profession and the FPP I figured I'd live life on the edge this afternoon and see what he had to say.
posted by jperkins at 2:44 PM on July 19, 2005


I think Ron has got it right. Behold Commandment #9:

Though shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

This is one of the most basic tenets of Christianity. Thus, traditionally, swearing on the bible was supposed to remind one that lying to the Court will have serious consequences.

I'm not very familiar with the Koran, but is lying similarly sanctioned under Islam? And I'm not thinking all the chopping off tongues and stuff that is happening under Islamic law (perhaps partly for the amusement of the masses). Like Ron said, I think there was something about answering to Allah first and to any worldly authorities second. Maybe that's why that whole democracy thing never really took off there and most people in Muslim countries seem to be content to put up with some despotic dictator/mullahs. Thus, it seems that the "right" thing to for a good muslim would be to swear on the Koran and then lie to the court about his buddies' plans to annihilate Baltimore. Not that it'll make much difference in practice.
posted by sour cream at 2:51 PM on July 19, 2005


I'd request a civil oath, but not because I am an atheist; rather, because I'm a believer and object to taking my Lord's name in vain by invoking Him in a secular proceeding. Affirming under penalty of perjury is more to the point, and I don't pray to any circuit-court judges in church, after all.
posted by alumshubby at 2:52 PM on July 19, 2005


I'd request a civil oath

If memory serves, you don't get a choice in the matter. When sworn in you're generally asked to, "swear or affirm to tell the truth..."
posted by jperkins at 2:56 PM on July 19, 2005


Just to clarify, the correct translation of Allah in english is God.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:59 PM on July 19, 2005


Any rationalization as to why it might be a Bible and not the Koran or My Pet Goat is just that: rationalization.

If a Christian can ask to be sworn in with the Bible, a Muslim can ask to be sworn in with the Koran. And yes, an idiot could ask to be sworn in with a Star Wars DVD.

That's the problem with using the Bible at all. You either allow anyone's idea of religious, sacred, or solemn text, or you make a fundamentally arbitrary and non-pluralistic choice for one text or another.

Dios' comments aren't all that germane to me: lawyers have done what they do best: come up with an argument based on tradition giving heavy merit to the status quo. But in this case, it is completely unnecessary to be a lawyer to see that allowing an oath on a Bible and not the Koran is patently wrong and fundamentally un-American. The status quo is wrong, and is being given too much respect simply because it's always been done wrong.
posted by teece at 2:59 PM on July 19, 2005


What if I swear on Dianetics? It explicitly states that one should tell lies. If I swear on a stack of Dianetics, I am promising to lie.

Are those of you saying "Allow any ol' book!" okay with that?
posted by five fresh fish at 3:08 PM on July 19, 2005


teece: The status quo is wrong, and is being given too much respect simply because it's always been done wrong.

The status quo? FWIW, this was just one isolated incident in North Carolina. The status quo is that you *can* swear on the Koran (except, perhaps, in North and possibly South Carolina) and maybe even your Star Wars DVD.
(People swearing on the book of Wiccah!? Oh, mercy...)
posted by sour cream at 3:10 PM on July 19, 2005


fff, um, yeah, we're ok with that. See, the reasoning behind having people swear on the Bible isn't really because we think they won't lie. We have laws against lying under oath that carry very stiff penalties and so there's already a very strong incentive to tell the truth. The Bible is there as more of an aesthetic touch. And, get this, to people who don't believe in God... the bible is "any ol' book!' So the current system is already "flawed" in that sense. So, yeah, allow no book or allow any old book. It doesn't matter.

Further, if I was a Christian I'd be pretty upset that the State is forcing me to swear an oath before God but that's just me. There oughta be a law about forcing people to jeapoardize the state of their immortal soul...
posted by nixerman at 3:13 PM on July 19, 2005


delmoi and grabbingsand, you guys are being real asses in here. dios made a good comment and you crap all over him just because you don't like him. Grow up. By the way, its "swear" not "sware."
posted by caddis at 3:16 PM on July 19, 2005


I used to register voters in North Carolina, and people had the option (and they sometimes used it) to affirm the oath rather than swear on the bible.

Slightly unrelated note, but a chance to maybe show off. We had to read the oath to them (and fill out the form for them) because otherwise it would have been a literacy test. Those rules have since been relaxed and people can fill out their own forms. It has been over ten years since I've done it, but I think I still have that oath memorized from reading it so much, here goes:

"Do you solemnly swear (or affirm) to support the Constitutions of the United States and the state of North Carolina, that you have lived in this state and this precinct for thirty days by the date of the next election, that you have not registered, nor will you vote, in any other state or precinct, so help you God."

I'm sure I failed to impress a one of you. I have noticed a distinct lack of southern-US bashing in this thread, that is a nice change.
posted by marxchivist at 3:16 PM on July 19, 2005


Dios nailed it. It makes no difference who or what you swear to, all that matters is that the witness knows the consequences of lying. Anyway, who would dream of lying in court?

The judge is a grandstanding nitwit (how much you want to bet he's elected) who has decided that this is the best way appeal to his constituency. There isn't much precedent on this and in my not-a-lawyer opinion he's a jerk, but a jerk who is within the law and got the press he wanted.
posted by cedar at 3:18 PM on July 19, 2005


nixerman: We have laws against lying under oath that carry very stiff penalties and so there's already a very strong incentive to tell the truth.

Ah, but that pales in comparison to the threat of some good ol' purgatory. Well, used to pale at least.
posted by sour cream at 3:21 PM on July 19, 2005


You want to know what the Koran says about lying?

On preview, it doesn't look good. Mostly liars are called "unjust" and "unsuccessful", but there are threats of worse (eg: "lest He destroy you by a punishment").
posted by Moral Animal at 3:26 PM on July 19, 2005


Here is some more background.

Also, in trying to find out using Google (not really working for me) whether there were any Supreme Court cases addressing the oath I came across a few interesting tidbits:

The Pledge of Allegiance guy, Michael Newdow, sued to prevent George Bush from using "under God" in taking the oath of office. I guess he didn't succeed, but here is a bit more on the subject.

From belief.net comes this interesting take on things:

Elliott_McClelland
7/1/2005 5:20 PM 10 out of 13

I don't know why this is an issue at all. The Christian response is so clear as to be black and white. Jesus spoke without ambiguity on this topic:

Matthew 5:33-37 (NIV)

Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.” But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No”; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

So, Christians should not swear on anything at all. It could not be any more simple.

posted by caddis at 3:28 PM on July 19, 2005


I don't know why this is so complicated. The reality is really very simple. There are only two choices:

Either
a) Take an oath before the court under penalty of perjury
or
b) Swear by your holy text.

If the state is going to require (or suggest) swearing on a holy text, then it's their obligation to make the text available or to inform you, if it's obscure, to bring it with you to court. Or, if it's neither required or suggested, rather it's allowed and supported, then they should recognize whatever holy text you bring as your affirmation.

By requiring/endorsing an oath on the Bible and declaring the Koran to be inadequate, the state is establishing a religion. That implicitly makes the claim that Islam is an inferior practice and one's faith in it cannot possibly be as strong as a Christian's and therefore is inadequate as a legally binding oath.

If one is made to swear by the holy book of another, that infringes on their freedom of religion. Period.
And there's no such thing as just a little infringement. It's certainly not OK to say, "well, you have what ever religion you want, as long as you're not in court." By making any particular religion the only one recognized by the court, the State is establishing, endorsing, and encouraging a religion. It's not their place to do that.

Whether or not oaths to God are superstitious, archaic, or extraneous tradition isn't an issue here at all. People of faith are allowed to swear by the Bible in a court of law. It's their prerogative. If a Bible is recognized, then Constitutionally, any and every religious text should be.

Judge Albright should be disbarred. (or is it defrocked? At any rate, it's funny that the MeFi spellchecker thought it was supposed to be 'almighty')
posted by Jon-o at 3:30 PM on July 19, 2005


I read somewhere that the ancient Romans used to swear by their testicles: one hand gripping their equipment, the other raised in the air. I'm not sure if the ancient Roman punishment for perjury was castration (I doubt it, but "Or may my nuts be hacked off!" does sound as plausible as "Or may G-d strike me dead!"), nor do I recall reading what ancient Roman women would swear by, but that is why we say "testimony" instead of "libromony" or what have you.

In Genesis Chapter 24 and elsewhere, Abraham and them swore by putting their hand on the groin of who they were swearing to. That sounds like more fun to me, as long as you'll be gentle.
posted by davy at 3:32 PM on July 19, 2005


It certainly would establish a trust relationship!
posted by five fresh fish at 3:39 PM on July 19, 2005


If I demanded to swear on the Codex Seraphinianus, would I get to keep the copy?
I think it's practical, provided the one to take the oath provides his own holy book (if needed).
Oh, and thanks teaperson, now I know what this "Koran" thing is.
posted by Citizen Premier at 3:43 PM on July 19, 2005


Oh, and: testimony

Nothing about ball-grabbing...
posted by Citizen Premier at 3:44 PM on July 19, 2005


davy is right...

It was the custom in Ancient Rome for the men to place their right hand on their testicles when taking an oath. The modern term 'testimony' (from the Latin testis) is derived from this tradition.
posted by ericb at 3:47 PM on July 19, 2005


testis (1) -is c. [one who gives evidence , a witness; an eye-witness, a spectator].

testis (2) -is m. [a testicle].
posted by ericb at 3:48 PM on July 19, 2005


"And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house...Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: And I will make thee swear by the Lord...."
"Under the thigh" might have just meant between the legs, with no contact at all.
posted by Citizen Premier at 3:49 PM on July 19, 2005


"The actual word 'testis' came from the Latin meaning 'to bear witness,' sharing the same root word with 'testify.' In ancient Rome (and also referred to in the Bible), only men could bear witness or testify in a public forum. In order to show importance to their testimony, they would hold their testicles as they spoke, and an oath was declared while holding another's testicles." [source]
posted by ericb at 3:50 PM on July 19, 2005


This doesn't seem like a reliable source; whereas the online etymology site I linked to shows another word source totally unrelated to testicles.
posted by Citizen Premier at 3:52 PM on July 19, 2005


Also ..."The word testicle derives from the Latin testis,which means 'witness.' In Ancient Rome, men put their hands on their testicles in order to swear an oath, much like we place our hands on the Bible today. The fact that women do not have testicles did not pose a problem for the Ancient Romans, since Roman women were not believed to have the capacity to swear oaths." [source - PDF]
posted by ericb at 3:54 PM on July 19, 2005


I don't mean to sound like an stubborn jerk, but urban legends can be this profuse. Now I'm not quite sure on the matter.
posted by Citizen Premier at 3:57 PM on July 19, 2005


The word ‘testicle’ is made up of the Latin noun testis, which means ‘witness’ as in someone who is called into court to give testimony in a trial. Once we extract the root test, then all we have to do is add the diminutive suffix ‘-cle’ onto it. So literally, a ‘testicle’ is a ‘little witness.’ So how does this technically legal term come to be used for a particular part of a man’s genitalia. Well, there are two prevailing theories on this, and you’ll find as many people who cling to the first as to the second.

Theory #1
In ancient Rome, when called to testify at a trial, a witness had to swear an oath that he would tell the truth—similar to our practice today. But because the ancient Romans didn’t have a bible—or any document like it—on which a witness would have to place his hand while he swore his oath dicere veritatem, omnen vertitatem, et nihil sed vertitatem, it was custom that the witness grab his balls and swear by them. If you think about it, this was a very effective way of ensuring that someone would tell the veritas and only the veritas, because if it were found out that he hadn’t, he stood the chance of losing something quite near and dear to him!
Theory #2
In ancient Rome, since a man’s household slaves enjoyed an intimate relationship with their masters—often making them privy to their comings and goings, when, and with whom—overhearing little things muttered in dark corners meant for ears others than their own—the testimony of a slave could be very powerful stuff in the hands of a wily prosecutor. But because many slaves were also quite loyal to their masters, or might be reluctant to testify against them in open court out of fear of repercussions should his master not be convicted, it was Roman law that a slave could only testify against his master—or any member of the household in which he worked, for that matter—if that testimony was extracted under physical torture. This is quite the opposite of the way our legal system works today. Today, any statement given under any force of duress, be it physical or otherwise, is almost always ruled inadmissible without exception. Not so for the Romans, at least when it came to the testimony of slaves.

The way it worked was the slave was called in and strapped down to a chair. And then a court official—usually some big, brawny, mean-faced brute with large muscular hands—would then stand next to the witness with one hand under the slave’s tunic gripping the poor fellows nuts and beginning to apply pressure as the questioning began. Then, as the interrogation proceeded, if it was the opinion of the court members that the slave was not forthcoming to their satisfaction, they would give the nod to man with his ‘hand on the switch’ so to speak, and he would turn up the pressure. A lot of testimony probably went much like this:
Slave: ‘…I think I heard him say…he wanted to learn to please her…’

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEZE!

Slave ‘..I mean I think I heard him say he wanted to murder Caesar!’
There is some truth to the old adage—for which this might very well be the origin: when you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow!"
[Prof. Steven M. Cerutti, Classical Studies, East Carolina University]
posted by ericb at 4:05 PM on July 19, 2005


Well, I've just emailed Richard Lederer (from A Way with Words), and I have to admit that right now I'm only going to trust his testimony.
posted by Citizen Premier at 4:11 PM on July 19, 2005


Citizen Premier - be sure to update us, if you get a response. I am not familiar with "A Way With Words." Thanks for the mention (I love discovering new resources here on MeFi). I've found that they have podcasts of the show!
posted by ericb at 4:15 PM on July 19, 2005


Citizen Premier writes "This doesn't seem like a reliable source; whereas the online etymology site I linked to shows another word source totally unrelated to testicles."

Citizen Premier writes "I don't mean to sound like an stubborn jerk, but urban legends can be this profuse. Now I'm not quite sure on the matter."

If you don't want to, in your own words, sound like an stubborn jerk, why don't you dig a little further into you own link and realize both testicle and testimony both share the same root, testis (from L. testis "testicle," usually regarded as a special application of testis "witness" (see testament), presumably because it "bears witness" to virility)
posted by nkyad at 4:24 PM on July 19, 2005


I read somewhere that the ancient Romans used to swear by their testicles

Now where does that leave females? Holding their husband's testicles?
posted by caddis at 4:26 PM on July 19, 2005


Now where does that leave females? Holding their husband's testicles?

As above - "The fact that women do not have testicles did not pose a problem for the Ancient Romans, since Roman women were not believed to have the capacity to swear oaths."
posted by ericb at 4:30 PM on July 19, 2005


The UK's bench book (court procedure manual for judges) has a whole section on oaths, including (near the foot of the page) a list of religions and issues that court clerks might need to take into account. You can also find out more than you ever wanted to know about the oath sworn by newly elected members of Parliament.
posted by athenian at 4:36 PM on July 19, 2005


BTW - more on the source above - Steven M. Cerutti"
PhD, Duke University.

Fulbright Scholar and Visiting Assistant Professor at the Center for Intercollegiate Studies in Rome.
Also...
"Dr. Steven M. Cerutti has a Ph.D. in Classics from Duke University and is an internationally recognized expert on word origins. Considered one of the world's leading authorities on Classical literature, art, and architecture, Dr. Cerutti is a professor of Classical Studies at East Carolina University where his courses are consistently voted 'most popular' among the over 20,000 undergraduate student population.
posted by ericb at 4:37 PM on July 19, 2005


This kind of case was made for the Supreme Court. I think it should be appealed all the way up.
posted by amberglow at 4:39 PM on July 19, 2005


Dang, this has gotta be the among the most bizarre derails yet. This I swear while fondlingholding my nuts, TESTIFY!
posted by fenriq at 4:52 PM on July 19, 2005


At this stage in the game, does this kind of ruling/bigotry from a court, in North Carolina of all places, really surprise anyone anymore?
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:53 PM on July 19, 2005


Sour Cream wrote:

I think Ron has got it right. Behold Commandment #9:

Though shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

This is one of the most basic tenets of Christianity. Thus, traditionally, swearing on the bible was supposed to remind one that lying to the Court will have serious consequences.


That's right. One of the "most basic tenets of Christianity." You can read all about it....in the Old Testament.

Neither Christianity- nor any other religion- has a monopoly on ethics. Or lack thereof. And when it comes down to it these sorts of debates rarely have anything to do with the literal content of the foundational religious texts. Somehow I suspect that this pathetic excuse for a Judge didn't nix the Koran based on his intimate knowledge of its views on lying.

Like Dios said, it's the oath that's important, not the book that you use to make it.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 5:20 PM on July 19, 2005


nkyad, they share an identical root, but that doesn't mean they're the same thing, just pot (of clay) and pot (the drug) have nothing to do with eachother.
posted by Citizen Premier at 6:06 PM on July 19, 2005


the correct translation of Allah in english is God

That's true, it's a cousin to the Hebrew "Eloah", both of which stem from proto-Semitic origins.
posted by meehawl at 6:46 PM on July 19, 2005


If we could only go back to the simpler, jollier times of 1777, things like this wouldn't cause such an uproar.
posted by Balisong at 6:58 PM on July 19, 2005


This doesn't seem like a reliable source; whereas the online etymology site I linked to shows another word source totally unrelated to testicles.

Not really, it just shows a Latin root, it doesn't comment on how that root relates to any other Latin words. Testicle also sounds like a word derived from Latin or French.

I'd also say that I took a class at my university from a professor of Medieval Literature with a specialty in Medieval Law, and she taught us that knights would swear an oath of fealty by grabbing one another's testicles -- not only for the "lie and I'll cut them off" factor but also possibly to symbolize an oath that goes down through the generations.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:06 PM on July 19, 2005


The invention of blue jeans brought an end to all that, though, for better or worse.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:16 PM on July 19, 2005


Citizen Premier - If I demanded to swear on the Codex Seraphinianus, would I get to keep the copy?

You can get a copy of the Codex Seraphinianus from one of these dealers and a copy of the Voynich Manuscript just in case.

foxy_hedgehog - Neither Christianity- nor any other religion- has a monopoly on ethics.

Amen, since morality is derived from religion and ethics ought (?) to be from reason alone.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 8:35 PM on July 19, 2005


Sour Cream: "I think Ron has got it right. Behold Commandment #9:

Though shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

This is one of the most basic tenets of Christianity."


foxy_hedgehog: "That's right. One of the 'most basic tenets of Christianity.' You can read all about it....in the Old Testament."

In passing, let me say that that's one of the respectable things about Islam: it's got its own scripture, instead of swallowing whole somebody else's.

This reminds me of something I try to keep in mind in my own Biblical controversies: the Christians say the "New Testament" supersedes the "Old" one, that "Jesus is the prince of peace" and "love thy neighbor as thyself" replaces the Levitical commandment to kill faggots. Thus it seems rather ironic that I've heard from and about a lot of Jewish "fundamentalists", but I haven't heard much from Jews about how "God hates fags"; and since Christians are not under the Law the anyway why should they care?

(Derail ends.)
posted by davy at 9:09 PM on July 19, 2005


the correct translation of Allah in english is God

That's true, it's a cousin to the Hebrew "Eloah", both of which stem from proto-Semitic origins.

Technically, the translation of Allah is "The God" (al-Lah) which symobolises the monotheism of Islam. Just one of the 99 names apparently.
posted by jackiemcghee at 1:13 AM on July 20, 2005


Amen, since morality is derived from religion

Speak for yourself. My morals aren't derived from any religion.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:38 AM on July 20, 2005


PurplePorpise; I meant free of charge. I really don't have 340 dollars just lying around.
posted by Citizen Premier at 2:35 AM on July 20, 2005


solid-one-love: Speak for yourself. My morals aren't derived from any religion.

That's what you think. I'm sure they can ultimately be traced back to some religion.
This is kind of like saying that you are not influenced by TV ads, when research shows that everyone (except, perhaps, the comatose) is influenced by it to some extent.
posted by sour cream at 2:44 AM on July 20, 2005


it's got its own scripture, instead of swallowing whole somebody else's.

And hooray for the Mormons, then, and the Scientologists.
posted by meehawl at 3:48 AM on July 20, 2005


Technically, the translation of Allah is "The God" (al-Lah)

Originally, they all seem to have pinched the term from the Caananites' El ("Lord").

Quoting (dunnoe how much of the unicode will come out in MeFi:

The Hebrew word for deity, El (??) or Eloh (????), was used as an Old Testament synonym for Yahweh (????). The Aramaic word for God is alôh-ô (Syriac dialect), which comes from the same Proto-Semitic word (*?ilâh-) as the Arabic and Hebrew terms; Jesus is described in Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46 as having used this word on the cross (in the forms elô-i and êl-i respectively)
posted by meehawl at 3:55 AM on July 20, 2005


...and nothing but the truth, so help me nuts
posted by mr.marx at 4:43 AM on July 20, 2005


That's what you think. I'm sure they can ultimately be traced back to some religion.

I'm sure that any morals that I hold that you think can be traced back to religion can be traced even further back to admonishments by tribal leaders.

That said, since I am not a moral absolutist, it's preposterous to suggest that my morals derive from religion.
posted by solid-one-love at 10:09 AM on July 20, 2005


what solid-one-love said about preposterousness, even as a moral absolutist. Where do you think religion came from? Do you honestly think that a person left unexposed to religion is incapable of having any internal sense of right and wrong?

Also, to continue the lexical derail, who said "pot" the vessel & "pot" the weed are from the same root?
posted by obloquy at 10:57 AM on July 20, 2005


sour: your statement is, somewhat ironically, a statement of faith--since the "tracing game" will take us farther back than (written) history goes.
posted by voltairemodern at 5:49 PM on July 20, 2005


the problem is they often get their genitals chopped off just for being a girl. Islam should focus on it's own internal problems before it demands "equal rights."

The practice of female genital cutting long predates the introduction of Islam into Africa. It is nowhere mentioned in the Koran and its basis in Islamic tradition is weak.

According to the Muslim Women's League,

This [female genital cutting] is known to be a "weak" hadith in that it does not meet the strict criteria to be considered unquestionable (classified as mursal, i.e. missing a link in the chain of transmitters in that none was among the original Companions of the Prophet). In addtion, it is found in only one of the six undisputed, authentic hadith collections, that is in the Sunan of Abu Dawud (Chapter 1888). According to Sayyid Sabiq, renowned scholar and author of Fiqh-us-Sunnah, all hadiths concerning female circumcision are non-authentic. [Emphasis added.]
posted by jonp72 at 11:50 PM on July 20, 2005


Thanks jonp72; I was wondering about that.
posted by obloquy at 12:37 AM on July 21, 2005


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