Friday, July 29, 2005

Oaths for the Oath's Sake

MaryHunter over at Bacon Bit's has ACLU Thursday, or more correctly an anti-ACLU Thursday. I find it troubling that a institution began to champion freedom now usually champions thinly disguised relativism. Absolutes are uncomfortable things. Anyway, she pointed my attention to this bit at Pirate's Cove. From the news report:
The religious texts of Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and faiths other than Christianity should be allowed in North Carolina courts for oaths promising truthful testimony, the ACLU argued in a lawsuit filed against the state Tuesday.

State law allows witnesses preparing to testify in court to take their oath either by laying a hand over a "Holy Scripture," by saying "so help me God" without the use of a religious book or by using no religious symbols.

"We hope that the court will issue a ruling that the phrase "holy scripture" includes the Quran, Old Testament, and Bhagavad-Gita in addition to the Christian Bible," said Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.

William Teach at Pirate's Cove says this:

Now, I abhor the ACLU's method's, the scare tactics, the extortion, the threats, blackmail, and, in this case, the lawsuits, but, our country was founded on religious freedom. Sure, it was about Christian beliefs, but respect should be given and respect should be shown. All religions (except the truly wacko ones) should be respected. Otherwise, we give up one of our core principles. All religion should be the same in the eyes of the law (except the really kooky ones.)

It's a tough call. We have seen what the tenents of Islam have done. We should allow them to swear on the Quaran, though, but not to appease them, but because it is the right thing to do, based on those same principles of religious freedom that the Pilgrims came to this land for.

I agree with him and added this at MaryHunter's site (spelling has been corrected from the original post):

I have no problem with the introduction of other religioius texts as the “oath by” for peoples of different faith. What matters is that they keep the oath for the oath’s sake. CS Lewis illustrated this aptly in “The Last Battle” and it seems particularly apt in accordance to what David posted above, substitute real faiths for Lewis’ imaginary ones.

“I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child all the service thou hast done for Tash, I account as service done to me. . . I questioned . . . Lord is it then true . . . that you and Tash are one? . . . It is false, not because we are one but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truely sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man does cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name of Aslan, it is by Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.”

What matters is that the witness speak truth because he has sworn to do so. To make a Hindu swear upon a bible would not be binding in the least if he had not already determined to be truthful.

This is the same logical fallacy followed by those who urge Catholics to say condoms are OK in Africa. A person who is determined on a sinful course that is apt to result in VDs and HIV is already ignoring the teachings of the church, how is declaring the use of condoms OK going to change a person set on sinning?

What is troublesome then is not that other texts be used to swear upon, but the attitude that says a witness is more likely to commit perjury if the swear on someone else's holy writ. As an evangelical Christian, my duty is to be truthful because that is what God wants, not because I have placed my hand on a paper.

By funny circumstance I have been listening to Lewis' Mere Christianity perhaps his most important apology. I think something else he has to say is relevant also.

The law that is peculiar to his human nature, the law that he (man) does not share with animals or vegetables or inorganic thing is the one he can disobey if he chooses. This law was called The Law of Nature, because people thought that everyone knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it. It did not mean that you would not find an odd individual here and there who did not know it, just as you find a few people who were color blind or have no ear for a tune. Taking the race a whole, they thought the human idea of decent behaviour was obvious to everyone. I believe they were right, if they were not, then all the things we said about the war (WW2) were nonsense. What was the sense in saying the enemy were in the wrong, unless right is a real thing which the Nazi's knew at bottom as well as we did and ought to have practiced.


I know that some people say the idea of a Law of Nature, or decent behavior known to all men, is unsound because different civilizations and different ages have had quite different moralities but this is not true. There have been differences in thier moralities but these have never amonted to anything like a total difference.


Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle or where a man felt proud of double crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might as well imagine a country where 2 + 2 =5. Men have differed as to what people you might be unselfish to, whether it was your own family, countryman or everyone but they have always agreed that you ought not put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired.

This is the real danger - a loss of the sense of what is right. With relativism the moral compass becomes skewed or worse abandoned this leads to anarchy. One can be morally bad and society will see it and constrain it, but if nothing is good or bad but only "relative", how is society to function, much less a free and pluralistic one?

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