If you have sex with your brother's girlfriend, after convincing her in a dark bedroom that you're your brother – in other words, without her informed consent – is it rape? Not according to Massachusetts law, according to the state's Supreme Judicial Court, which set Alvin Suliveres free this past Thursday: The long-standing rape statute defines rape as sexual intercourse compelled "by force", and in 1959 the Judicial Court specifically ruled that fraud can't replace force as an element of the crime.
The day after the decision, two Massachusetts legislators began work on a bill to change the law to include fraud and deceit.
And in Raleigh, North Carolina last week, a Superior Court heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Syidah Mateen, a Muslim woman who was refused the right to swear an oath on the Koran when she gave witness in a trial. North Carolina law specifies that only the King James Bible be used (leaving Muslim, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and others the options of saying "so help me God" without the use of any text, or simply "I affirm.")
Now seriously, why is this something the state of North Carolina feels the need to fight back against? Valerie Bateman, an attorney from the state's Attorney General's Office, insists that determining which holy books can be used would be "just too much entanglement for the court to be involved in." How about… just letting everybody use the books of their choice? The courts accommodate witnesses who have any number of special physical needs. The cost of having a few extra books on hand shouldn't be an issue: What's being spent on this trial would probably buy a nice religious library for every courthouse in the state. Or witnesses could simply be allowed to bring their own.
Here's my prediction – and if I'm right it's going to seem obvious in hindsight: By the time this case works its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court (and it's likely to, no matter who wins on the state level), and similar cases are filed (inevitable), those supporting North Carolina's position will discover they'd been their own worst enemies: Courts will begin to wonder "why are we in the Bible business in the first place?" and the whole tradition of swearing a religious oath in a secular court will go the way of organized prayer in public schools.... read the rest of the story by Subscribing now.