Posted By Christine Canelos Welsh
Two weeks ago I was called to jury duty. (For my fellows in the Chicago area – I live in Palatine and could they send me to Rolling Meadows, or at least Skokie? Nooooooo – I had to go to 26th & Cal.)
I was assigned a panel number and sent to the jury room to wait. They called my panel of approximately 80 people and we were led into a courtroom to be interviewed by a judge, prosecutors and defenders for possible selection for a case. The court clerk directed us to rise and raise our right hands. We are not even close to the point of being selected as jurors, yet we are all asked to “Swear to Almighty God that you will follow and uphold the law as directed by the Courts”. Her voice and inflection become quite pronounced at the words “almighty God”, so much so that I seriously thought she was about to catch the spirit and break into song. Each time jurors were selected, the same process was repeated. Raise your hand and “Swear to Almighty God”, with the same gospel fervor each time.
Even though I believe in God this felt very wrong. I don’t think it too far-fetched that the clerk believed in a very different way than I do. Yet I was clearly being asked to swear to it.
And I have to wonder - applying the statistic posted earlier that 85% of Americans are Christian, that leaves the possibility that 12 people in that courtroom were being asked to swear to something they might not believe in AT ALL. Does that then invalidate their ability to be jurors? Does swearing to God automatically guarantee that a juror will be able to impartially evaluate the evidence and apply the law?
Who is really being disenfranchised here? Why can’t jurors, witnesses, defendants, etc. be asked to swear to their integrity and promise to act to the best of their ability -- as human beings? After all, believe in God or not, you ARE only human.