From: "Robert Knowles" Subject: ATHEIST OATH REFUSAL
CAUSES MISTRIAL Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1993 16:49:34 GMT
I have seen a few people mention the case of the Texas atheist who recently
caused a mistrial because of his refusal to take the "god" oath. Here's what
I have heard about this from my local atheist organization (Atheist Network):
1. The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure (Rules 226 & 236) require jurors
to take TWO separate oaths containing the words "so help me God"
during the course of a trial. One oath is asked of all citizens
called to jury duty, and the OTHER is administered to those who
are actually CHOSEN to serve. Texas law does not allow for any
sort of "secular" replacement (even though some judges will do
this, they run the risk of a mistrial based on a technicality).
Well, that apparently happened. [ Typically, people who refuse
the first oath are almost NEVER asked to serve on a jury, I have
yet to meet ONE ]
2. During the second week of January a local atheist (named John Smith
from my sources - I will check to see if this is a pseudonym - but
there are REAL people named John Smith, too). Mr. Smith was not
aware of the implications of the state requirements concerning
god oaths. He put the word "none" in the space on his jury card
when it asked for his religious preference. When they administered
the first oath, he was surprised, but went along since he didn't
quite know what to do under the circumstances. When they began to
issue the second oath, he pointed out that he was an atheist, and
then the trouble began. The case, involving the sexual assault of
a child was declared a mistrial.
Atheist Network has been in contact with Mr. Smith who has promised to
get us a transcript of the trial and is planning to attend our February
meeting to tell us about his experience (Monday Feb. 15). So I may
have more information then.
Interestingly enough, our guest at the January meeting was the new
director of the Texas Chapter of the ACLU, Jay Jacobson, who spoke
to us about the origins of the United States and its principal legal
documents and the difficulties of maintaining state/church separation.
During this meeting, several of us pointed out the Texas oath problem
and he was VERY interested because he thought it was a violation of
state/church separation. One of our members had a lot of info on
this which he provided to Mr. Jacobson, so the pump has been primed.
We will see where this next situation takes us.
Incidentally, things like this point out the importance of ORGANIZED
atheism, in my opinion. The real battleground is in the courts and
the religious folks will do anything they can to thwart our efforts.
I have been collecting a list of addresses, etc. and I will do my
best to post them this weekend. The best thing we can do is stay
in touch and share our information with as many as we can.
[end of sermon] ;-)