Religion in the Courtroom

bibleThe recent story of a Texas jury who consulted the Bible before sentencing a man to death got me thinking.

DISCLAIMER: I AM COMPLETELY FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

I agree when people complain about the 10 commandments in the courtroom and when they demand ‘in god we trust’ be removed from our money or ‘under god’ be removed from the pledge of allegiance.  All of that stuff creates a direct tie between our government and a specific religion which I don’t agree with, regardless of my political or religious beliefs.  I just don’t think a country founded mostly due to religious discrimination has any right to associate itself with a specific religion when it claims it’s open to all people regardless of belief.  That’s like saying “Sure come on in, but we’re better than you.”  It just doesn’t jive.

Religion is a moral guidance tool.  People lean on it when something happens they don’t understand or if they don’t know what to do about a situation.  Whether it’s the Christian Bible or the Muslim Qur’an, It defines right and wrong and the consequences for those who believe its lessons.

To me, this Jury story is different.  The people in the JURY consulted the bible, not the JUDGE.  They were looking for moral guidance.  I don’t have a problem with this.  A jury should be made up of your peers.  It’s pretty safe to assume that a certain percentage of your peers are going to be Christians or have at least grown up in a Christian household.

The Jury would be leaning on its’ teachings whether they actual read a passage during deliberation or not.

5 thoughts on “Religion in the Courtroom

  1. Thanks for sharing this … I wonder what these jurors would think if they were on trial and some jurors in their jury were referring to a different "moral guide" in the form of some religious text, say the Qur'an … The Satanic Bible … Digha Nikaya … take your pick (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_text). Imagine them sitting around reading some other religious text as a group … would this be as palatable then? According to one of the links you included, there were bibles in the deliberation room with highlighted passages. This is hardly someone pulling out their own copy of the bible and looking to it for guidance. It is one thing if someone uses what they have read in religious text or learned in their church to guide their judgment … it is another thing altogether if a group of people are sitting around reading that religious text in a deliberating room.Personally, I am disturbed by this and would be horrified if I were on trial and found that the jury, as a group, were reading any religious text in the deliberating room.

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  2. Totally agree with Michelle (you often say what I am already thinking Chelle!).I was trying to think why this disturbed me so much. I am often told that the country is made up of a majority of Christians and I should just deal with it.There have been a lot of things in the news about using Christianity as a guide because of it's prominence in society, it is main stream. There was recently the whole handing out and reprinting of the Darwin book with a forward about creationism. What if someone had written a forward to the bible with the atheist point of view? The situation that Randy talks about here is equally as bad because it also adds a level of group-think that is intrinsic in the jury process. If you don't agree with the majority after reading the bible passage that others say supports thumbs up or thumbs down on the death penalty, then you are against God? How comfortable do you think people are with that?

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  3. @chelleBeing that it's in Texas, I'm sure 'they' wouldn't like it one bit if they found out a different religious text was used.That being said, I wouldn't mind one bit. @randiI agree… the notion that Christianity should be used as a guide just because of its prominence is scary to say the least. @bothI'm not suggesting that society as a whole use it as a guide. I'm just recognizing that some members of society do, and whether they read it (or the Qur'an as Chelle suggested) in a deliberation room or at home in their lazy boy makes no difference to me.I guess in the end I just hope there are enough unique/open minded people in the world (and therefor the jury) that won't be easily swayed by some religious text regardless of their own beliefs and values.

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  4. I would hope that too, but my experience has taught me that although I like to think that people are generally open-minded and stick to their own beliefs, the truth is that those types of people seem to be in the minority.

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  5. I agree Randi.The encouraging thing here is that we are actually talking about this … and that Randy posted it for discussion. I have noticed a shift in the younger generation … there is more willingness to talk about things that were taboo just a couple of years ago.More people seem to be paying attention to these things and to care about them … ponder them. More open mindedness. Maybe I am overly optimistic, but I am hoping that this is an indicator of what is to come.

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