Monday, October 7, 2013
So Help Me God
Jury Duty - an honorable civic responsibility to participate in just as casting your vote during election cycles is; it fulfills a certain duty to your community. I'm a citizen of a small rural town and have been tapped three times since we started living here to fulfill this obligation. It is an inconvenience, slightly, but I appreciate the opportunity to ensure that disputes are handled fairly and provide justice to injured parties. But on this particular occasion, it served as yet another experience to get the hair on the back of my neck to rise. I'm not sure why it had never struck a nerve before, but it did today. Maybe it was just because I wasn't feeling well this morning. I just confirmed it. My temperature is 99.1 F, I have a low-grade fever and a high-grade disgust for the "traditions" of the court.
During my presence in the courtroom this morning, a quick head count from the back tells me we had a pool of about fifty-six potential jurors in attendance to fill eighteen seats. They needed a jury of twelve for the trial, along with six alternates. The civil case reduced the pool by those needed eighteen people only to dismiss five for good reasons. Five more were taken from the pool to round out the requirements. But before any selections had even occurred, one thing had to happen first. We all, as a collective, had to agree to do our jobs with a straight face and promise it in one of two ways - either by oath or affirmation. If you know me, you know what I chose to do. I stood up quickly and proudly affirmed my duty to the court.
"You and each of you do solemnly swear that you will truly try this cause and render a true verdict according to the law and the evidence, so help you God."
"You and each of you do sincerely affirm that you will truly try this cause and render a true verdict according to the law and the evidence. This you do under the pains and penalty of perjury."
I was saddened to see only three other people stand with me to agree to the affirmation. But yay - all of us were women. But seriously, only four people total! It once again shows me how much, as an atheist, I'm in the minority in this community.
It's obvious that I would never use the oath because I don't need a god to help me make decisions, evaluate the evidence or follow a judge's instructions to bring about a verdict or resolution. Being self-led doesn't require me to have an invisible entity guide my actions. I'm still puzzled why anyone would want one to but that's beside the point of this blog.
Let's look at the differences between the two. The oath asks you to affirm that you will solemnly swear to uphold your duty. In other words invoking a sacred being in a grave and earnest manner help you do your duty. During the affirmation you are pledging to sincerely affirm or be genuine in your desire to do your job. In other words, you will honestly carry out your duties and by doing so it doesn't require the help of a deity. The other different bit is that you understand that if you do not do so, you will have broken the law.
The goal of both pledges is to have those potential jurors and ultimately those selected do exactly what they promised. The bottom line is that you promise that you will do your job. I get it that those of faith feel more comfortable saying they need a god to assist them. Any opportunity to say they are unable to do anything without him and jump at the chance to do so, I really do get it even though I disagree with the thought process or desire. It's understandable because that is what they have been taught all their lives... "you can't do anything without his guidance." This oath they take is no different than thanking god for their food, praising him for his divine intervention during medical crisis' and of course helping with football games being won. But more importantly, his interceding when big decisions need to be made. NOTHING can happen without the big invisible sky daddy's blessing or guidance.
What tears at my gut and leaves me befuddled (once again) is the injection of faith into a setting that is and should clearly be devoid of the supernatural. We live in a country governed by laws created by men and women. We use procedures and actions in our judicial system developed in this natural world of ours that reflect not one ounce of mysticism. All decisions and efforts in this courtroom are the work of a rational process that in the end uses thoughtfulness and reasoning to deliver a verdict or determination. Why for the love of cute puppies are we interjecting an invisible being into this scenario and asking for his guidance to perform our duty in this process? Why? It's just asinine to me!
I will continue to be saddened, angered and stunned about these types of practices as I encounter them and any others in places where a spiritual intrusion is imposed into a secular process governed by secular laws.
And I will continue to speak out against the absurdity of religion wherever I see it. So help me not god.