Jury Duty

I cannot help but think it odd
To swear an oath “so help me god”

Yeah, well… I’ve been on jury duty this month. Found someone not guilty, and decided on a load of compensation for an accident. It was, overall, a very worthwhile, though extremely frustrating experience. Trying to get 12 people to agree on X, where the two opposing sides had suggested values of X ranging by over an order of magnitude. Long, boring story.

At the end, though (indeed, after we delivered our decision, before we were dismissed, while we were talking), I found at least 2 other jurors (only 4-5 of us were talking in this group) who, like me, raised their right hand but remained silent during the “do you swear or affirm yadda yadda yadda so help you god?” rigamarole. One of the others in this small conversational group had never considered the oath as discriminatory–I couldn’t tell for certain, but it seemed to me that he was quite sympathetic.

I guess I’m not quite used to the idea of a significant number of godless around. Here, at least a quarter of the jury was (no idea about others, other than one christian minister).

Maybe I’m projecting, but it seemed like each of us was glad to find the other two. I know I was; it felt like they were as well.

Maybe there are more of us than we imagine; if we just show ourselves, we may already be in good company.


  1. says

    In the UK you have to do this individually infront of the court. By default you are offered the bible to swear on however you may also ask for the Koran or one or two other holy books or you can state you wish to "affirm". If I recall correctly, when I was called up for this, two other people asked to affirm however I suspect others just went with the bible as the easy option. Unfortunately, being younger and shy, I didn't have the nerve to speak to the other affirmers. It does make you wonder who you may come across who shares your point of view.Gosh, rambling. TL:DR – I agree!

  2. Mina says

    (Note, the captcha word was 'verityod'. I was amused.)When I had to testify, years ago, I refused the under god and went with 'affirm.' Our landlord, the plaintiff, tried to argue that meant I wasn't going to tell the truth and I shouldn't be allowed to say anything. The judge just stared.But it was a simple matter to say, "Sorry, but I won't swear to god, I'm not religious. What's the secular version?" I might not have messed with it in a jury version when we all did it together, but then again, I might have.

  3. says

    It really is a simple matter, at one level. But at another, it is a bit like an unknown secret handshake. One of our jurors had never even considered that there were alternatives to "so help me god", and seemed fascinated by the discussion. He could have been an atheist (didn't say one way or the other) and just thought, as per the actions of everyone there, and of every courtroom drama or comedy we ever see in the media, that these were the magic words the court needed to say.Another of the jurors, as I think I mentioned, simply didn't say anything during the swearing in; it was news to her (actually, two of them, come to think of it) that the three of us were technically "affirming" rather than swearing.So it's really simple, but it's not terribly well-known. And as such, it remains invisible, as do we.

  4. says

    I'd never thought about a secular version of this oath because I've never had to give one in a court of law. Someone should design and circulate one.I have no problem saying 'Amen' after listening to someone else say Grace, so maybe a secular oath to tell the truth could end in 'Amen' – I affirm this declaration!

  5. says

    Last time I had to fill out paperwork for potential jury duty, I made a point of requesting a secular affirmation if selected for duty. I never did hear back about that or jury duty.

  6. says

    I live in a very red state and am always delighted to find other godless folk. In fact, I married the first atheist I ever met (outside of my own family)– Not only because he was atheist, of course, but that was a plus. :)Good for you Mina – I hope you won against your bigoted landlord.

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