Atheists and Juries: Advice to Lawyers March 22, 2010

Atheists and Juries: Advice to Lawyers

The American Society of Trial Consultants publishes a journal called The Jury Expert, which features an article about atheists this month (PDF). Douglas L. Keene and Rita R. Handrich write about how lawyers should act when they have atheist clients and when an atheist may be on the jury.

They offer a few tips to lawyers, most of which make sense if the only purpose is to win the case:

If your client isn’t ‘out’ as an atheist, it is better for you to keep it that way. There is no point in complicating his or her identity as a litigant. On the other hand, if your client has ever publicly acknowledged being an atheist, assume it’s on the internet and that jurors may learn about it.

They also suggest a lawyer may not want a hard-core atheist on a jury:

You can fairly assume that anyone who publicly identifies him- or herself as atheist is unusually opinionated and might be too unpredictable to have on your jury.

We see this in pre-trial research with anyone who identifies as extreme (e.g., very liberal or very conservative). They are often not people we want on juries because we simply cannot predict which direction they will go on a particular case, and they tend to have a polarizing affect on the jury.

Do you want atheists on your particular jury? It depends. As we mentioned earlier, you probably don’t want a militant atheist — like most militants they are likely too unpredictable and a potentially polarizing force in the deliberation room… Of course, if you want a contentious deliberation or a hung jury you may choose to inject a militant atheist, but we aren’t getting into that for this article.

Opinionated? Definitely.

Unpredictable? I doubt it.

If anything, I think you could predict fairly accurately where most atheists would stand on a number of issues. I know this is playing to the stereotype, but If I were a lawyer, I would be thrilled to know whether or not a potential juror was an atheist — it would provide me with an easy way to figure out if I wanted the person on the jury or not. Atheists are a lot of things, but a wild card on a number of issues is not one of them.

And the notion that we “tend to have a polarizing affect on the jury”? Again, that knowledge of a potential juror’s atheism would only help out. If I thought an atheist would side in favor of my client, I would want that person on the jury — partly because atheists know how to make their case to other people in a logical manner and could be persuasive in that regard.

Keene and Handrich also provide a quick reference guide to lawyers who may have to deal with atheist (or very religious) jurors. Note that they use the word “we” in a royal sense — studies show Americans are distrustful of atheists and have many biases against us:

Their advice for lawyers is mostly sound and they do a decent job of educating them about what we do have in common and how we think. If their piece rubs you the wrong way, remember that their job is to be strategic, not to appeal to or fight against atheists.

I’ve never been on a jury, but I wonder if any of you have experiences being on one and whether religion played any role during deliberations.


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  • I was on a jury a few years ago for a woman forging checks. Religion – or lack thereof – never came up.

  • Luther

    Not just atheists, but often people are put in a box with no exit by conflicting charges.

    Opinionated and Unpredictable are pretty close to opposites, so branding someone with both pretty much covers it all. I would like to think that most atheists are rational which makes them less opinionated and more predictable. Unfortunately for lawyers putting forth an emotional argument with few facts on their side, rationality is the last thing they want introduced to a jury.

    I have been on one jury. As a logical, software manager for an insurance company everyone told me I would never be put on a negligence case. It was no surprise when I was quickly eliminated for an auto accident case. Yet, to everyone’s surprise I was selected in a negligence case against a hospital – two others on the jury were computer programmers – it seems both sides thought they had the facts on their side and wanted a rational jury. To my surprise I was elected foreman and to more surprise, after a two week trial, we individually tentatively reached the same conclusion, and quickly agreed on the verdict.

  • If anything, I think you could predict fairly accurately where most atheists would stand on a number of issues.

    I would disagree here. I consider myself, among other things, a freethinker, and therefore am willing to consider all evidence and possibilities before deciding where I stand on an issue. Perhaps on big picture issues atheists tend to hold similar basic beliefs, but in detail they are often very nuanced. And in a trial, I’d like to think I would focus on the facts and evidence rather than be swayed by a lawyer’s rhetoric (I hope I would anyway, I’ve never been on a jury either). That’s probably good news for justice, bad for lawyers trying to win a case.

    I’m more surprised that they say those who identify as very liberal/conservative are so unpredictable. I would have suspected that they, in general, would be more so.

  • Thanks for posting this! I don’t have to worry about juries, but I do have a lot going on with a custody situation, and I’d say I’m pretty “out.” 🙂

  • I liked the “unusually opinionated” remark, but I was cringing when atheism was called an “extreme” position, and of course all the mentions of “militant” atheists.

    I’m also surprised how candid they are about how to rig a jury.

  • I served on one personal injury jury with someone trying to get some money after being in a car accident. It was one of those cases where I probably could have gotten out of jury duty by saying something polarizing during the jury selection (the guy next to me said “I think all these personal injury cases should be thrown out” and the plaintiff attorney chose him not to serve). After hearing all the evidence, we all came up with a compromise decision (being a civil case). I was on the side of awarding the smallest possible settlement. Although religion never came up, there was a bible in the jury room. I guess those inclined to do so, could look to it for “the answer” (thus ignoring the evidence).

  • franz dibbler

    I was excused from a jury pool without comment. Most of the cases were domestic abuse. My only guess is that my occupation is “research scientist” implied atheism/progressive beliefs. It’s a shame cause I could tell who was guilty just by looking at them :>) Still got my $15.

  • Art R

    I have been on two juries, a murder case and a challenge to a police stop, and religion was never mentioned in either case.

  • Roxane

    I was up for jury duty but wasn’t selected–they got all they needed before they got to me. It was an auto injury suit, and they wouldn’t have picked me because I would have said that I wouldn’t necessarily take a chiropractor’s word for it without corroboration by a medical doctor.

    I can see why lawyers on one side or the other might worry about rationalists on their juries, but I think the cause of justice would be advanced if more of us were empaneled.

  • littlejohn

    Never hire a lawyer who’s too stupid to know the difference between “effect” and “affect.”
    My standards may be dropping, but I at least want my lawyer to be literate.
    You don’t have an “affect” on a jury, but you might have an effect on a jury.
    Affect: verb. Effect: noun.
    Yes, I know there are exceptions. Don’t point that out to me. I’ve been a copy editor for twice as long as most of you have been alive and I have a hangover. Leave me alone.

  • Jen

    I have always wanted to serve on a jury, though I have never been called. Perhaps I will not start the conversation with “My name is Jen, and I am an atheist.”

  • Chal

    atheists know how to make their case to other people in a logical manner and could be persuasive in that regard.

    I don’t see how that’s necessarily true. Just because someone has a rational mindset doesn’t mean that they can express it. Plus not all people arrived at atheism in a logical way in the first place.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    I don’t think that this assumption is warranted.

    partly because atheists know how to make their case to other people in a logical manner and could be persuasive in that regard.

    I really don’t understand why so many atheist blogs assume that all atheists out there are scientists, or even educated, or are purely motivated by reason, or would be persuasive and logical in their discourse.

    The assumption that I continually see on atheist blogs, that all of us atheists are some kind of rational robots, is so erroneous. Atheists have biases and irrational thoughts just like everyone else. Many of us didn’t come to atheism through reason per se; there are many causes for people to be atheists. For my part, it’s how I was raised.

    Atheists are a diverse bunch. I don’t think you can guess where a person will stand just because he or she is an atheist. Much more important is to know whether or not he or she is a liberal or a conservative. In essence, if you were trying to guess where the atheist would stand, it would be because you were assuming his or her general political outlook (which may tend towards the left side of the spectrum overall in the atheist popoulation, but I know that there are a lot of conservative atheists out there too).

  • Flah the Heretic Methodist

    I think the point of that article is to know how to avoid the extremes — they mention several time the polarizing effect on a jury. Unnecessary contention in jury deliberation takes away from the valuable time for the necessary contention required. Religion in general can ignite strong, not always rational, feelings.

  • Brian Westley

    I served on a jury in an attempted murder case (ended up a mistrial). While religion per se didn’t come up, the lawyer for the defense (who knew he’d have a tough time; his client was dumb enough not to take an incredibly good deal from the DA) was clearly trying to find jurors who would “stick to their guns” and not be browbeaten by other jurors if they couldn’t reach a verdict. He was trying for a hung jury as far as I could tell.

  • plutosdad

    Yes he is right, because if you are committed to reason then you are different than 95% of the population, and thus no one has studied how people committed to reason act and react. When you study game theory, they don’t break out atheists vs theists, they just use people in general. The most I’ve ever seen is a breakout of people with economics knowledge vs those that don’t, like I think Fehr and Gachter did in their studies (and it showed the people with more knowledge were more likely to play selfish.)

    Of course that assumes the average atheist truly is committed to reason. Also consider, many atheists are in the closet and don’t like making waves, many who are out actually revel in making waves. The second type is not anyone you want on a jury – esp. someone who likes to argue for the sake of arguing, a type of person I’m sure we’ve all met.

    I have jury duty next week, this post is just in time.

  • beckster

    I served on a jury a few years ago for a domestic dispute case involving a lesbian couple. Religion did not come up at all, but one lady was excused during questioning. The defense attorney asked each of us if the sexual orientation of the couple would effect our ability to be fair. Everyone said no except one older woman who told an entire room of people completely straight-faced that she would just sit there the whole time and picture the two women having “lesbian sex” and she wouldn’t be able to focus. Jaws dropped and a few people giggled. She was immediately excused.

  • Polly

    They are often not people we want on juries because we simply cannot predict which direction they will go on a particular case, and they tend to have a polarizing affect on the jury.

    A legal association publication can’t distinguish between “affect”, a verb, and “effect” the noun they want to use in this case!?!?

    Sure, you can “effect” a change, but you can never have an “affect.”

    And I find extremists very easy to predict. The independents can go either way because they depend more on the specific facts, circumstances, and logic of the given case with fewer preconceived notions about the world. It sounds like, from the lawyers’ standpoint, that’s a source of confusion. It almost sounds like they prefer sheep to thinkers.

  • I am very gratified that our research has inspired such a worthwhile discussion on your blog. Our primary concern as litigation consultants is one of making sure that people are provided a fair opportunity to be heard on the merits of their testimony.

    Of course we are advocates for our clients, so we work to see that their testimony, their interests, are protected. We look at research like this for evidence of potential bias, and try to plan accordingly. We found the body of research about public attitudes toward atheists disturbing, and wanted to share the knowledge with the public in the interest of trying to forestall bias of this sort for any and all who enter a courtroom.

    Deen (above) comments that it was surprising to see how candid we were about “how to rig a jury”, a characterization that is grossly inaccurate. What we are good at is figuring out who is most (and least) likely to accept our version of a trial story. It isn’t about rigging anything, it is about listening to people and understanding their motivations and concerns.

    Thank you once again for your sharing this paper and for discussing it so thoughtfully. It is important to many, and as a society I believe it addresses issues important to us all.

  • On the other side of this – If I am ever accused of a crime I did not commit, I want my attorney asking every potential juror “Do you believe in evolution?” to weed out those who cannot follow the evidence.

  • According to DJ Grothe’s Facebook, he’s serving on a jury currently. You’d be hard pressed to find more outspoken people then himself.

  • I’ve escaped jury service three times but I doubt if religion or politics would even come up in jury selection in my country. Frankly I wonder why there aren’t professional jurors trained in understanding the law as it pertains to a particular area (insurance, fraud, crimes against people or property, etc) as it would make things so much simpler.

    I think if I found myself on a jury with a fundy or other religious nut then their opinion on the case might well sway my own decision. Knowing that they’ve gotten everything completely wrong I’d have to take the opposing stance to their decision about the accused. I haven’t tested this rule thoroughly yet but “do the opposite of what the religious nutter does” has worked well so far.

  • It seems to me that if you think you can win the case on the facts, you should want as many atheists as possible on your jury. If you need to win by appealing to emotions and fallacies, get as many believers as you can.

    I was on a jury for assault with a deadly weapon and it never came up, pretrial or during.

  • By the way, if you are willing, it would be wonderful to have you share your views with the general readership of this article (which is posted here in full from the e-journal that published it). To comment to the litigators and social scientists who comprise our readership, please go to the article and post as you normally do!

    http://www.astcweb.org/public/publication/article.cfm/1/22/2/America-Hates-Atheists#Comments

    Thanks, Doug

  • littlejohn

    I’ve noticed that simply mentioning you have a college degree will cause the lawyer with the weaker case to have you thrown off. I’ve never had to serve.

  • Killer_Bee

    I now have the perfect get-out-of-jury-duty card.
    Thank you ASTC!

  • stephanie

    I think by “unpredictable” the article actually means “not as prone to be swayed by lawyer antics.”

  • lurker111

    I’ve been rejected from jury service several times, mainly–I suspect–because I didn’t match the race of the defendant. Yes, yes, I know the lawyers aren’t supposed to take that into account, but it happens all the time. The one time I did sit on a jury, it was a civil case. A crappy civil case. This, and from reading accounts in the papers and various TV docudramas on jury trials, I think that only crappy cases make it to jury trials. If the evidence were solid, there wouldn’t be a trial in the first place.

    If I ever get summoned for jury duty again, I’m going to get a large-print copy of _Twelve Angry Men_ and carry it around with me while waiting in the jury pool.

    @LittleJohn: With the quality of books put out by “name” publishers these days, I didn’t think there were any copy editors left! Glad to hear you’re not an extinct species.

  • Miko

    I’ve been voir dire’d once, but got kicked off when I wouldn’t agree to base my verdict on U.S. law. Got threatened with a contempt charge too, but the judge didn’t actually follow through.

    Deen: I was cringing when atheism was called an “extreme” position

    Extreme is not an absolute qualifier, but a relative one. That is, it only indicates how far away our views are from the center. And we are extreme and should be proud of it. When the religious center is about finding ways to excuse child molestation and force science classes to teach superstition, being extreme is a good thing. When the political center can’t decide whether waterboarding is torture and thinks that due process rights evaporate the moment someone says “terrorist,” being extreme is a good thing.

    Deen: I’m also surprised how candid they are about how to rig a jury.

    This is how you can tell that all conspiracy theorists are nuts. Lawyers will freely talk about “figuring out who is most (and least) likely to accept our version of a trial story” even if they reject the notion that that is rigging a jury, Congress has no qualms in asking Greenspan to testify on why he wasn’t doing enough to keep wages low (google “atypical restraint on compensation increases”), and despite admissions from both representatives of the insurance industry and from Obama’s Dep. Chief of Staff that Obama made them a deal not to include a public option several months back the standard progressive narrative still says that “this was the best Obama could realistically have done.” Those in positions of power have discovered that there’s no need to keep their actions secret, as there are no penalties to them if they discuss what they’re doing openly.

  • JSug

    I served on a jury several years ago, in which we had to decide on a medical commitment case. Basically, an elderly patient’s doctor wanted to keep him in the hospital against his wishes. He was on oxygen due to lung cancer, and apparently they were having trouble convincing him that he needed to stop smoking. I think the state had evidence that he had already started a fire as a result, but they were unable to present that evidence for some reason (the objections of the defense were upheld).

    We deliberated for about a day. I don’t recall religion coming into the discussions. I do think that I had a significant impact on the outcome of the case, though. We were poised to return no verdict because of a few folks who were strongly opposed to the idea of involuntary commitment, no matter what (how they weren’t booted during jury selection I don’t recall). But I argued strongly from a position of reason that the doctor and nurse who testified were probably doing so on their own time. It was my feeling that they would not have bothered if they did not think there was a significant risk of the patient injuring himself or others, were he allowed to leave the hospital. After all, smoking while on oxygen is a major fire risk, and the man was living unassisted in an apartment building. I was able to persuade enough people to change their vote so we could return an actual verdict. I think, in the end, there was one holdout, though, so the decision was not unanimous.

  • stogoe

    I’ve never been called to jury duty, though I think it would be an interesting challenge. I’m trying not to take it personally, but I do have to wonder if there’s something in the jury duty algorithm that keeps rejecting me out of hand.

    LLC, of course atheists have opinions and biases. The difference, of course, is that a big chunk of us are devoted to recognizing and becoming aware of our own biases and the biases of others, and thereby lessinging their influence.

  • I’ve never been on a jury but I did fight a traffic ticket once. The bailiff was taken aback when I said I’d rather not put my hand on the bible but they let me swear on my honour to tell the truth.

    The commissionaire who wrote me the offending ticket made a big show of putting his hand on the bible.

    I won btw and as I was collecting my coat (I was the last case of the day) the judge gave the bailiff shit for not being more tactful towards me.

  • cathy

    Generally, picking jurors leans towards generalizations. For example, in criminal cases, engineers and mathematicians are generally considered to be good defense jurors. Why? Because the prosecution has a very high burden of proof and these people are on average more demanding about proof standards.

    People with disabilities are more likely to find against doctors or hospitals, but tend to award lower pain and suffering damages. The idea is that people with disabilities, after extensive dealings with the medical system, have almost universally dealt with at least one hugely incompetant medical establishment, however, people who are more likely to have daily pain or medicine needs are less likely to view the plantif’s as deserving of exceptional payment.

    I don’t really see it as offensive to say in this context that atheist tend to have strong opinions but that these opinions are very diverse. However, some of the language used is poorly chosen. Terms like ‘militant’ are applied as a slur to everyday average atheists in ways that they are not applied to religious people or other sorts of affiliations. ‘Militant Democrat’ does not hold the same offensive connotations as militant atheist. Also, the issue of ‘unpredictability’ does not imply a diversity of opinions leading to an unknown position based on non-religion alone, it implies that atheists are wild and out of control. The underlying idea isn’t offensive, ie that atheists tend to have strong, diverse opinions, but the connotations in the writing are poor at best. Also, it is contradictory when they clearly state that, at least on some issues, atheists do tend to be less punitive. I suspect that it varies a lot based on the topic of the case. If you have a trial about creationism, you can predict pretty well where your atheist jurors will tend to fall. However, on issues such as involuntary commitment, like in JSug’s case, the opinions would be less predictable. Though, this same thing would hold with other groups as well. A queer juror’s opinion on anti-gay employment discrimination is bound to be much more predictable than on gun control.

  • Slickninja

    I imagine the unpredictability idea comes from just like any set of ideals and principals, you have the outspoken ones. Some atheists you’d never know their religiousity unless you directly confronted one or some are more prone to confrontation.

    The most memorable juries probably had the issues of conflict when another jurer and the atheist jurer clashed on religion. I certainly would if someone suggested that a person was of substantial moral character just because of his/her own religious affiliation. I’m sure mostly religion doesn’t come up that frequently (I’m guessing as I’ve yet to serve) and that atheists generally aren’t that polarizing.

    I will say one thing, there’s broad generalizations being made about our fellow atheists in this article as much as religion.

  • Dan Covill

    I’ve been on two juries, and religion never came up.

    What did come up, though, was an egregious example of ignorance of science.

    This was another jury selection, and one of the panel was a young woman who had a PhD in molecular biology and was employed as a research scientist. The prosecutor (!) asked her if she was familiar with the “scientific method”. When she said she was, his next question was whether she could “put that aside when considering the testimony in the case” (Double !!)

    I was tempted to raise my hand and ask the judge to have the question withdrawn on grounds of stupidity, but decided not to. Neither the biologist nor I were selected.

  • Douglas L Keene wrote:

    Deen (above) comments that it was surprising to see how candid we were about “how to rig a jury”, a characterization that is grossly inaccurate. What we are good at is figuring out who is most (and least) likely to accept our version of a trial story.

    I’m very sorry, but I may be too unsophisticated to appreciate the subtle difference between setting up the jury so it’ll accept your version of reality and rigging it.

    In my defense, I am from a country that doesn’t do jury trials. So maybe I’m biased and you’d better exclude me from this panel 😉

  • Miko said:

    Extreme is not an absolute qualifier, but a relative one. That is, it only indicates how far away our views are from the center. And we are extreme and should be proud of it.

    I cringe not because I would like to be in the center where it is now – I’m happy not to be there. I cringe because I think the center should be where we are. Atheism should be the null hypothesis, not an extreme position to hold.

  • Suz

    What a timely topic for me. I was on a jury last week. I had the opposite experience as franz. I think defense wanted me on the jury specifically because I am a scientist. There was also another biochemist and a physicist on the jury.

    When we had juror orientation, we were told that if we didn’t want to swear on the bible, tell the judge and we could recite a secular oath instead. When we got to the courtroom, our judge didn’t give anyone the option of swearing on the bible. Everyone had to do the secular oath. So we’re making progress in at least one courtroom.

  • Richard Wade

    They offer a few tips to lawyers, most of which make sense if the only purpose is to win the case:

    Oh I don’t know, some lawyers don’t make sense but they still win the case.

  • I’ve served on two juries in my home state of Connecticut. I honestly can’t recall that any juror’s religion — or lack of it — had any role in either decision. In fact, I can’t recall religion being mentioned among us at all. I suppose somewhere in our small talk someone might have mentioned going to church, or something like that, but there couldn’t have been any mention of it beyond that.

  • aerie

    @PsyCop:

    In Connecticut that doesn’t surprise me. Here the South, people you just met have no problem asking you what church attend. They still see atheists as Satan-worshipers because really they can’t fathom the concept of “no belief”.

    I recall one case where the jury requested a Bible during deliberations!

  • Anonymous

    If your client isn’t ‘out’ as an atheist, it is better for you to keep it that way. There is no point in complicating his or her identity as a litigant.

    Just substitute “citizen” or “relative” for “litigant” and you’ve got some sound lawyerly advice about whether to come out of the closet as an atheist to friends and family.

    If this is sound advice for a simple “client” imagine if it was “politician” instead. The greater the public scrutiny, the more compelling the advice.

  • False Prophet

    I was called for jury duty once, but they filled the jury from the pool before my turn came. It was an armed robbery case, so I doubt religion would have played much of role in the trial.

    Also, maybe it’s different here in Ontario, but I didn’t see the lawyers having a large amount of input into the jury selection. Basically, everyone was called up one at a time, looked the accused in the eye and indicated if there was any recognition. (Like most foreigners, I know more about American legal processes than my local ones.)

    And I have to agree with some of the posters above: atheism is no guarantee of rationality nor skepticism. Ashley Paramore commented on this. And it’s no guarantee the person isn’t ideologically-driven either: zealous communists or Objectivists are atheists, but don’t always act rationally.

  • muggle

    I’ll take the get out of jury duty free card. In fact, I already have. Though I don’t know if it was the Atheist thing or just my weird life.

    I’ve only been called for jury duty once in my life. I was supposed to appear for three days. They filled the room up with potential juries and filled the jury box in shifts where the attorneys asked their questions.

    First, the judge had us state who we were and what organizations we belonged to. That was the year I belonged to American Athiests. (I didn’t like them and never rejoined.) Other people had one or two of the usual memberships like their church or the Elks. Then they got to me: American Atheists, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, National Organization of Women (dropped them later too) and the Feminist Majority. People tried not to stare.

    But the questions also were bad. Both cases the first two days had to do with drugs and robberies. Attorneys asked us to raise our hands if our answers were yes and sometimes asked more detail. Things I remember raising my hand to: ever known a drug addict, ever been helped by the police, ever been treated unfairly by the police, ever been a victim of assault, ever call the police for a domestic disturbance, ever had a problem with a drug addict? And that’s what I recall after making sure I got to take the non-god pledge. My damned hand was always raised, it seemed.

    I don’t know which thing got me recused.
    The attorneys occasionally asked me for further detail, especially those times when I was the only one to raise my hand or when the two questions seemed to conflict such as both being helped and treated unfairly by the police. I was told I was excused after the second day and not to bother coming back for the third. More seasoned jurors were laughing and said they knew I was never going to be picked from the first round of questioning.

    Always knew I’d never serve on a case involving child molestation due to having to protect my daughter from her perv father but I guess I don’t much have to worry about doing my civic duty anyhow.

    Almost a pity because I would find it interesting. I love “12 Angry Men” however and this article may have a point. Because I can certainly see myself being that one hold out when everyone else just wants to get out and go home to supper.

  • GribbletheMunchkin

    I’d love a stint on jury duty. Preferably some kind of juicy case, maybe corruption, murder, unlikely grand heist, etc.

    I honestly don’t think that unless the case involved religion in a significant way, my athiesm would be a factor in the UK.

  • Richard Wade

    I’ve served on two juries and three panels. In each case, the prospective jurors were asked personal questions that one could easily understand might have a bearing on an issue in the trial.

    For instance, on a drunk driver case, I was asked about my profession, which was on the juror profile form if I remember correctly. Because I had written “addiction counselor,” I was questioned closely by both the defense and prosecution about my opinions and my ability to be fair. In the end I was accepted, but on his own, the judge made it a point to tell me not to talk about any of my professional knowledge of alcoholism during the deliberations.

    The point is, there was nothing to indicate what my religious views were. Unless the case involved an issue that dealt heavily with religion, I would be astonished if out of the blue a trial lawyer asked me as a jury panelist what my religion is. I’d look at the judge with a puzzled face and say, “Is he supposed to ask me that, your honor?”

    What if every Jew on a jury panel was dismissed from serving on a case that had nothing to do with religion? Would people be asking questions about the lawyers’ agendas?

    Are there laws limiting the range of questions that lawyers can ask people in a public forum? If it has nothing to do with the case, can they ask if a person is gay?

  • Dr. Keene and Dr. Handrich,

    As a husband who just celebrated a wonderful 20th anniversary of marriage to my wife Terresa, father of three great children, Ryan, Erin and Connor, a non-religious humanist, atheist and 19 year veteran police officer, I truly appreciate the comprehensive, respectful and articulate approach to the issue of atheism and the courts.

    I am a registered voter and, while participating in the jury process over the years, I have yet to sit on either a criminal or civil jury due to my career path and not my lack of belief in the assorted deities.

    It must be known that I do positively identify myself as a non-religious humanist and non-believer in any deities.

    This article and recognition has been long overdue and much appreciated.

    Thank you for your good work and for this worthwhile public outreach.

    Sincerely,

    Steve Schlicht
    Biloxi MS
    HumanistFamilies@hotmail.com

    PS Hemant, a few months ago I tried to meet up with you in Chigago as I was testifying as a criminal investigator from the MS Gulf Coast with key information regarding a robbery/homicide (the Corey Ebenezer case).

    Though our meeting feel through, I was impressed that the Chicago court system never once required me to swear to the standard oath “so help me god” at all.

    By the way, the case led to two convictions for robbery/homicide after I testified.