When a citizen of Fayette County, Pennsylvania received a notice to appear for jury duty, there was a curious line at the very bottom of the paper:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Romans 13:1 NIV.
Who the hell thought it would be a good idea to include a Bible verse on a government document like that?
That’s what the Freedom From Religion Foundation wanted to know, and attorney Chris Line sent a letter last December to the appropriate officials:
Inserting bible verses into jury summons suggests that Christianity is the preferred religion of the County. This sends the message to all minority religious or nonreligious constituents that they “are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community”…
The Fayette County Jury Commissioners’ Office is tasked with serving all citizens, regardless of their personal religious beliefs. We ask that it refrain from including bible verses on its summons or any other official correspondence in the future. Please inform us in writing of the steps you take to address this constitutional concern.
It took several months, but there’s finally a resolution to this case. The County says it has stopped using the verse, which is confirmed by the new version of the same letter.
“Upon receiving your letter dated Dec. 18, 2020, the bible verse was immediately removed from all jury summons,” a jury commissioner recently replied. “With respect to the government-mandated separation of church and state, no future summons will include the verse.”
The response letter contains a copy of the current summons template — with no religious language at all.
It’s the right move. It doesn’t explain how that verse came to be on the document in the first place, but whatever the reason, it no longer exists.
No legal fight. No prolonged war of words. Just a warning, followed by a correction. If only all problems were resolved this efficiently.
(Featured image via Shutterstock)