I Swear to the Flying Spaghetti Monster
During the course of our lives, most of us will find ourselves in a situation where we would have to appear in court to give evidence or as a member of the jury. You will be approached by the clerk Bible-in-hand ready to take your oath. But if you’re not a Christian, you find yourself in a scenario that compels you to reveal your (non-)religious convictions to an employee of the State. Such a situation is wholly inappropriate for a citizen of a republic to find themselves in, where a State employee assumes by default that you are of a Christian denomination, and once you opt to make a secular affirmation, they leaf clumsily through a folder; past Judean, Islamic and otherwise oaths, until they finally find the relevant text which you must quote.
It may seem like a positive sign that our court service recognises all religions and none but this is a instance where universal recognition of the value systems of citizens creates a lot of noise, and can slow down the judicial process. It would be appropriate just to have the secular affirmation, which is inclusive and does not reveal the religious identity of the person giving evidence or the juror, which is something that may cause prejudice among other members of the jury and could impact the case under adjudication.
A survey conducted in the United States shows Atheists and Muslims to be the least trusted of the population. Therefore revealing your convictions could undermine your testimony, based solely on the wording of your oath to tell the truth. Furthermore, where the clerks assume by default that the person who is to take the oath is Christian, would lead me to think that they may have a bias where only Christians would honest, and any atheist who has family present, and doesn’t want to reveal their lack of faith, may have just committed perjury by being dishonest in their oath.
If a religious oath were necessary in a democratic republic, the Bible would be an unusual book to swear upon, with calls for slavery and the death penalty – things that are abhorrent in 21st centaury Ireland. Even The Religious Society of Friends, otherwise known as Quakers, can point to passages in the very bible they must swear upon, asserting oaths are forbidden:
“I say to you: ‘Swear not at all’ – Mathew 5:34
“Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.” – James 5:12
The simple solution; an all-inclusive affirmation would be the best course of action, where the noise multiple oaths would be eliminated and no person has to reveal their convictions.