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.

 

Steve

7 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Alan Tuffery February 20, 2012

    When I went to court the judge — who was unfamiliar with the procedure — asked for a Bible to be produced. Happily the clerk knew that an affirmation is what is required, so I did not have to refuse the oath.

  2. Avatar
    mike murphy February 20, 2012

    At the beginning of my stint in a jury, I affirmed.
    No big deal, a little bit of a look from the judge and he nodded to the clerk(?), who advised me to repeat the same oath and just hold my hand in the air!
    I dont remember their being anything offensive in the oath… but I was fairly nervous!

  3. Avatar
    Shane February 20, 2012

    Why should we be treated differently? We all swear

  4. Avatar
    Paula February 20, 2012

    In 1991 I was involved in an accident and was called as a witness to the Four Courts. I was watching others ahead of me swearing on a bible. I said to my husband, “I can’t swear on a bible”. He replied with a look and a shake of his head “this is not the time to take a stance; people just will not understand”. So I chickened out.
    Today it’s a different story – there’d be no problem. And that’s thanks in some way to the work being done by Atheist Ireland.

  5. Avatar
    Chris February 22, 2012

    The real simple solution is to scrap any form of oath or affirmation. Shouldn’t it just be taken for granted that we are expected to be honest in court. It’s not as if swearing makes anyone tell the truth if they have already decided not to!

  6. Avatar
    Merb February 23, 2012

    During my stint as juror I swore on the, ahem, ‘good book’ and didn’t think twice about it – as I didnt believe in it then why would not swearing the oath matter ? And how would an affirmation bind me to the truth instead ? Neither bible, spaghetti monster or publically vocalizing my atheistic beliefs makes any difference – if I’m gonna lie I’m gonna lie !!

  7. Avatar
    Matt Anson February 23, 2012

    It’s not lying, just uttering meaningless words, the same as saying “Bless you” after a sneeze. There are more important issues around religion that we should focus on.