Discrimination by U.S. States in Court Testimony
Court testimony and juries
In a court of law, a person may make an affirmation instead
of swearing an oath, but either must be concluded with "so help me
God". (Wyoming civil code 1-2-103)
- West Virginia
Required oaths for notaries and jurors include the phrase
"so help you God". (Chap.29C, and chap. 52 of the West Virginia state code)
"Evidence of the beliefs or opinions of a witness on
matters of religion is not admissible for the purpose of showing that by reason
of their nature his credibility is impaired or enhanced." Rule 101, of
Court Rules from the West Virginia State Code
Although normal oaths for government office or for court
include the phrase "so help me God", affirmations can be substituted
for oaths and "so help me God" can be replaced with "under the
pains and penalties of perjury". (State Statutes 5851)
- South Dakota
Oaths of office include the phrase "so help me
God". (South Dakota Code 1939, § 57.0306; SL 1989, ch. 82, § 7.)
Ohio code 1.07 reads in part, "No religious test shall
be required, as a qualification for office, nor shall any person be incompetent
to be a witness on account of his religious belief; but nothing herein shall be
construed to dispense with oaths and affirmations. Religion, morality, and
knowledge, however, being essential to good government..."
For oaths or affirmations of office, the phrase "so
help me God" is optional (Article 3, Section 3), but under section 9 of the
Rules for the Bar, the affirmation lawyers must take includes the phrase twice
and does not appear to be optional. The same goes for police officers, (code
10-1-202), and employees of disaster or emergency service organizations
(10-3-111), and prisoners upon discharge (25-14-306). For courtroom witnesses and jurors, the "ordinary"
oath includes the phrase "so help me God", but the oath can be varied
if the court agrees to the variation. "1-16-103 Variation of oath to suit
witness's belief. The court shall vary the mode of swearing or affirming to
accord with the witness's beliefs whenever it is satisfied that the witness has
a distinct mode of swearing or affirming."
The oaths of sheriff, court clerk and deputies, emergency
relief organizations, and juries all end in, "so help me/you God".
(70.010, 30A.020, 39A.210, 383.220 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes)
Other state/theism separation issues
- “Acts of goddesses or gods” are legal means for
insurance companies to evade payment in many states.
In South Dakota's state Constitution, natural disasters are referred to as "acts of God".
- In some states, information revealed to a clergy member
is considered confidential. (e.g. Tennessee State code 24-1-206)
- Good Friday and Christmas are legal holidays in many states.
- Theist school vouchers, tuition tax credits, and
parochial school aid (many jurisdictions).
- Theistic scientific (sic) creationism, and
intelligent design taught in public schools (many jurisdictions).
- Theist definition of marriage (many states).
- Public displays of theist statements (many
- Exemptions from parental duty for children’s
healthcare based on parental theism (many states). Parents may refuse to immunize their children for religious reasons in
many states (e.g. Oklahoma).
- Law permitting pharmacists to refuse to fill
prescriptions such as contraceptive pills, if doing so conflicts with personal
religious beliefs (many states).
- State motto (many states). E.g. South Dakota's motto is "Under God the People Rule".
- Prayer at public school events (many jurisdictions).
- Faith-based prisons (Florida), sentence reductions for
theist prisoners (many jurisdictions), advantageous treatment for theist
prisoners (many jurisdictions).
- Government funded chaplains and government sponsored
invocations (many jurisdictions). Maine: Prisoners are to have access to Bibles and other materials of a
"moral or religious tone" without cost and "excluding those of
the opposite nature". (30A-MRSA-1653)
- Favorable zoning treatment for theists. E.g. Pennsylvania state law prohibits a bar from being built next to a
church but not vice-versa. Federal immunization of churches from land use regulations.
The federal act is the RLUIPA (Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act).
- State support of theist dogma (many states). E.g. Pennsylvania: Preamble to the state constitution. "We, the people of
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of
civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance, do ordain and
establish this Constitution." The
preamble to Ohio's State Constitution is, "We, the people of the State of
Ohio, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and
promote our common welfare, do establish this Constitution."
- “Blue” laws. Many jurisdictions have "blue law" restrictions that make it a misdemeanor
to conduct certain businesses or sell certain products before noon on Sunday,
(e.g. North Dakota state code 12.1-30-01 and 12.1-30-02), although many
businesses are exempt (12.1-30-03), serving alcohol on licensed premises before
noon on Sunday, on Christmas day, on Thanksgiving, or after 6pm on Christmas eve
is a misdemeanor. (5-02-05)
- Montana and many other states have allowed crosses along
highways for nearly 50 years. The American Legion has an informal agreement with
the state - when someone dies in a highway crash, local posts erect crosses.
- Tax forms. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled unanimously to uphold the constitutionality of a
statute requiring a "So help me God" oath on the personal property tax
assessment form. The state tax
office ordered all third and fourth class counties to comply with the statute,
mandating the oath must be signed and must end with the words "So help me God."
- Boy Scouts: government support.
- Louisiana law grants sales tax exemptions for religious
purposes, such as religious camps, retreats, sales of Bibles and religious
books, and a blanket sales-tax exemption for all activities of the Little
Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic order.
- Executions. Kansas
KRS 431.095 lists who can be executed on Sundays.
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