I recently received a respectfully worded request for excusal from jury duty. I granted it. The potential juror claimed a religious exemption. I am not a theologian although one of my nephews just received his doctorate in Theology from Oklahoma Baptist University. He makes no claim for religious exemption from jury service. I say to each his own.
Should a person assert sincerely held beliefs that her or his god, faith, philosophy or belief prohibits jury service, so be it. Such positions, if rooted in the First Amendment, are fine with me. Religion should not be involved in our legal system. That’s what James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and the rest of the revolutionaries meant to protect.
Those of you who are called for jury service and just find it inconvenient but not in violation of any religious test may think it is unfair to excuse persons who enjoy all the benefits provided by America but refuse to participate in a core responsibility of citizenship. You might feel the same about conscientious objectors to military service or those who refuse medical treatment for their children on religious grounds.
I see such decisions much as I do allowing protestors to demonstrate in support of or against things the majority may oppose or favor. If the Constitution does not protect those with whom most citizens disagree, why have a Constitution? Those whose beliefs fall within the parameters of generally accepted beliefs need not be concerned with their free exercise.
The gracious acceptance of those views most of us adhere to calls for little praise. However, America shines like the beacon most of us want Her to be when She protects those who need protection from the rest of us.
As to the potential juror, I say, and by the way so does the Supreme Court, if you are sincere in your minority belief, the majority will respect your right not only to believe it but also to exercise it.
Jane Redwine Bartlett says
Now that, with U S. Senate confrmation, we will have an Ambassador for Religious Freedom, will our religious freedom be more protected than with only the protections given under our U.S. constitution? If so, why do I feel the breeze of less protection? Perhaps Kansans suggested this posting just to get Brownback out of Kansas?