FFRF filed this lawsuit on behalf of New Jersey resident James Tosone against the secretary of state for forcing public office candidates to swear a mandatory religious oath. Tosone identified as a nontheist and was opposed to swearing "so help me God" as part of the candidate oath. He has run for public office in New Jersey several times. Starting in 2022, he sought to run for office and was unable to do so because the Division of Elections would not allow him to verify his candidate form with a secular affirmation in place of the religious oath. Prior to the lawsuit FFRF reached out to the New Jersey secretary of state and the Division of Elections about this issue and received no response.
The lawsuit was resolved quickly after the state agreed to create and adopt a secular affirmation option for candidates. The state also sent a memo to all N.J. county clerks with updated and clear guidance on secular affirmations. FFRF voluntarily dismissed the case after these changes were adopted.
The plaintiff was represented by New Jersey Attorney Paul Grosswald, Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott and Legal Fellow Samantha Lawrence acted as co-counsel. The case was filed in the Trenton Vicinage of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey with case number 3:23-cv-20857.