Alabama voters file lawsuit challenging required “So Help Me God” oath

The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of four Alabama citizens, challenging a mandatory voter registration oath that concludes, “so help me God.” Alabama is the only state to require voters to sign a religious oath in order to register to vote. In all other states, voters are provided a completely secular registration form or are not required to submit an oath or affirmation at all.

Randal Cragun, the lead plaintiff, has sought to register to vote in Alabama since November 2019. He contacted the secretary of state’s office in order to ask about registering without the oath and was told that there is no way to register without signing the oath as it is stated.

The lawsuit explains that the secretary of state is able to create and amend voter registration forms. In other situations, government officials routinely allow those who are taking oaths to make a secular affirmation instead.

The plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgement that mandating the oath, without a secular option, is unconstitutional. The plaintiffs also seek a permanent injunction prohibiting the secretary of state from requiring voters to swear "so help me God,”and ordering the secretary of state to provide forms that permit voters to register without swearing a religious oath.

The case (No. 2:20-cv-01517-ACA) is before Judge Annemarie Carney Axon in the Northern District of Alabama. Attorney Steven Gregory is representing the plaintiffs along with FFRF Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott and FFRF Associate Counsel Elizabeth Cavell.

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