County’s jurors informed of secular oath option following FFRF letter

The Foundation has been assured by the Washington County [Wis.] Clerk of Circuit Court that they will now, after receipt of an FFRF letter of complaint, “inform the jury of the option of a secular affirmation or oath.” A resident of Washington County complained to FFRF after being summoned for jury duty that the jury panel was sworn in with an oath that ended with “so help me God,” and was not offered the option of a secular affirmation. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that “neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person to ‘profess a belief or disbelief in any religion,’ ” wrote Rebecca Markert, FFRF senior staff attorney, in her Feb. 11 letter. The language in Wisconsin state law regarding oaths also provides for a secular affirmation option. “No juror should be made to take a religious oath. Not providing a secular alternative violates Wisconsin law,” noted Markert. The Washington County Clerk of Circuit Court wrote the Foundation on March 14, 2011, that the Court agreed with Markert’s analysis, and now offers the secular affirmation option for all Washington County jurors. — Bonnie Gutsch

Freedom From Religion Foundation