The Freedom From Religion Foundation has successfully pleaded before a Pennsylvania jury office to quit the gratuitous evangelizing.
A concerned Fayette County resident informed the state/church watchdog about receiving a jury summons that included a bible verse: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Romans 13:1 NIV.”
As a government entity, the Fayette County Jury Commissioners’ Office cannot include religious messages on official government correspondence or summons, FFRF emphasized.
“The Supreme Court has long recognized that the First Amendment ‘mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion,’” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line wrote to the office. “When the Jury Commissioners’ Office shares passages from the bible, it violates this neutrality.”
Inserting bible verses into jury summons suggests that Christianity is the preferred religion of the County, alienating nonreligious and non-Christian citizens, FFRF added. Nearly one-quarter of Americans are religiously unaffiliated and another 7 percent belong to religious minorities, making almost one-third of our population non-Christians.
FFRF asked that the Fayette County Jury Commissioners’ Office refrain from including bible verses on its summons or any other official correspondence, since it is tasked with serving all citizens regardless of their personal religious beliefs.
The jury office was deeply impressed by FFRF’s brief on behalf of the Constitution.
“Upon receiving your letter dated Dec. 18, 2020, the bible verse was immediately removed from all jury summons,” a jury commissioner recently replied. “With respect to the government-mandated separation of church and state, no future summons will include the verse.”
The response letter contains a copy of the current summons template — with no religious language at all.
“We’re pleased that the jury office’s verdict was so resoundingly in favor of the constitutional principle of separation between state and church,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The governing authority of the United States and public agencies is not a deity or a so-called holy book, but our secular and entirely godless Constitution.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 1,100 members and a chapter in Pennsylvania. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.