Please can we stop religious oaths in the legal process?

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  • As a Quaker I have affirmed - and am aware that many of my predecessors went to jail for contempt for doing the same.
    It is due to the double standard of truth that Quakers objected - deciding that all honorable Friends should tell the truth all the time, so implying that they did not was wrong, just as making the oath was - IS - wrong.

    As it happens I am a Quaker atheist now, some would have a problem with that, but the law should be 100% secular, that all my Friends agree - and it is especially important in an era where religious groups are trying to get their religious laws enshrined in state law for the most ridiculous of ends.

    I commend this proposal to the house.

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  • Totally agree with the sentiments expressed. Reminds me of my days as a magistrates' legal advisor (or "court clerk" as we were then known). Unfortunately, the memory fails with increasing years so I cannot remember exactly where this occurred, but it was either Lewes or Oldham Magistrates' Court where I had been sent to assist.

    Whilst the magistrates' were out considering a sentence, I was talking to the prosecutor and defence lawyer and was stood by the witness box. I then noticed that the New Testament placed by the oath book was not the New Testament at all .... it was a Collins pocket English Dictionary

    Who knows how long it had been there. I asked the usher in court and he said the book had been there for ages. He was as surprised as me when I showed him what the book was.

    We kept quiet .... did not want a whole parcel of appeals arriving on the Justices' Clerk's desk ... but did ask the usher to make sure it was replaced asap

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  • Let us assume for a moment that there are people who might be comfortable perjuring themselves in the eyes of the law, but who would not lie having sworn a religious oath.

    It follows from that assumption that justice is better served if those people swear a religious oath. Giving them the option of a religious oath on top of an affirmation doesn’t achieve the desired goal, because those who are about to lie will choose not to swear the additional religious oath. The same is true if there were to be a choice between affirmation or religious oath. The desired effect is achieved only if the oath is required for all except those who “object” to such a ritual (in effect, renouncing/denying their belief).

    I am sure that the opening assumption has some validity. I suspect it is less far-reaching than it once was, but I doubt that its reach has diminished sufficiently to make it worthless.

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  • The angry ranting and campaigning suggests you have some doubts? Difficult to see why a genuine atheist at ease with himself would waste so much time attacking "mumbo jumbo".

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  • If the text of the affirmation set out the maximum penalties for perjury, we might find far fewer people who are prepared to do it.

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  • This statement:
    "Let us assume for a moment that there are people who might be comfortable perjuring themselves in the eyes of the law, but who would not lie having sworn a religious oath. "
    Is bizarre.
    If you are so religious you would not lie having sworn an oath, would you also be so irreligious as to lie when not under oath (which is what I understand perjury to be?)
    Obviously it is not unknown for religious folk to be hypocrites, but even so, this seems very strange reasoning.

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  • Simplifying this process is key and it should be based on a secular principles in not promoting one religion over and above another. It's a neutral position and leaves no room for ambiguity over the intentions of the person giving the oath.

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  • Scotland manages fine without oaths; it did away with all forms of oaths, other than in court, by section 11 of the Requirements of Writing (Scotland) Act 1995.

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1995/7/section/11

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  • Let us assume - with equal evidence, or lack of it - that there are people who do not take religious flummery seriously and find religious oath taking more ridiculous than awe inspiring.
    It follows from that assumption that justice is better served if those people are not pushed to swear a religious oath which has no meaning for them, is not required or particularly expected to have any meaning for them and which serves only to distance them from their own responsibility to give honest evidence.
    Or in other words, some actual evidence that oath taking leads to an increase in honesty would be helpful to see at this point in the debate.

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  • Few things more amusing than the 'secular' idea that folk are allowed an opinion on Man United/trash tv/the financial crisis, but that no one dare express their faith at work or in the public square. That said, I agree with our learned journo on this one-oaths are a slightly random practice, given Jesus' line to his followers: "Do not swear an oath at all....simply let your 'yes' be 'yes', and your 'no', 'no'."

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