20 October 2007

Jury Duty in Indianapolis (Updated)

So Indianapolis, Indiana has a wonderful idea to inspire cooperation with jury duty. The idea? Jail time if you don't show up.


Just one problem. They forget about those, such as myself, who cannot in good conscience participate in a jury in any fashion.

Back in July when this potential change was first announced, I wrote to the county's Jury Duty office. Their response? In essence, "too bad".

Today's Indianapolis Star (click the title of this post to read the IndyStar.com article) has outlined, however, the new rules. You show up for jury duty, or you'll get called to court to get a new jury duty date. You fail to show up a second time, fines and/or jail time for you.

This may be a good idea from a civic perspective, but the civic perspective fails to take into account people who absolutely object to participating in the system... people like me.

Now, people don't seem to understand my insistence on not responding to a summons for jury duty. Let me try to explain. First, let me outline my view on clergy participation in civic life...

Christian clergy, in imitation of the primitive Church, and as an example to their own flocks:
-should refrain from pledging allegiance to any nation
-should refrain from saluting the emblems of any nation
-should refrain from service in the Armed Forces of any nation in any capacity
-should refrain from holding any elected office
-should refrain from endorsing or opposing any candidate for elected office
-should refrain from permitting the use of sacred space for governmental purposes
-should refrain from permitting elected officials to speak on political matters on Church grounds
-should refrain from serving on any civil jury
-should refrain from taking any oath
-should refrain from disclosing any information gained under the seal of the confessional
-should refrain from filing a lawsuit against any Christian believer
-should refrain from casting a ballot in a federal, state, or local election
-should in all other respects obey just laws
-should give all due cooperation to officers of the law as Christian obedience demands, within the confines permitted by Christian conscience
-should pay the taxes due in the location of their residence

Extreme? Sure... but it absolutely reflects my commitment that the Church has no business participating in the state, and the state has no business participating in the life of the Church.

I realize not all Christians share this view (though look at where that has gotten us!), but it is definately my viewpoint based on study of the Church Fathers, and of Scripture itself.

As far as jury duty goes, well... I have no right to sit in judgement of another human being. Even moreso, I have no right to give the impression that I have the right to sit in judgement of another human being. Some have pointed me to 1 Corinthians 6:2 as justification for participating in judicial proceedings. To them I say, balderdash! I may be called to sit in judgement by God at the end of time, but my conscience will not allow me to sit in judgement of a human being at the order of another fallen, flawed, fallible human being - no matter what his title.

Others have asked why I don't just go to the courthouse on Jury Duty day and tell the judge how I feel and seek a dismissal. Again, I answer, because it would signal that I, as a priest of God, endorse or accept the idea of Christians participating in secular trials. I can never accept such a view, nor can I in conscience consent to give such an appearance.

So, where do things stand?

I have again written to the Jury Duty office seeking clarification on my situation - which is more than I am comfortable with... but which I feel is far better than giving public witness to the idea that a Christian (particularlly a priest) can be called by the state to stand in judgement of others.

If this policy isn't amended, then may God give me wisdom to make the best choice, and show mercy to anyone who tries to force me to violate my conscience and faith.


I decided to attempt to make an end run around the Jury Pool Office and write directly to the Presiding Judge of the County and to the Judge in Charge of the Jury Pool. Here is the text of my letter, directed to judges Zore and Stoner:

I am writing to you today after reading an article in the Saturday, October 20th online edition of the Indianapolis Star concerning new enforcement rules for jury duty in Marion County. Because of your position and a quotation from you in the article, I felt it would be appropriate to contact you.

When the new enforcement rules were first noted in the Star over the summer months, I contacted the appropriate office at the City-County Building because of my personal concern over this issue. The response I got was very disheartening. Now that these rules have been crystallized, I feel I have no option but to bring my concerns to the attention of a judge proactively, before I am placed in a position where I must violate my conscience or face civil sanction.

As a Primitive Catholic, my faith compels me to abstain from sitting on a jury, taking any oath, or acknowledging in any way that right of any human being to sit in judgment of another. I recognized that not all Christians hold to the same interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures, but my faith will not permit me to cooperate with the civil judiciary system by sitting on a jury, or by giving the appearance that any human being –particularly a priest of the Church- has the right to sit in judgment of another.

When I tried explaining this to the individuals in the office that handles jury duty, I was dismissed offhand without a genuine response to my concerns. While I have sent them an electronic mail message again this afternoon, I hold little actual hope that they will respond any differently than the last time.

My allegiance is to God alone, and not to the State. As a Christian it is my duty to obey all just laws of the State, but compulsory service to the State (in this instance, through Jury Duty) requires me to compromise my faith to suit the State. I cannot in good conscience respond to a request to sit in judgment of a fellow man, or to give the impression that I have even the right to do so (more the less the ‘responsibility’). To that end, I am asking that you and your fellow judges make provision for people such as myself to proactively opt-out of jury duty on religious, moral, or ethical grounds.


Anonymous April 25, 2011 at 12:37 PM  

so what happened? did they respond to your letter?

foster steele June 18, 2011 at 10:38 AM  

i feel the same way exactly, your belief is mine, iam a follower of JESUS CHRIST MY LORD, i will not have any thing to do with a system that gives doctors the right to murder the unborn gives rights to people to commit sins ,and pushes jesus christ to the outer edges of their ungodly society,

All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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