A group of atheists challenging an oath for potential trial jurors that includes the phrase "So help me God" lost a Supreme Court appeal Monday.
The court, without comment, let stand rulings in a Texas case that excluding atheists from jury service for refusing to take such an oath does not violate their rights.The court also rejected the atheist group's challenge of Texas courts' policy of asking potential jurors about their religion.
Use of the juror oath and questionnaire, challenged by famed atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair and her Austin-based Society of Separationists, was upheld by a federal judge and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In its ruling last February, the appeals court said, "The occasion to serve on a jury is undeniably a duty, a privilege and an opportunity for many citizens to actively and personally serve their government . . .. Even so, jury service has not been construed as a constitutionally protected right."
About potential jurors being asked on information cards to state their religious affiliation, including atheism, the appeals court said, "Atheism is indeed a relevant factor for the parties and attorneys involved in the jury selection process - as much so as whether a potential juror is a Baptist, a Presbyterian or a Buddhist."