Christians Need Not Apply

"Do you tithe or contribute a portion of your income to your place of worship?" If you answered "yes" to that question and live in Detroit, Michigan, you might forget about pulling jury duty on a celebrated upcoming trial. That is, at least, if Jack Kevorkian—alias "Doctor Death"—has his way. The attempt to exclude Christians from serving on juries is a flagrant assault on the religious liberties of not only Christians but all Americans. Jack Kevorkian is a medical doctor infamous for what he calls "assisted suicide." Since 1990 Kevorkian has admitted to presiding over the deaths of 27 people. This week Kevorkian went to court in Michigan charged with enabling two men to commit suicide. Now, as a former lawyer, I can tell you that trials are won or lost during jury selection. The goal is to select the jury most sympathetic to your client. In Michigan, Kevorkian's defense attorney Geoffrey Fieger added a new twist to jury selection. He attempted to force potential jurors to answer a survey about their religious beliefs. In a shameless bid to remove Christians from the jury pool Fieger's survey asks: "Does your religion forbid suicide?" On February 9, Judge Jessica Cooper ruled that Fieger could distribute the survey to potential jurors. The prosecution appealed the judge's ruling to the Michigan Court of Appeals. And, eventually, Judge Cooper reversed herself. The issue is far from settled. Fieger intends to ignore the judge's decision and ask the questions directly to potential jurors. He stated defiantly: "I will never permit a trial of Dr. Jack Kevorkian in which I don't inquire into the jurors' states of minds." What we're seeing in the Kevorkian trial is the clear consequences of the secularization of our society—the belief that religion has no place in American public life. What a sea change this is from what the founding fathers of our country intended! America's public institutions, especially our great tradition of constitutional law, were established squarely on moral precepts derived from the Bible. The authors of the Constitution recognized that the threat to democracy came not from religion but from a tyranny that refuses to observe fundamental moral axioms. As Christianity's influence over the culture waned, it was inevitable that Christians would be driven farther and farther from the mainstream of American culture. Religion has been increasingly relegated to the private sphere. Christians are welcome to participate in public life only if they leave their faith at home. The logic of Kevorkian's defense attorney could be applied to any criminal trial. If potential jurors can be excluded for believing that assisted suicide is immoral, what will be the next step? Will the attorneys of accused murderers be permitted to exclude jurors whose religion teaches that life is sacred? You need to tell your neighbors that the issue of religion in American public life isn't only about school prayer and abortion, or the agenda of the Religious Right. It's about the most basic liberties of all Americans—freedom of conscience and our ability to put those beliefs into practice as citizens.


Chuck Colson


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