Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Bible in the jury room

Recently the Colorado Supreme Court, by a vote of 3-2, threw out a death sentence for a man convicted of rape and murder. The reason? Some jurors in the jury room read from the Bible before reaching a verdict.

Oddly enough, the judge in the case – as Colorado law requires – sent the jury off to deliberate about the death penalty with an instruction to think beyond the narrow confines of the law. Each juror, the judge told the panel, must make an "individual moral assessment," in deciding whether the defendant should live.

The jurors voted unanimously for death. But the Colorado Supreme Court changed his sentence to life in prison without parole.

"The biblical passages the jurors discussed constituted either a part of the jurors' moral and religious precepts or their general knowledge, and thus were relevant to their court-sanctioned moral assessment," the dissenting judges wrote.

Of course, the ACLU praised the ruling saying that the use of the Bible in the jury room was illegal due to the separation of church and state.

My question: isn't freedom of religion a civil liberty? So why doesn't the ACLU ever fight for people's right to it? These jurors were asked to make their own moral assessments, and so several of them turned to their own personal source for moral guidance: the Bible! Why shouldn't they be able to express their own religious views based on what the scriptures say about the death penalty? That should be their right as an American who enjoys religious liberty, right? Not in the eyes of the ACLU apparently.


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