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Government Officials and Religious Oaths

Officials may not coerce citizens into engaging in religious exercises.

Federal
State:
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Key point. Government officials are prohibited by the first amendment "nonestablishment of religion" clause to coerce citizens into making religious oaths or engaging in religious exercises.

A federal appeals court ruled that a federal prosecutor may have violated the constitutional rights of a child abuse suspect by agreeing to dismiss all charges against her if she swore to her innocence in a church with her hand on a Bible. The facts of this case are very unusual, but compelling. Prosecutors, as well as church officials, often agonize over child abuse allegations because of a lack of proof. The accused may offer a convincing denial of the charges, though some evidence of guilt exists. A prosecutor in New York came up with a novel idea-dismissing child abuse charges against a woman if she swore to her innocence in her church with her hand on a Bible. The woman's attorney agreed to ...

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Posted:
  • May 1, 1997

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