George Booker
A New Creation

28. Jury Duty

The Brotherhood has never unanimously condemned service on juries. The ground for this is the feeling that, in view of our duty to serve the state in every lawful way as part of our service to the Master, we ought to accept the duty of weighing evidence and guiding the judge as to whether we support the view that the person being charged committed the offence alleged. The sentence, or the verdict — so the argument goes — is for the judge alone, and for this the jury has no responsibility. The validity of these arguments strikes different people in different ways.

Is it, or is it not the case, that a jury merely examines the evidence, and is not concerned with the sentence? In one sense it is the case: the sentence is pronounced by the judge. In another it is not: the judge almost always has no alternative but to pronounce guilty or not guilty as the jury shall determine; the sentence he may pass, though some discretion as to its severity may rest with him, arises as a consequence of the jury’s verdict. In many other instances, juries are also commissioned to decide the sentence. Thus the jury is often doing much more than assessing facts; it is in practice judging a person. And it might be thought that we, who are strongly advised against taking our causes before the world’s courts, are not consistent if we help make those courts’ decisions for them.

At the very least, some might decide to inform the authorities of their scruples against pronouncing judgment against a fellowman. It is likely that in such cases the authorities would decide to exempt the believer from jury service.

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