Courtroom Rituals

I am on jury duty in federal court this week and next. Yesterday, I was nearly selected for a projected two-week trial; I was excused at the last minute, after spending the day hearing juror interviews in a beautifully restored courtroom.

As I had never been on a jury and rarely visited courts, I saw the whole scene with an outsider’s perspective. Yet from the clergyman’s point of view, I couldn’t help noticing the juridical parallels with church rituals. The judge in robes, seated high above everyone else, directing the proceedings; all lawyers and prosecutors in black suits; many repeated speeches and actions; solemnity prevailing even in the audience–no talking, reading, eating.

In other words, very like church! Which I guess is good–people take the judicial process seriously. And it is, indeed, the secular guarantor of political freedom, as our faith guarantees our spiritual freedom. —J. Douglas Ousley

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