March 21, 2008

Preacher Ray Ducks Jury Service

Ray Comfort is an interesting individual – a quasi-celebrity Christian preacher who likes to confront non-believers, particularly atheists. An untrained but fervent convert to evangelical Christianity, he uses a considerable intelligence and glibness to his advantage in debates. I recall seeing him doing street preaching at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica back in the early nineties when I first moved to Los Angeles. He has bragged (unsuccessfully in my opinion) that he can “prove” evolution is false. Today, he writes on his blog about being called to jury duty in Compton.

As I read his entry, he sat in the veniere and saw the defendants, who he assumed were members of a gang. When asked by the judge whether he would have any difficulty giving equal credence to the testimony of a gang member as a police officer (he said yes that would be difficult because he would believe the officer more than the gang-banger), and whether he would hold it against the defendants if they took invoked the Fifth Amendment and did not testify (he said yes, because if he were innocent of a crime, he would take the stand). Then he asked to be relieved of his “sentence” of jury duty and be given, instead, the opportunity to preach to gang members, in the hopes that this would somehow rehabilitate them. The judge said (properly) that he could not make such an order, and excused Comfort from further jury service for cause.

The judge obviously made the right ruling in finding Comfort prejudiced – Comfort had testified that he would not be a fair and impartial juror, and indeed that he would hold it against the defendants for invoking their Constitutional rights. And it ought to be obvious that the court cannot order someone to sit through a religious lecture against their will. My question is – is Comfort a hero for speaking his mind plainly, or a villain for so obviously trying to get out of jury service?

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