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Jurors Challenge Tennessee Constitution

Two prospective jurors who were excluded from capital trials in Tennessee because of their religious objections to the death penalty have filed a temporary injunction against the state, charging that barring them violates the state constitution. They cite Article I, Section 6 of the document, which says, "The right to trial by jury shall remain inviolate, and no religious or political test shall ever be required as a qualification of jurors." Although a trial court ruled against the injunction, the two - Gerald Bowker, a Southern Baptist, and Janet Wolf, a United Methodist - are appealing the case. They are citing the writings of Thomas Jefferson, whose views influenced the framers of Tennessee's constitution, and who held that no citizen should be deprived of a civic trust or duty because of the exercise of religious conscious.

[Editor's Note : Supporters of Bowker and Wolf are seeking to learn of similar instances involving members of other religious groups, as well as cases citing similar passages in other states' constitutions. Please reply to Joe Ingle, c/o Tenn. Coalition to Abolish State Killing, PO Box 120552, Nashville, TN 37212.]

Source: Catholics Against Capital Punishment News , Vol. 4 No. 2, July 31, 1995, p. 6.

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