An interesting thing happened to me in September 2006: I was called to be a juror in the common pleas court in Elyria, Ohio. Jurors called to serve this court are in the pool of potential jurors for a period of three weeks.
On the second day of the first week I was seated as juror #3 on a criminal case. We were given the usual introductory remarks by the prosecutor and defense attorney, the judge gave us the usual instructions, and the judge began the voir dire - the examination of jurors for their competence and suitability. My heart pounded; I was not sure the right questions would be asked. I was relieved when the judge made a rhetorical remark about our civic duty to serve as jurors, and I raised my hand. I told him that I was strongly influenced by Jesus' teachings of mercy and forgiveness, and that I did not feel that it was my duty to participate in anyone's punishment. After some questioning by the prosecutor, I was dismissed from that jury.
I was seated again on a jury - a civil case - in the third week. I was more confident this time. When the judge asked if any of the jurors had religious reservations, I again raised my hand and told him that I was strongly biased toward the mercy and forgiveness that Jesus taught. The plaintiff's attorney questioned the 22 potential jurors in painful detail - all of them except me. She completely ignored me, but the defense attorney did not. When he asked me what I would do if the judge gave me legal instructions that were in conflict with my faith, I told the court, "It is better to obey God than men." I was dismissed from that jury, too.
The Elyria common pleas court must not be interested in the mercy and forgiveness that Jesus taught. That is too bad. Although I was excused from both cases, I am happy and proud to have served the court in the way that I did. The mercy and forgiveness that Jesus taught could change the world, but the world knows it not. It is our job as Christians to tell the world so that it will know. I am probably one of the few Americans who looks forward to serving as a juror again - and hopes that it will be soon and often!