It is a Quaker practice, among many Friends, to avoid oath taking based on the New Testament book of Matthew, Chapter Five, verses 34 through 37. Friends have struggled well into the last century to get states to recognize our conduct of the marriage rite in Meetings that do not hold with employing ministers.  The same seems to be the case for embracing of same gender couples in this century. State office holders and their minions seem to take the same basic oath toward the Constitution of the United States followed by one to their state's constitution or code.  As a people of faith we can affirm the language and an intent of an oath and if we cannot we do not pledge ourselves into a job that might conflict with our deep felt beliefs.  It is an argument I have had with legislators that write laws with heavy reliance on and favor toward their own perceived religious community.  The first amendment and the precedents cited by several subscribers of Oath Takers and Bloomberg News, to mention a few, say God is not to be defined by the law,  nor the religious beliefs and practices of groups or individuals.

I can see in the future a Native American president elect possibly placing his hand on a peyote button nested in sage and sweet grass rather than a Bible.  Perhaps a Hindu placing his hand on a stack of the Vedas, a Jew the Torah (or Tanak) or a Muslim the Koran.  But none of it is prescribed into law, it is practiced to add solemnity to the public act of committing to the office.  

Under the Crown, during the French and Indian War, the Pennsylvania Legislature was bent on passing Benjamin Franklin's proposal to supply forts in the Great lakes area, Quakers, many who were from families who chartered the colony, were against the proposal on religious grounds.  Realizing the dilemma between oath of office and religious testimony, sitting Friends forsook their office and returned to their homes.  This changed the quorum of the legislature breaking Friends obstruction of the passage of the law.  Had this not happened we might all be speaking French.

I was not always a Friend.  I was a soldier and lawman.  Though I went administrative in 1981, I still was active in the Army National Guard and Reserve.  I trained trainers. Our core job was not our MOS, it was as riflemen and warriors.  I was qualified on the M-1 carbine, M-14, M-16, the M-60, and my back ups a single six in .44 mag and an Italian .380 acp. Yet, I felt a leading to attend services at a liberal Friends Meeting and begun my journey that has changed me wholly.  I could no longer participate in helping soldiers to kill others. When my fifth enlistment ended, I left retirement funding behind and began living in a beautiful paradigm of truth, integrity, equality and peace.  I still struggle with family defense issues in the violent world we live in. I do have emotional hurdles when it comes to letting go and letting God.  I do work toward that ideal, but it is with fear and trepidation.

It is interesting that being called to jury duty from district to federal courts, I have served in good faith only to find the cases assigned were mock jury trials.  I have always been rejected during voir dire for the burden of responsibility for  determining guilt and innocence in an actual case.  God has not led me into that critical situation where my faith is greatly challenged by citizenship.  Kim Davis, perhaps, can not make the distinction between practicing her faith and meeting the commitments made to duty. She did not recognize the conflict.  I would think she would have ran for office after reading the job specifications for the position and consulting an attorney about "what ifs." OIt leads me to believe that evangelical Christians seem led to set themselves up for persecution where none is present.  

I am appalled that certain presidential hopefuls have chimed in in support of Ms. Davis's prejudices and unconstitutional discrimination. I certainly do not accept her actions or prejudices but I support her option to express her religious peculiarities in a public manner.  Doing it through her office is wrong on so many levels.  Her public resignation would be a more newsworthy place to cite the difficulties of living a strict morality in a pluralistic country.  I do wonder how she would deal with transgender persons of different birth genders than they present who ask for a marriage license in her county?


I am a member of an embracing Friends Church in Salem, Oregon, but these thoughts are my own though informed by eleven years of membership.  March of 2016 will be the 30th anniversary of my walk in the Religious Society of Friends. December the same year marks the 30th anniversary of continuous membership in the R.S.F.  I graduated seminary at Earlham School of Religion in 2003.  I have also been a supporter of Basic Rights Oregon, Love Makes a Family, and HRC, among others.

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Comment by Olivia on 10th mo. 2, 2015 at 7:03pm

Thanks, Clarence.

I have two thoughts on these topics:

a) jury duty -- when I served for an extended period of time, it began with a time in which we were asked to swear (or affirm).  I have quickly forgotten the language that followed but I believe it was just asking if I would be honorable and when faced with that situation, I felt very comfortable affirming that.  (not failsafe, but at least affirming to aim for it)

b) Kim Davis:  I admit that I don't know everything about that case but you and I will have differing opinions, I think.  I see most often that progressives are not in favor of what she did.  I am a very progressive person and very much in favor of gay marriage...but I feel as a Quaker that if she feels a divergence between her job duties and what she feels God is calling her to do, she should do what God is calling her to do.  I can feel that she is wrong about what God is calling her to do, but I still think that she is supposed to choose to follow that over civic (or military) duty.  I appreciate the pull to follow one's conscience at all costs.

Comment by Clarence M. Cullimore Mercer, on 12th mo. 10, 2015 at 8:30pm

Good points! I wonder how one could read a job description and in good faith pursue an office with the intention to be contrary to that job description. 

Comment by Forrest Curo on 12th mo. 10, 2015 at 11:49pm

The jury-stopper for me is always the fact that they ask me to promise to follow the law rather than what I see as right (if there should be any conflict, as there well might be.)


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