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Oaths — in magistrates’ courts and the C of E

08 November 2013


From Mr Andrew Melling JP

Sir, - Many magistrates agree that the time has come to replace the religious oath (Letters, 1 November). The motion brought to the annual general meeting of our Association in Cardiff attracted some media attention, even talk of demonstrations, but did not go far enough.

My amendment to simplify the proposal was approved by a large majority, and the wording finally put to the vote was "I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and I understand that if I don't I will be committing an offence for which I will be punished and may be sent to prison."

Contributions to the debate included reference to multi-faith groupings who wanted to keep the oath, and members who were active church members who wanted to see it go.

In court last week, a Christian witness was asked by the legal adviser (looking for the right book) whether he was Roman Catholic. I have never understood that particular distinction in this context, nor the benefit of having in every courtroom a library of religious texts that are there not to be read or even opened.

The motion was defeated, but not by a large majority. If there is another opportunity, perhaps it will be more favoured. Or perhaps, since it is not magistrates who make the rules, it will be picked up elsewhere.

39 Salisbury Road
Bexley, Kent DA5 3QE

From Canon John Goodchild

Sir, - You report(News, 1 November) that the steering committee on women bishops says that the oath does not mean agreeing to obey every episcopal instruction.

I would hope that those ignoring their bishop would have the grace to give reverently a reasoned defence for the hope that is in them (1 Peter 3.15-16) rather than simply cite "theological conviction" like the Taliban.

39 St Michaels Road
Liverpool L17 7AN

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