Identification of circumstances under which religion affects each stage of the trial process
Religion is a major facet of society and an integral component of many people’s lives. Not surprisingly, religion affects jurors and judges throughout the trial process. This article reviews the use of religion in each stage of trial (e.g., jury selection, testimony, deliberations), discusses relevant social science research, and offers theoretical analyses to explain how religion impacts jury and judicial decision-making. These effects are important because the jury acts as the voice of society and the judicial system communicates societal norms. Thus, the use of religion by legal actors affects verdicts and sends messages about the religious beliefs and behaviors that are valued within society. For instance, a defendant who conforms to Christianity may be shown mercy, whereas a defendant who belongs to a deviant religion will not. The ultimate question to be answered by this article is whether (and under what specific conditions) religion affects each stage of the trial process. We ultimately conclude that religion is so ingrained in our society and way of life that it would be impossible to fully expunge it from the judicial system.