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18 Jury Expert 6 (2006)
Biblical Beliefs and Juror Attitudes

handle is hein.journals/jurexp18 and id is 114 raw text is: 
     Biblical Beliefs and

          Juror Attitudes

by Philip F. Monte, Ph.D., J.D.

Understanding how a potential juror might lean
in a criminal or civil trial, whether towards the
prosecution or the defense, or employee plaintiff
or corporation, is, of course, the goal of much
pretrial research and voir dire. It has become
increasingly clear over the past two decades that
religious belief and practice, often referred to
broadly as religiosity, plays a significant role in
how the public views
various issues regarding     Religiosityplays
the criminal and civil
justice systems.1    It       how thepublic z
therefore stands to                regarding th
reason that a person's
religious beliefs and
practices can influence the perceptions that he
or she brings to jury deliberations.

Consider, for instance, the following types of
religious variables: church attendance, religious
denomination, strength of commitment
to one's religious denomination, church
fundamentalism, and the belief that the Bible
is the literal word of God (Biblical inerrancy).
Prior research has found that each is associated
with specific attitudes towards certain social
issues. For example, members of fundamentalist
churches, which tend to be very traditional in
their practices and beliefs, tend to hold more
conservative political beliefs than members of
liberal or mainline denominations on issues


such as crime, abortion, and homosexuality.2
However, some research also indicates that they
tend to be relatively liberal on economic issues,
such as attitudes towards corporations.

Collecting data from the venire about more than
a handful of these religious variables, at best, can
be extremely difficult in many instances due to
restricted voir dire in some courts and other
practical considerations. Hence, the question
arises: Do any of these variables stand out as
being especially helpful in understanding how
a person might view the issues to be covered
at trial? Data drawn from the General Social
Survey (GSS) was examined to shed light on
                          how different types
significant role in       of religiosity might
                          influence whether a
                          juror has a propensity
ustice system.            to convict at trial
                           (conviction bias).4
 GSS survey respondents were asked the following
 question: All systems ofjustice make mistakes, but
 which do you think is worse?
 Respondents were given the following response
 choices:
     a. To convict an innocent person, or
     b. To let a guilty person go free.

 The religious variables mentioned were
 statistically analyzed with the following control
 variables: race, sex, family income, political
 orientation, political party affiliation, marital
 status, and age. Of the religious variables
 examined, only a survey respondent's beliefs
 regarding the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy was
 statistically useful in predicting whether he or


1 See, e.g, Grasmick, Harold G., Elizabeth Davenport, Mitchell B. Chamblin, Robert J. Bursik, Jr. Protestant Fundamentalism and the
Retributive Doctrine of Punishment. 1992. Criminology, 30:21-45; Curry, Theodore R., Conservative Protestantism and the Perceived
Wrongfulness of Crimes: A Research Note. 1996. Criminology 34:(3) 453-464; Young, Robert L., and Carol Y. Thompson, Religious
Fundamentalism, Punitiveness, and Firearm Ownership. 1995. Journal of Crime and Justice, 18:81-98.
2 Id., see also, e.g., Greeley, Andrew. Evidence that a Maternal Image of God Correlates with Liberal Politics. 1988. Sociology and Social
Research, 72:150-154; Evans, John H., Polarization in Abortion Attitudes in U.S. Religious Traditions, 1972-1998. 2002. Sociological
Forum, 17:(3) 397-422. There are numerous sources of scholarly research on this topic. It should be noted the relationship between
religiosity and social or political beliefs tends to be complex and defies easy generalization.
3 See generally, Woodberry, Robert D., and Christian S. Smith. Fundamentalism et al: Conservative Protestants in America. 1998.
Annual Review of Sociology, 24: 25-26.
4 The General Social Survey is conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), and is one of the highest quality sources
of public opinion data in the United States. Those who are interested may contact the author for coding schemes and details regarding
the logistic regression and chi-square statistical analyses that were used to test for predictive significance. Both types of analysis are
appropriate where a dependent/categorical dependent variable is under examination.


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