Thou Shalt Not Use Religion in Closing Argument


The place of religion in the courts was a hot news topic in 2003. For months, Chief Justice Roy Moore fought and ultimately ignored a court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Supreme Court rotunda. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal, and, in a unanimous decision, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary removed Moore from the bench for disobeying a lawful court order. If the Ten Commandments do not belong in a courthouse rotunda, do the Ten Commandments, the Bible, or other religious imagery belong in closing arguments? Dozens of state and federal courts have considered the use of religious references and imagery in closing arguments. This column looks at the use of religion in closing arguments, when it constitutes misconduct, and when it leads to reversal.



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Place of Original Publication

Criminal Justice

Publication Information

18 (4) Criminal Justice 43 (2004)

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COinS Peter A. Joy Faculty Bio