voter registration application
Alabama's voter registration form requires a pledge of 'so help me God', with no alternative form for atheists.

Registering to vote in the state of Alabama comes with an interesting requirement: swearing an oath to God.

It’s right there on Alabama’s mail-in voter registration form.

‘I solemnly swear or affirm to support and defend the constitution of the United States and the State of Alabama and further disavow any belief or affiliation with any group which advocates the overthrow of the governments of the United States or the State of Alabama by unlawful means and that the information contained herein is true, so help me God.

Should you really have to pledge belief to God to vote?

I Pledge Allegiance to... Jesus?

Atheists argue the answer is clearly no, and point to the other 49 U.S. states where God isn’t mentioned on the voter registration form. 

Once noticed, atheist activists almost immediately sued to remove the language. “The Secretary of State and the State of Alabama are coercing a statement of belief in a monotheistic deity by requiring nontheists to swear ‘so help me God’ in order to register to vote,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) argues in its lawsuit.

They’re defending Randall Cragun, an Alabaman and an atheist, who objected to the language when he noticed it last November when he attempted to register to vote. “As a matter of conscience” he could not sign the form, so he contacted the Alabama Secretary of State’s office to find out how he should proceed. They told him the only way to register to vote would be to sign the form as-is. There was no secular version of the form, and crossing out ‘so help me God’ would cause the voter registration form to be thrown out altogether.

The plaintiff in the case, Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill, hasn’t issued a comment, except to say that any changes would require legislative action. This is a state that was ranked one of the absolute worst for religious equality by American Atheists, so it would seem the chances are slim.

Sign on the Dotted Lie

While it might sound like overreacting, Hemant Mehta of The Friendly Atheist points out that willfully signing this form without agreeing with the contents would technically be committing perjury. It’s even right there on the form. 

You can be convicted and imprisoned for up to five years.

With the election less than a month away, it’s highly unlikely this issue gets solved beforehand – meaning God will remain part of the Alabama election process, at least for this year. Meanwhile, atheists, polytheists, and anyone else with a different conception of "God" will be torn between honoring their beliefs and doing their civic duty.

Supporters of the current form say the mention of God is merely part of tradition, like the phrase "in God we trust" on U.S. currency. They think critics are overreacting. 

Still, it makes one wonder why this language was put on the form in the first place. Without the option of a secular alternative, this was almost certainly going to be challenged in court, costing Alabamans’ tax money in a lawsuit that could have easily been avoided.

What do you think? Is it unreasonable to ask the state to remove religious language from its voter registration form?

45 comments

  1. rparish's Avatar rparish

    "Under penalty of perjury" should be sufficient. Leave any deity out of this.

    1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

      SCOTUS has said this is constitutional, try again

      1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

        Then the government would be would be promoting and endorsing one religion over another which not constitutional, try again.

        1. James C Riggle's Avatar James C Riggle

          Exactly!

  1. Bro. James the Apostate, OSHSF's Avatar Bro. James the Apostate, OSHSF

    According to Christian scriptures, and attributed directly to Jesus (in little red-lettered words), one should not swear an oath by anything or to anything. Matthew 5:33 (KJV/1611) "Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil."

  1. Paul J. Fumero's Avatar Paul J. Fumero

    This is unconstitutional and must be challenged in court. Suppose some one does not believe in their republican god? My beliefs are private and none of these blasted republicans!

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      Yes, or even a God believed by Democrats, Paul, which could in many cases be the same mythical deity.

      It is unconstitutional, and in court a non-believer can swear on the Constitution, and can say “I do so testify” in place of mentioning a deity.

      🦁❤️

    2. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

      Nope, SCOTUS ruled 9-0 that this was constitutional in the Newdow cases in 2004 and was denied a rehearing. ELK GROVE UNIFIED SCHOOL DIST. V. NEWDOW (02-1624) 542 U.S. 1 (2004) 328 F.3d 466, reversed. And even the most overturned court in the nation, the 9th US District Court ruled that this was constitutional http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2010/03/11/06-16344.pdf

      So so sorry about your luck. It has been ruled constitutional and legal and there isnt a thing you can do about it but complain as politics have nothing to do with it, except in your own mind.

      1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

        On March 24, 2004 the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear the case to consider two questions: (1) whether Newdow had standing as a noncustodial parent to challenge the School District's policy on recitation of the Pledge, and (2) if so, whether the policy offends the First Amendment.

        Justice Antonin Scalia recused himself from the case after a request by Newdow that cited Scalia's disapproval of the Ninth Circuit decision in a public speech. According to Scalia, many lower courts often misinterpret the Establishment Clause, extending its proscription of religiosity in the public sphere.

        On June 14, 2004, in an opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens, five of the remaining eight justices – Stevens, Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, David Souter, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg – found Michael Newdow lacked standing to bring the case as "next friend" to his daughter, because Sandra Banning had sole legal custody of the child at the time – including exclusive authority over the girl's education. The majority also found that Michael Newdow lacked prudential standing to bring the case on behalf of himself due to the custody arrangement. This resulted in reversal of the Ninth Circuit's decision as a matter of procedural law

  1. Robert Edward Szekely's Avatar Robert Edward Szekely

    HEREIN FOLLOWS MY DIATRIBE: I would argue that it's unreasonable to continue to consider Alabama one of the United States (in spirit at least), as they continue to act in ways antithetical to the beliefs of the founders. "In God We Trust" was added to our currency in response to "godless communism" with the rise of the USSR after WWII, as was the "One, Nation, Under God", in the Pledge of Allegiance. Personally, I like The Pledge - but taking out "Under God" would make it more palatable to non-believers. The USSR is gone.

    The "America is a Christian Nation" argument is downright specious, and I for one, am getting sick of the revisionists spewing that lie. Everyone is free to worship or not according to the dictates of their own conscience, but no one has the right to force their religious beliefs on those of other faiths who don't share those beliefs. Inculcating religious dogma in legislation is quite simply unconscionable, no matter how you slice it. Abortion is truly no controversy at all. It's a personal decision. You don't want one - don't have one. You, and you alone are responsible for living with the moral and spiritual consequences of your own actions if you do choose to have an abortion.

    No one has the right to be the legal arbiter on another's morals depending on what their church has taught them. Period. It's a perversion of our legal system to use it for any group's religious agenda.

    America is not, and will not be a theocracy. Just look at Iran, if you think theocracy works. It doesn't matter what faith. Look at the sins of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. If you disagree, you simply haven't a clue what it truly means to be an American. It's that simple. Your freedoms end at the point where you start trying to take away mine.

    We’re long overdue to purge the anachronistic rubric of “In God We Trust” from our currency, and put the original American motto of “E Pluribus Unum” (From Many, One) back. Then maybe – just maybe – we’ll start to remember that unifying in spite of our diversity of ethnicities and personal beliefs occurs not under a deity, but under the common banner of a nation.

    1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

      I agree with you and of course the "sins" of the catholic church among others, continues to the present. However, the comment about "You, and you alone are responsible for living with the moral and spiritual consequences of your own actions if you do choose to have an abortion" assumes that there is a moral/spiritual consequence. Many of us believe that life begins at first breath, not some unknown, invisible cellular/egg division, so there is no consequence for having an abortion procedure. Secondly, if only these rabid so called Christians would actually read their bible, they would find numerous instances of infanticide ordered by their deity in the sky.

    2. James C Riggle's Avatar James C Riggle

      Well said Robert. I may have to quote you on some of this. I couldn't explain this better. Thank you.

    3. Jean Bakula's Avatar Jean Bakula

      We are supposed to have a separation of Church and State. We also have a packed conservative Supreme Court.

  1. Tom Thackrey's Avatar Tom Thackrey

    Which God?

    1. Stephanie A Willey's Avatar Stephanie A Willey

      Indeed. Which god and whose god exactly ?

      1. Stefano Di Stefano's Avatar Stefano Di Stefano

        Comment removed by author.

      2. Stefano Di Stefano's Avatar Stefano Di Stefano

        Secondo la credenza

        1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

          Translation of Stefano Di Stefano from Italian to English

          According to belief

    2. Brother Sen's Avatar Brother Sen

      Knowing Alabama, probably the Christian God.

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

    WHAT"S GOD GOT to DO WITH IT ? SEPERATION of RELIGION and STATE, IF WE NEED ANOTHER CIVIL WAR to DEFEAT IGNORANCE WELL, PRAISE the LORD and PASS THE AMMO, WHATS LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT ??? EVERYTHING !!!

  1. Christian's Avatar Christian

    ODIN & THOR are not pleased to be dragged into local politics ! :-)

    Just SHARPIE black out the parts you can not agree to...

    The above opster is correct :
    I can not make oaths to a deity other than my own deity (Love).

    To swear an oath to a different goddess or god is a sin in violation of the 10 commandments (for those that hold dear the 1st Commandment).

    The form must NAME the Deity in question: Ra? Quetzalcoatl? Ares? Mars? Athena? Venus?

    No contract between a MORTAL (human) and a DEITY (?unnamed?) can be considered valid unless signed by both parties.

  1. Brother Sen's Avatar Brother Sen

    It would be less contentious to replace the "so help me God " with "this I swear". Some people still might object, but it keeps the fiction of separation of church and state still alive.

  1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

    The First Amendment's Establishment Clause prohibits the government from making any law "respecting an establishment of religion" This clause not only forbids the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibits government action that unduly favor one religion over another.

  1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ue5F57dZMU

    THE DAY DEMOCRACY DIED - by Founders Sing with Don McLean & Founding Fathers

    This is a well-done parody of “American Pie” by Don McLean (for those old enough to remember it). It seems the Founding Fathers came back from the grave to warn us all against a second term for Donald Trump. And the animation is pretty good, too. Featured are in order of appearance:

    George Washington, John Adams, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.

  1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

    There is no mention of this statement that made anywhere "the SCOTUS told him right to his face that he could never bring another case like this again to ANY court in the US." It is just figment of your imagination that has no real basis in fact since in 2011 the Supreme Court declined to take up the case and rejected his petition without comment. The Supreme Court however, has not yet squarely address the constitutionality of the phrase (In God We trust) in any context. And by the way "so help me God" isn't the same thing.

  1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvGkB4bdryQ

    LIE-LIE-LIE-LIE LYSOL - by Founders Sing with the Kinks & Mr. Clean

    Our heads almost exploded when Trump made a series of literally unbelievable “health care” suggestions. Who better to detoxify the situation than Mr. Clean, accompanied by his pals the Scrubbing Bubbles?

    Shout-out to the Kinks' Ray Davies and Dave Davies for such a groundbreaking, iconic song.

    We'll push you away Vote you out the door We all know the cure Because you're the disease We got to return to sanity

  1. Stefano Di Stefano's Avatar Stefano Di Stefano

    L' Ateo non può votare ? Non sono d' accordo quello della credenza appartiene alla Coscienza di ognuno di noi , la politica è una cosa la credenza un altra

    1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

      Translation of Stefano Di Stefano from Italian to English

      Can't the Atheist vote? I do not agree that belief belongs to the Consciousness of each of us, politics is one thing, belief is another

    2. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

      Stop, just stop. Some of us are able to interpret your comments you are intending to hide behind.

      1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

        I'm sorry, but you're assuming that he (Stefano Di Stefano) is an English speaking person and not a native Italian speaking person and that Italian may be the only language that he speaks and as far as to what he wrote, I can not find anything that you or anyone else would be offended by since he is just merely posting his thoughts and opinions. This is ULC members forum which is open to all members of ULC.

        1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

          In case you missed it, there were two prior posts in English which were removed. They no longer appear, so English is first language. No lecturing here. Thanks.

          1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

            I only see that one post was remove and no I didn't see anything from him that was written in English, however he still hasn't wrote anything that be would considered offensive to anyone so I really don't understand what are you getting upset over dear.

  1. Robb W's Avatar Robb W

    They sure love screaming unconstitutional all while turning their nose up to it.

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    So what? Its constitutional. The SCOTUS said so when they slapped the atheist Newdow so hard he is still bouncing when he tried to tell them to remove the same pledge off our money and the 10 commandments out of the deliberation room. he lost BOTH cases 9-0 and the SCOTUS told him right to his face that he could never bring another case like this again to ANY court in the US. So let them whine, the decision has been made and they cant change it

    1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

      The "Establishment Clause" was intended to prevent any governmental endorsement or support of religion. While one might intuitively read this to mean that the clause was meant to preclude endorsement or support of some particular religion, it is important to note that the clause also prohibits the endorsement of religion generally over non-religion. As the Court noted in 1947,

      “A large proportion of the early settlers of this country came here from Europe to escape the bondage of laws which compelled them to support and attend government-favored churches.” -Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1, 8 (1947). The Court went on to emphasize that

      “no one group throughout the Colonies can rightly be given entire credit for having aroused the sentiment that culminated in adoption of the Bill of Rights' provisions embracing religious liberty,” - Everson at 11 and that the principles were as apt at the time of the Court’s decision as they had been when the First Amendment was originally passed in 1792.

      The Everson Court also provides a list of state actions that violate the Establishment Clause. Everson at 15-16. The Court does not present this list as comprehensive, but rather as a minimal list of activities prohibited by the First Amendment. These include:

      setting up a state church passing laws which specifically aid one religion or aid religions generally forcing or otherwise influencing individuals to attend or not attend church punishing people for ascribing to certain beliefs or disbeliefs or for attending or not attending church taxes levied to support religious institutions or activities governmental participation in religious organizations or participation by religious organizations in governmental activities

      In Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1970), the Court provided a three-part test for Establishment Clause analysis. Although for some time it was questionable whether the Lemon Test would continue to be applied in such cases, the Court, in 2000, stated that “we assess [Establishment Clause cases] by reference to the three factors first articulated in Lemon v. Kurtzman…which guides the general nature of our inquiry in this area.” Santa Fe Independent School District v. Jane Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 314.

      The three-part Lemon Test asks:

      Does the law have a secular purpose? If not, it violates the Establishment Clause. Is the primary effect either to advance religion or to inhibit religion? If so, it violates the Establishment Clause. Does the law foster an excessive governmental entanglement with religion? If so, it violates the Establishment Clause. Note here that these are not factors that are employed in some balancing test, but rather, these are all requirements that must be met for a law to pass review. There must be a secular purpose, the primary effect must not be the aid or inhibition of religion, and there must be no excessive entanglement. If any of these three requirements are not met, the law violates the Establishment Clause. See e.g., Windmar v. Vincent, 454 U.S. 263, 272 (1981).

    2. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

      The only reason he lost is because he didn't have legal custody of the child at the time – including exclusive authority over the girl's education. So the second part was just a moot point, as far as anything to do with him trying to tell them to remove the same pledge off our money and the 10 commandments out of the deliberation room, there is no mention of that so I don't know where you got that from.

  1. Krystina S.'s Avatar Krystina S.

    T Kosse', you are a treasure.

    1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

      Thank you I am please that you think so Krystina S.

  1. Rob Duff's Avatar Rob Duff

    Would it be rejected it "god" was changed to "goddess"? Hail Eris.

  1. Takaya Kovani Sweeney's Avatar Takaya Kovani Sweeney

    This all boils down to politics, power and control...yet again.

    Republicans are trying to shove their s#!% down everyones throat just as the Crusaders did...that form will be next. We’ve already seen this lot treat people with different skin color horrifically, now, they’re following up with religious persecutions/antaganizing of a type.

    I wish they’d get over it...people are different. Period, point blank. Live & let live. Stay the H#%! out of peoples bedrooms, doctors offices AND business. Good grief.

  1. Hazel Diane Graep's Avatar Hazel Diane Graep

    This goes directly against the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It's illegal and should be STOPPED. It's "respecting an establishment of religion" violating the First Amendment.

  1. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

    Comment removed by author.

  1. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

    So the Judge asked the defendant standing before him who has been charged with adultery, if he was released on bail, would he show up for sentencing next week. The defendant stated; "I swear to God judge I will be here next week." Of course he didn't show up. He had hooked up with fellow christian Jerry Falwell and was doing the Tent-On-The-Road revival tour, thinking police would never catch up with him. So, if you believe in an imaginary person, why would you be afraid of imaginary consequences?

  1. Richard Lee Cornell's Avatar Richard Lee Cornell

    Praise Allah. Praise Buddha. Praise Mother. Praise any other who has someone of a higher being. The Republicans have a God in form of a elephant. Whereas the Democrats have a God in form of a jackass. A neighbor has a Catholic Church God. While the same religion God down the street at another Christian church talk to it in different terms. If your in India God has a different meaning. Even Allah comes in many forms depending which country your in.

  1. Kim Currier's Avatar Kim Currier

    Religion needs to be in homes and hearts , NOT ON A BALLOT.. they can sign this all day long, but if they do not walk the walk, its just a Blasphemy to Creator and everything He stands for ,, Most are lost souls.. They profess Trump was sent by God, the most ANTICHRIST guy in this nation,,,, I believe God sent the plauge , because of orange God of hate and destruction,,,, Most are on the left path,, Lost souls that have not learned ALL of OUR HUMAN lessons ..... Prayers be with them... Blessed Be ....

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