Wiebe on Oaths in a Religious and Legal Context

Virgil Wiebe (University of St. Thomas School of Law) has posted Oath Martyrs. The abstract follows. – ARH

Taking oaths, or refusing to take them, or being prevented from taking them, or breaking them, have been critical matters, even life and death matters, for centuries. Why do lawyers and others in official proceedings swear oaths? What do oaths mean? Why are there provisions for affirmations rather than swearing? How can long forgotten stories of oath martyrs inform law students and lawyers today?

Part I of this article presents a short slide backwards into the long history of oaths, with emphasis placed on the role of religious belief in oaths. Infidels, the infamous, the indiscreet, the insane, interested parties: all were barred at various points from testifying under oath. As I teach and practice in Minnesota, some extra attention is paid to the evolution of oaths in Minnesota, placed in larger Anglo-American legal context. Read more