I noticed an Associated Press (AP) story published Monday evening with a very misleading headline. It read “Amish in Ohio Hair-Cutting Case Seek to Avoid Oath”. Why is it misleading? Those of us who struggle to support separation of church and state know why it is misleading. The AP headline was basically biased toward people who don’t want to swear an oath in court.
The story was about the current criminal case in Ohio involving a dissenting sect of Amish people who had cut the hair and beards of other Amish people who they thought were observing their faith incorrectly. The story leads with:
Some Amish people among 16 charged in beard- and hair-cutting attacks on fellow Amish are asking not to be required to swear an oath if they testify in federal court and want to delay their upcoming trial, according to court documents filed Monday.
They request that Amish witnesses be allowed simply to affirm the truthfulness of their testimony because many Amish don’t believe in swearing oaths. The defendants include members of an eastern Ohio breakaway Amish group.
But no where in the text of the story does the reporter mention that it is perfectly legal for people NOT to swear an oath in court. The US Supreme Court ruled in Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961) that states can’t require a religious test for public office or for oaths.
It looks like the AP story is slanted to make it appear the Amish on trial have something to hide or want to lie since they are requesting to affirm instead of swear the oath.
Whoever allowed the misleading headline and opening of the story needs to be retrained in objectivity.