As an atheist called to jury duty, is there an alternate juror's oath that does not include the words "so help me God"?  Also, if I should be called as a witness in a trial, is there a witness' oath that does not require swearing on a bible to tell the truth... "so help me God"?

The Legal Services unit of the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) has provided the information below.

For Jurors

  • Washington Civil Pattern Jury Instruction 6.01 and Washington Criminal Pattern Jury Instructions WPIC 1.01.1 Advance Oral Instruction-Beginning of Proceedings sets forth the oath.  The phrase 'so help you God' is in brackets in both documents, meaning it is optional.  The prospective juror may request to be allowed to take an oath that omits the phrase 'so help you God', and the oath will still be legally adequate.
  • To view this Jury Instruction online, follow the instructions below.
  • NOTE:  To receive notification when Jury Instructions are updated or if you have questions regarding the Washington Pattern Jury Instructions, please see the Pattern Jury Instructions page of the Washington Court Web site (

For Witnesses

  • RCW 5.28.020 prescribes the oath for a witness and does contain the word God.  However, RCW 5.28.030 allows the court to vary the form of the oath, in the court's discretion, if the witness states that the variance will be more solemn or obligatory to the witness.  RCW 5.28.040 allows the court to vary the form of the oath to adapt to the witness religious belief.  Legal Services believes at least one of these statutes, if not both, would permit the witness to be sworn without the use of the word 'God'.
  • Evidence Rule 603, does not require specific wording for the oath or affirmation. The judicial officer just needs to be satisfied that the witness understands his or her duty to tell the truth.
  • Article I, Sec. 6 of the Washington State Constitution states that an oath or affirmation shall be such as may be most consistent with and binding upon the conscience of the person to whom such oath, or affirmation, may be administered.

RN id: 2051