Evidence of a witness’s religious beliefs or opinions is not admissible to attack or support the witness’s credibility.
Summary and Explanation
Federal Rule of Evidence 610 addresses the issue of religious beliefs and opinions in the context of witness credibility in court. Here’s a summary and explanation of the rule:
- Prohibition on Religious Evidence for Credibility: The rule explicitly prohibits the use of evidence about a witness’s religious beliefs or opinions for the purpose of attacking or supporting the witness’s credibility.
- Rationale Behind the Rule: This prohibition is grounded in the principle of religious freedom and the recognition that a person’s religious beliefs are irrelevant to their truthfulness. The rule seeks to prevent prejudice that might arise from jurors’ biases for or against certain religious beliefs.
- Avoiding Prejudice and Distraction: By excluding such evidence, the rule aims to prevent trials from being sidetracked by issues of religion, which are not relevant to the matters at hand and could lead to unfair prejudice against or in favor of a witness.
- Maintaining Focus on Relevant Issues: The rule ensures that the focus of testimony and cross-examination remains on the relevant facts of the case and the witness’s direct knowledge and experience, rather than their personal religious convictions.
Rule 610 thus plays a crucial role in upholding the principle of fairness in legal proceedings, ensuring that witnesses are judged based on the substance of their testimony and not their religious beliefs or affiliations.
(Pub. L. 93–595, §1, Jan. 2, 1975, 88 Stat. 1936; Mar. 2, 1987, eff. Oct. 1, 1987; Apr. 26, 2011, eff. Dec. 1, 2011.)
Notes of Advisory Committee on Proposed Rules
While the rule forecloses inquiry into the religious beliefs or opinions of a witness for the purpose of showing that his character for truthfulness is affected by their nature, an inquiry for the purpose of showing interest or bias because of them is not within the prohibition. Thus disclosure of affiliation with a church which is a party to the litigation would be allowable under the rule. Cf. Tucker v. Reil, 51 Ariz. 357, 77 P.2d 203 (1938). To the same effect, though less specifically worded, is California Evidence Code §789. See 3 Wigmore §936.
Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1987 Amendment
The amendment is technical. No substantive change is intended.
Committee Notes on Rules—2011 Amendment
The language of Rule 610 has been amended as part of the restyling of the Evidence Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic only. There is no intent to change any result in any ruling on evidence admissibility.