The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a letter of complaint with a Texas judicial conduct commission against a Dallas judge for offering a Bible to former police officer Amber Guyger after sentencing her for the murder of her neighbor, Botham Jean.
The actions of Judge Tammy Kemp of Texas’ 204th District Court were captured on video Thursday (Oct. 3) shortly after Kemp sentenced Guyger to 10 years in prison. Shortly before, her victim’s brother had hugged Guyger and told her he forgave her.
The FFRF, an atheist group that works to promote a strict separation of church and state, said the judge’s actions were “inappropriate and unconstitutional” because she was acting in an official rather than a private role.
“She was in a government courtroom, dressed in a judicial robe, with all of the imprimatur of the state, including armed law enforcement officers, preaching to someone who was quite literally a captive audience, and even instructing her on which bible verses to read!” wrote Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-presidents, in the Wednesday (Oct. 2) letter to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
“We understand that it was an emotional moment, particularly when the victim’s brother, Brandt Jean, publicly forgave and hugged Guyger,” wrote the FFRF officials.
“It is perfectly acceptable for private citizens to express their religious beliefs in court, but the rules are different for those acting in a governmental role.”
Others praised the judge for her actions.
“FFRF is protesting Judge Kemp rather than joining the rest of the nation celebrating the compassion and mercy Judge Kemp demonstrated,” said Hiram Sasser, general counsel of First Liberty Institute. “We should all be thankful the law allows Judge Kemp’s actions and we stand with her and will gladly lead the charge in defending her noble and legal actions.”
A tweet from the Dallas Police Department’s Twitter account said, “Botham Jean’s brother’s request to hug Amber Guyger and Judge Kemp’s gift of her bible to Amber represent a spirit of forgiveness, faith and trust. In this same spirit, we want to move forward in a positive direction with the community.”
Footage from a Law & Crime Network video, whose link FFRF included in its complaint, shows Kemp crossing the courtroom, Bible in hand, to where Guyger was seated.
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Source: Church Leaders