Row erupts after judge gifts a Bible to woman jailed for murder

Row erupts after judge gifts a Bible to woman jailed for murder October 4, 2019

THERE was nothing ‘inappropriate’ in a Texas judge’s decision on Wednesday to hand a convicted murderer a Bible, insists Dallas County District Attorney John Cruezotto.

Judge Tammy Kemp and Amber Guyger

But the Freedom from Religion Foundation – described by Christian News as an “anti-Christian” organisation, vehemently disagrees with Cruezotto, and has filed a complaint with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct after Judge Tammy Kemp “inappropriately proselytised to the defendant, Amber Guyger.

Guyger is the former Dallas police officer who was sentenced to 10 years for fatally shooting her neighbour.

Under the headline “‘For God So Loved the World’: Judge Gives Amber Guyger a Bible After Botham Jean Murder Trial” Christian News reported that, when Kemp gave Guyger the Bible and told her to start reading John 3:16, she was publicly expressing:

Care and concern for Guyger’s soul.

Image via YouTube

And it quoted Cruezotto, above, as saying:

If anyone complained, I would do everything I could to support the appropriateness of it. I can’t tell you I’ve done the same exact thing, but I have spoken to defendants, have given them a hug, perhaps. Not given a Bible, that’s not me, but I don’t think there’s anything inappropriate about what she did, and I would support that, if anyone tried to file a complaint, I would do my best to intercede and protect her.

In a statement issued a day after the incident, the FFRF revealed that it had filed a complaint and said:

Judge Tammy Kemp tried former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger in her courtroom over the past few weeks for the murder of Botham Jean. FFRF is urging the commission to investigate Kemp’s actions at the close of the trial: gifting a bible, instructing a convicted criminal on how to read the Bible and which passages to pay attention to and proselytizing and witnessing to that convicted murderer. These judicial actions were inappropriate and unconstitutional.

The statement continued:

Courtroom video shows that following the sentencing and victim impact statement, Kemp left the courtroom and came back with her personal bible. She then gifted her bible to Guyger, instructed her on how to read the bible and which passages to pay attention to. Kemp said: ‘You can have [my bible]. I have three or four more at home. This is the one I use everyday. This is your job for the next month. Right here. John: 3:16. And this is where you start, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

She continued, ‘He has a purpose for you. This will strengthen you. You just need a tiny mustard seed of faith. You start with this.’

Kemp then hugged Guyger and said to her, ‘It’s not because I’m good. It’s because I believe in Christ. I’m not so good. You haven’t done as much as you think you have, and you can be forgiven. You did something bad in one moment in time. What you do now matters.’

Government employees may not use the power and privilege of their offices to preach their personal religious beliefs, FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker point out in a letter to the commission.

It violates the constitutional separation between state and church for a sitting judge to promote personal religious beliefs while acting in her official capacity. 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. Delivering bibles, bible studies and personal witness as a judge is an abuse of power.

FFRF notes that Kemp appears to have generally handled a difficult and widely publicized trial with grace and aplomb, but that her decision to preach the bible to a criminal defendant was a serious First Amendment violation and signaled to everyone watching that she is partial to Christian notions of forgiveness.

We believe that our criminal justice system needs more compassion from judges and prosecutors, but here compassion crossed the line into coercion. And there can be few relationships more coercive than a sentencing judge in a criminal trial and a citizen accused and convicted of a crime.

FFRF asks that the commission investigate these actions and educate Kemp on her obligation to remain neutral on matters of religion to prevent future misconduct.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Old Harry

    How was the sentence affected by this intrusion of religion into the criminal law process?

    I can see troubling answers to that question.

  • Jim Jones

    Christianity: Get them when they’re down.

  • 24CaratHooligan

    Christianity: letting murderers off the hook since 33AD. So long as you’re really, really, really pinky-swear sorry and god says it’s OK then you don’t need to worry about pesky human laws.

  • Freodin

    As always: consider if you would support the same behaviour if it was a muslim handing out copies of the Qu’ran to convicted felons and telling them about Allah.

    But somehow I fear the most common reaction would be: Don’t be silly! A muslim judge? Ridiculous!

  • Brian K

    The reports I see on this incident really need more detail. If the criminal proceedings had concluded, and then the judge gave her a bible pursuant to something the defendant asked about, then I don’t see a problem.

  • Raging Bee

    THERE was nothing ‘inappropriate’ in a Texas judge’s decision on Wednesday to hand a convicted murderer a Bible, insists Dallas County District Attorney John Cruezotto.

    Yeah, because copies of the Bible are NOWHERE to be found ANYWHERE in Dallas, and no one ever thinks to ask to see one in any of the churches in that city.

  • Michael Neville

    There is at least one Muslim judge in the US. Halim Dhanidina is a California Court of Appeals judge. However the religious affiliation of judges is not generally a matter of official record. Obama nominated a Muslim to be a district court judge but the Republican-controlled Senate refused to consider the nomination.

  • Broga

    Or “God is Not Great” and similar books. Atheists have been persecuted, and burned alive and tortured, for centuries for saying what they think or write. What chance of a fair trial would an atheist have before this ignorant, judicial bigot.

  • Vanity Unfair

    Assuming this conduct was part of the judicial proceedings, I can see a problem with the Constitution: not with the first amendment, but with the eighth.

    Amendment VIII
    Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

    This humane treatment of prisoners is so different from the cruel British law against which the oppressed colonists valiantly fought.

    Bill of Rights, 1688.
    That excessive Baile ought not to be required nor excessive Fines imposed nor cruell and unusuall Punishments inflicted.

    Unruffle those feathers: I really like most of the US Constitution and think we ought to have something similar (without a right to bear arms) on this side of the pond.
    I haven’t had a post refused for about a week. Has the management come to its senses?

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “THERE was nothing ‘inappropriate’ in a Texas judge’s decision on Wednesday to hand a convicted murderer a Bible”

    Well, you can never have too much toilet paper.

  • bill wald

    Fine with me, but the only “authorized” copies of Q’ran are in Arabic.