A group which seeks to diminish religion in the public square has filed a complaint against a Texan judge who gifted a bible to a police officer who had been found guilty of murder.
Judge Tammy Kemp presided over the Amber Guyger case which made international headlines last week, when the brother of Botham Jean, the man killed by Ms Guyger, made a moving statement of forgiveness in the court.
The judge left the courtroom following the sentencing and victim impact statement and returned with her own bible. She gave her bible to Guyger who had been found guilty of murder, and 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.”
The Freedom from Religion Foundation has now lodged a complaint with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct, claiming Judge Kemp “inappropriately proselytized to the defendant”.
They complained that the actions of the judge “violates the constitutional separation between state and church” and that the judge promoted “personal religious beliefs while acting in her official capacity.”
The judge was “preaching to someone who was quite literally a captive audience,” they wrote. “Delivering bibles, bible studies and personal witness as a judge is an abuse of power.”
The Foundation further noted 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.”
The asked the commission investigate the judges actions and educate Kemp on her obligation to remain neutral on matters of religion to prevent future misconduct.
Judge Kemp was widely praised for handling a difficult and highly charged case with grace and compassion.
Amber Guyger, a former Dallas police officer was on trial for the murder of Botham Jean, a 26-year old black man, in his own apartment. Jean who worked Pricewaterhousecooper was a devout Christian.
When Guyger was fond guilty of murder, the victim’s brother, Brandt Jean, had a special message for the woman who killed his brother. “If you are truly are sorry .. then I forgive you. And if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you,” he told Amber Guyger as others in the court wept openly. “The best would be if you give your life to Christ.”
He then asked Judge Kemp if he could hug and forgive the woman who killed his brother. After the court had concluded, Judge Kemp gave Ms Guyger her Bible.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation receive income from organisational funders such as the Craigslist Charitable Fund, and raised some $5,195,692 in 2018.