Judge Randall Rogers from Smith County, Texas issued a strange punishment last year to someone who got caught up in a fight.
It started when 20-year-old Josten Bundy punched out his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend:
“[The ex-boyfriend] had been saying disrespectful things about Elizabeth, so I challenged him to a fight,” said Bundy. “He stepped in and I felt like it was on and I hit him in the jaw twice.”
Let’s ignore the whole “That was dumb” thing and get right to the sentencing:
[Judge Rogers] sentenced Josten Bundy to get married to his 19-year-old girlfriend as part of his probation, which also included writing Bible verses and getting counseling.
If Bundy declined to do the probation, he would be sentenced to 15 days in jail.
Obviously, the judge shouldn’t have forced the two to get married. But let’s talk about the (other?) penalty… Bundy was tasked with copying Proverbs 26:27 — “If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it” — 25 times a day.
It raised several questions:
What was that supposed to accomplish?
What if his writing was illegible? Did it count?
What if Bundy wasn’t a Christian? Would he have received the same punishment?
Did anyone point out that Proverbs 26 also includes this line: “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him”? Seems appropriate.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter to the judge urging him to drop both aspects of his sentence. The Freedom From Religion Foundation also filed a complaint with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
FFRF finally heard from the Commission this week. They said Rogers had received a “private sanction“:
“After a thorough review and investigation of the issues you raised in your complaint, the commission voted to issue the judge a private sanction,” Seana Willing, executive director of the commission, said in the letter. FFRF and the public are not privy to the details of the sanction.
“In our secular constitutional system, courts should not be forcing people to act according to biblical precepts,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Judges can’t impose their theology on defendants.”
It was a ridiculous punishment that crossed all sorts of lines, even in Texas. Let’s hope the sanctions prevent him from issuing the same penalty to anyone else in the future.