Judge Tammy Kemp, who gave a Bible to Amber Guyger, the former cop who murdered an African American named Botham Jean in his own apartment, is now being accused of violating the constitution.
Guyger mistakenly wandered into Jean’s apartment thinking it was her own before killing the man she thought was an intruder. She could have spent the rest of her life in prison, but instead she was sentenced to just 10 years, of which she may only serve five.
After giving the lenient sentence, Judge Tammy Kemp hugged Guyger, gave her a Bible, and told her which verses to read and follow.
This was completely inappropriate for any government official — that would be obvious if she pushed any religion besides Christianity — and it received a lot of media coverage with plenty of people citing the judge’s supposed compassion and kindness.
Not everyone saw the situation the same way. In fact, a formal complaint has now been filed against the judge.
Specifically, the Freedom from Religion Foundation lodged a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Texas agency for investigating issues related to misconduct in the state’s judicial outposts.
FFRF says Kemp’s comments were not only inappropriate, but also unconstitutional. While they acknowledge the emotional moment prior to this exchange, in which the victim’s brother forgave Guyger, embraced her, and asked her to accept Jesus, they say similar conduct by the judge was an “abuse of power.”
We understand that it was an emotional moment, particularly when the victim’s brother, Brandt Jean, publicly forgave and hugged Guyger. 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.
It appears from the exchange that Guyger may not have identified as Christian, but Guyger’s religion does not change the constitutional or ethical analysis. Even were Guyger an avowed devout Christian, the gesture would still have been inappropriate and unconstitutional because Judge Kemp was acting in her official governmental capacity.
There’s already pushback against FFRF from the usual suspects: a conservative “religious freedom” group and a Texas district attorney. Both have vowed to fight the complaint.
CBS 11 asked Dallas County District Attorney John Cruezot if Judge Kemp’s gesture was a violation of court procedure, policy or protocol.
He said, “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 I 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.”
Plano-based First Liberty Institute (a voice for religious freedom) is countering the complaint filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Hiram Sasser, General Counsel to First Liberty Institute released the following statement:
“FFRF is protesting Judge Kemp rather than joining the rest of the nation celebrating the compassion and mercy Judge Kemp demonstrated. 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.”
Sasser never explained if he would support a Muslim or atheist judge showing the same kind of “mercy.”