A story that elicited horror, outrage, and them awe at an incredible act of grace took a bizarre turn when an atheist group filed an official complaint against a judge for doing something that most people found to be a great example of justice tempered with mercy. The Freedom from Religion Foundation filed an official complaint against a judge in a famous murder case who prayed with a defendant whom she had sentenced to ten years in prison and then gifted her with her bible.
According to the Washington Examiner, the story began one night when a tired Dallas police officer named Amber Guyger entered what she thought was her apartment. She saw a man seated on a couch eating ice cream. Guyger drew her weapon and, when the man did not comply with her instructions to show her his hands, she shot him dead.
The horrible twist in the story is that Guyger, according to her account, had somehow entered the wrong apartment and had shot its residence, Botham Jean, by accident. Guyger was, in short order, suspended and then fired by the DPD. She was then tried and convicted of murder in a Dallas courtroom and sentenced to ten years in prison, far short of the maximin 99 years. That Guyger is white and Jean black caused the usual racial element to take place.
The next twist in the story took place when, during the victim’s family statements, Jean’s 18-year-old brother Brandt Jean publicly forgave Guyger, as his Christian faith admonishes him to. Then, with the permission of the presiding judge, he hugged the woman who had killed his brother. They stood thus in the courtroom, weeping.
Judge Tammy Kemp, moved to tears as well, left the courtroom and returned with a bible. She prayed with Guyger, the woman she had just sent away for ten years and pointed out several verses that might prove of comfort in her ordeal to come. Then she gifted the convicted murderer with the bible.
While social media being what it is, the episode received a share of snark and cynicism, most people who saw the video of the incident were moved by the rare display of grace and forgiveness, a light in the darkness, one might say, in these contentious times.
However, the Freedom from Religion Foundation was singularly unimpressed. The atheist organization filed an ethics complaint against Judge Kemp with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct. The letter stated, in part, “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.”
The complaint went on to state, “Delivering bibles and personally witnessing as a judge is an egregious abuse of power.” It suggested that the act of mercy and kindness be thoroughly investigated, and steps made to make sure it never happens again.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation shows up in court often, whether they are suing a state government for giving funds to a faith-based drug program to demanding that religious images such as a nativity scene be barred from the public square. The organization has a weekly radio program, has educational and outreach programs, and has an annual convention.
The article in Hot Air about the Amber Guyger trial noted that the Freedom From Religion Foundation states as part of its credo, “The history of Western civilization shows us that most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion.”
The statement could be seen as debatable, to say the least. From the tireless efforts of medieval monks to preserve the literature of Greco-Roman civilization to the wealth of art and architecture inspired by Christianity, it could be argued that people who are not free from religion have contributed to social and moral progress. One could also argue that scant progress of any sort, save in death and depredation, was ever achieved by officially atheistic Soviet Russia or Red China.
As for the complaint at hand, Hot Air opined:
“All of this is out of the ordinary, to be sure. There is no indication that this is standard procedure in this judge’s courtroom. I don’t imagine we will see this again. Let her be reprimanded by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct if the commission sees fit but then just let it go. Our country was founded on Christian-Judeo principles. I think the country will survive this just fine.”