(DAILY MAIL) — A non-profit group that aims to ‘promote the separation of state and church’ has filed a complaint with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct against the judge in the Amber Guyger trial.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation claimed that State District Judge Tammy Kemp ‘inappropriately proselytized’ to the defendant when giving the convicted murderer a personalized bible during sentencing.
Judge Kemp was the presiding judge in the case for the former Dallas police officer who was convicted for fatally shooting Botham Jean in his own home on Wednesday.
The non-profit stated in the Thursday filing that the judge violated the ‘constitutional principle’ when she ‘gifted a Christian bible, instructing the convicted criminal on how to read the bible and which passages to pay attention to, and witnessing to that convicted murderer.’
‘These proselytizing actions overstepped judicial authority, were inappropriate and were unconstitutional,’ the Wisconsin-based organization added.
FFRF cited courtroom video that shows the four-minute exchange between the judge – who is black – and Guyger after the convicted killer was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Kemp could be seen hugging the woman before handing her the book.
The non-profit acknowledged that the moment was ’emotional’, even highlighting that the victim’s 18-year-old brother – Brandt Jean- hugged the former police officer after the sentencing.
‘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,’ FFRF asserted.
FFRF did share their belief that the justice system needs more compassion but added that this particular instance showed more ‘coercion’ than compassion.
‘There can be few relationships more coercive than a sentencing judge in a criminal trial and a citizen accused and convicted of a crime,’ the organization added.
FFRF asserted that Guyger’s religious affiliation didn’t matter, even if she identified as a Christian, as Judge Kemp was still ‘acting in her official governmental capacity.’
‘The U.S. Supreme Court has said time and again that the First Amendment “mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion,’” the non-profit declared, citing multiple cases where the decision was found.
They continued: ‘In their personal capacity, citizens may freely worship and exercise their religious beliefs in any way they see fit. In their official capacity as government officials, they are bound by the Establishment Clause.’
FFRF expressed that their issue was not with Kemp’s religious belief but with her proclamation of them during her role overseeing the trial.
The non-profit explained: ‘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, and even instructing her on which bible verses to read!
‘The judicial office, title, trappings, and power belong to “We the People,” not to the office’s temporary occupant. Delivering bibles and personally witnessing as a judge is an egregious abuse of power.