The judge who hugged Dallas police Amber Guyger and gave her a Bible after sentencing her for killing her unarmed black neighbor acted inappropriately and unconstitutionally, an atheist group claims.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a complaint Thursday with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct, alleging that Dallas County Judge Tammy Kemp “overstepped her judicial authority” by opening a Bible and giving it to the 31-year-old convicted murder Wednesday.
“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,” a letter to the state commission reads. “We, too, believe our criminal justice system needs more compassion from judges and prosecutors. But here, compassion crossed the line into coercion.”
Kemp consoled Guyger after a jury sentenced her to 10 years in prison for killing her 26-year-old upstairs neighbor Botham Jean in his apartment after she claims she mistook his residence for hers and assumed he was an intruder.
Kemp read from the Bible passage John 3:16 during a four-minute exchange with Guyger, according to the complaint.
“This has been put in front of you for a reason,” the judge told Guyger. “He has a purpose for you.”
Much of the exchange was inaudible, but what was heard is “sufficient to show an ethics violation” that should be further investigated, according to the national nonprofit group with more than 30,000 members nationwide, including 1,300 in Texas.
“Judge Kemp is free to attend church as a private citizen,” the complaint read. “She may even proselytize in her private life or teach Sunday school, and so forth. However, it violates a vital constitutional principle for a sitting judge to promote personal religious beliefs while acting in her official capacity.”