The Black judge who presided over the murder case of white former Dallas cop Amber Guyger is now facing a judicial complaint for giving the woman a Bible after a jury sentenced her to 10 years.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation announced Thursday in a press release that the national nonprofit filed a complaint with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
“These proselytizing actions overstepped judicial authority, were inappropriate and were unconstitutional,” Don Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-presidents of the organization, said in the complaint.
Judge Tammy Kemp had just heard an emotional statement of forgiveness from the brother of slain Black PwC associate Botham Jean Wednesday when she left the courtroom and returned with a Bible for Guyger.
“You can have mine. I have three or four more at home,” Kemp told the woman. “This is the one I use everyday before I go to court.
“This is your job for the next month… Right here: John 3:16. And this is where you start, ‘for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son’…”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging the commission to investigate Kemp’s actions.
Although it wasn’t audible from courtroom video footage, the foundation also reported Kemp said:
“He has a purpose for you. This will strengthen you. You just need a tiny mustard seed of faith. You start with this.”
Kemp was then shown on video footage hugging Guyger.
“It’s not because I’m good. It’s because I believe in Christ. I’m not so good,” Kemp said, according to the Foundation. “You haven’t done as much as you think you have, and you can be forgiven.
“You did something bad in one moment in time. What you do now matters.”
Gaylor and Barker said government employees may not use the power and privilege of their offices to preach their personal religious beliefs.
“It violates the constitutional separation between state and church for a sitting judge to promote personal religious beliefs while acting in her official capacity,” they said in the press release. “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.”
Kemp, who also hugged and spoke with the victim’s mother, has faced widespread criticism from social media users and activists not only for handing Guyger the bible but also for hugging the woman.
Some have argued that if Guyger were Black she would not have been treated as kindly.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, however noted in its press release that Kemp “appears to have generally handled a difficult and widely publicized trial with grace and aplomb.”
“We believe that our criminal justice system needs more compassion from judges and prosecutors, but here compassion crossed the line into coercion,” Gaylor and Barker said in the news release.
Although Kemp declined comment with CBS DFW, the outlet cited a questionnaire she filled out for the Dallas Morning News when she was running for re-election last year.
“A judge’s temperament should begin and end with respect for all parties involved,” Kemp wrote.
Viewers were not amused by Kemp’s decisions. Scott Akers noted in a Facebook post by comedian D.L. Hughley, “To me, it’s not the act of forgiveness that’s the problem. It’s the extra display of “forgiveness” that’s the problem. The family could forgive and nobody would even know. But the long speeches, the hugs and kisses, the rubbing of her hair is not even about forgiveness. It’s about appeasement and being able to make white people feel more comfortable in their sins against black folks. I watched the reactions of black folks in court whose family members were killed by other blacks. Those black folks were on full attack against the black perpetrators DURING COURT. They displayed anger because there are no rewards or societal benefits in displaying love and forgiveness towards black folks. The pats on the back from black folks aren’t equal to the pats on the back from white folks. So in fact if black folks are socialized to forgive due to religious training, it did a poor job training in forgiveness towards our own people.”
Several others commented under the same post,
“She may have asked for the Bible, but that Judge was being extremely extra! She had might as well unzipped her robe and started breastfeeding her and the other one couldn’t decide if she was a Bailiff or a beautician!”
“This Judge has taken multiple recess breaks throughout this trial…and she should have taken a recess for herself and the kid to discussed all that forgiving and hugging privately.”
“The “god” he praised so beautifully failed him! And granted his killer forgiveness from his family, leniency from the justice system and hugs from the judge and victims brother……… I wonder who did god, Jesus, really bless……”