Last week, the nation was riveted by a video depicting Brandt Jean, brother of slain twenty-six year old Botham Jean, forgiving and expressing love for his brother’s killer. It was so moving, even the judge left the bench to retrieve her personal Bible and gift it to the defendant, a loving deed for which she is now being punished.
The Family Research Council (FRC) is reporting on a formal complaint filed by the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) which alleges that Judge Tammy Gent, who presided over the trial that convicted former police officer Amber Guyger of murdering Botham after mistaking him for a burglar, acted in an “inappropriate” and “unconstitutional” manner. This alleged offense took place when Judge Tammy Kemp left the bench long enough to retrieve her personal Bible and hand it to Guyger.
“You can have [my Bible]. I have three or four more at home. This is the one I use every day,” Kemp said, according to the complaint. She went on to instruct: “This is your job for the next month. You read 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, that whosoever…’ You stop at ‘whosoever’ and say, ‘Amber [inaudible] You start with the Gospels. Then [inaudible]. You read this whole book of John…This has been put in front of you for a reason. [inaudible] He has a purpose for you…”
Judge Kemp then hugged Guyger and said to her, “It’s not because I’m good. It’s because I believe in Christ. I’m not so good. 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.”
This gesture was the finale in a gripping profession of faith given by Botham’s brother, Brandt, who took the stand and publicly forgave Guyger for killing his brother. He then pleaded with her to give her life to Christ. While visibly biting back tears, Brandt said, “I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you. I want the best for you, because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want you to do. And the best would be to give your life to Christ.”
Brandt then asked the judge if he could hug the defendant. He was permitted and the two embraced with Guyger openly sobbing in the arms of the young man.
But, as the FRC reports, not everyone was happy about the compassion and mercy demonstrated in the courtroom, notably the Freedom from Religion Foundation which said that while the nation’s justice system needs more compassion, Judge Kemp “crossed the line into coercion” and should be investigated.
“At a time when our nation is fractured, aren’t such moments of grace and reconciliation exactly what we need more of?” writes the FRC’s David Closson. “Judge Kemp’s act of compassion in presenting the defendant a Bible injected the normally sterile court proceedings with a human touch and was in line with how the family of the slain man has treated Guyger.”
In fact, Bertram Jean, the boys’ father, also forgave his son’s killer and told reporters after the trial: “I felt the same way as Brandt,” Jean said. “That’s what Christ would want us to do… If you will not forgive, neither will your Father forgive you. I don’t want to see her rot in hell. I don’t want to see her rot in prison…So, I wish her well and I will pray for her family and pray for her as well.”
Regardless of the complaint filed against the judge, the power of God has already been unleashed upon both the persons involved in this tragedy and the nation that watched this beautiful display of authentic Christianity in action.
“Unfortunately, FFRF is trying to drown out this life-giving, positive message,” Closson writes. “Thankfully, there are millions more who were inspired and deeply moved by the words and actions of the Jean family and Judge Kemp this week.”
Let us keep this courageous family, and Judge Kemp, in our prayers, as well as the members of the FFRF with the hopes that their hearts might also be touched by the redeeming power of Christ.
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