Dallas County District Court Judge Tammy Kemp is standing by her decision to give a hug and a Bible to former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, whom she recently sentenced to ten years in prison for fatally shooting Botham Jean in his own apartment.
Kemp, 57, told The New York Times that she serves a deaconess at a Dallas church and keeps a Bible in her chambers as a reminder to start the day with prayer. She also said she normally encourages those in her courtroom to use their time in prison to make positive life changes.
Kemp spoke with Guyger after allowing the younger brother of Jean to hug the former officer in a gesture of forgiveness
“She asked me if I thought her life could have purpose. I said, ‘I know that it can.’ She said, ‘I don’t know where to start, I don’t have a Bible.’”
The judge then gave Gugyer her Bible and read John 3:16 with the former officer. Guyger surprised the judge by asking for a hug. Kemp said she had hesitated briefly when Guyger asked again
“I’m a little embarrassed to say she had to ask me twice,” Kemp told the Times.
Although Kemp has been praised by some, others have taken issue with the gesture.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation criticized Kemp and filed a complaint with the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct.
“We understand that it was an emotional moment, particularly when the victim’s brother, Brandt Jean, publicly forgave and hugged Guyger. 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,” wrote FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor. “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.”
Kemp said she originally felt called to give Guyger the Bible after remembering a sermon about The Parable of the Lost Sheep.
“Our pastor had said: ‘If we’re going to attract the one, we’ve got to show love and compassion.’ And then I also thought, God says my job is to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly,” Kemp told the Times. “So how can you refuse this woman a hug?”