Is it okay for a judge to make you choose between jail and marrying your girlfriend? How about writing down some Old Testament Bible verses as part of your punishment? Because that's what an East Texas judge ordered a 21-year-old man to do. And if you ask Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Sam Grover, "it's definitely not legal."
After realizing that nobody in Texas had formally complained about the strange ultimatum, Grover took it upon himself from 1,000 miles away in Madison, Wisconsin. On behalf of FFRF, Grover filed a complaint with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct against Judge Randall Rogers in Smith County for violating the First Amendment's separation of church and state. “The judge crossed an ethical boundary," Grover said, "and the boundary of what he's legally allowed to do within his courtroom.”
Earlier this month, Rogers gave 21-year-old Josten Bundy of Tyler the ultimatum between 15 days in jail and marriage as punishment for an assault charge. Back in February, the Houston Chronicle reported, Bundy stood up for his girlfriend, 19-year-old Elizabeth Jaynes, after Jaynes's ex-boyfriend was rude to her. Bundy was charged after he punched the ex-boyfriend in the jaw.
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After Bundy chose marriage, Rogers gave Bundy and his girlfriend 30 days to get hitched, according to the Chron. He also ordered Bundy to write out Proverbs 26:27: "Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him."
They married in the courthouse, but the couple told KLTV-TV that they intend to hold a more formal and well-planned ceremony.
Grover with FFRF says he's never heard of a judge ordering people to get married—or to write out Bible verses. If Rogers refuses to apologize and defends such sentencing decisions, Grover says he should lose his spot on the bench. (Rogers did not return requests for comment.)
“I think at this point Judge Rogers knows he messed up," Grover said, "and at this point it's just a matter of getting him to acknowledge that publicly.”