TYLER, Texas (Christian Examiner) – The Texas judge who forced a wedding between a man facing misdemeanor assault charges and his 19-year-old girlfriend is about to face his own legal trial.
The atheist Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) has stepped in to represent the couple, Josten and Elizabeth Bundy, and on Aug. 17 announced it had filed a formal complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct against Judge Randall Rogers who issued the verdict. While not a lawsuit, the complaint must now be resolved in a formal manner.
If the judge is found guilty of judicial misconduct, Rogers can be forced to obtain further education, be privately or publicly sanctioned, or even be dismissed from the bench. If facing discipline, he can also choose to resign voluntarily.
Josten Bundy, charged with punching his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend after the man made a derogatory comment about her, was told by Rogers in July he would have to choose between marrying his 19-year-old girlfriend and spending 15 days in jail.
The judge also told Bundy that, in addition to marrying his girlfriend, Elizabeth Jaynes, he was required to write down Bible verses and seek counseling for his anger. According to the complaint filed by the FFRF, that verse – Proverbs 26:27 – was to be written 25 times a day. The verse reads, "If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it."
Truer words were never spoken for Rogers – as far as FFRF is concerned.
FFRF's lead attorney, Sam Grover, filed the complaint Aug. 13. In a statement accompanying the complaint, Grover said "judges cannot require people to get married or force them to write Bible verses."
"Judge Rogers' conduct was illegal and he should face serious consequences for it. His actions demonstrate a religious bias with significant implications for any nonreligious or non-Christian litigants appearing before him."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State also responded to the judge's decision, calling the ruling "unconstitutional" in a lengthy statement.
Rather than filing a formal complaint with the state, Americans United sent a letter directly to Rogers Aug. 10 asking him to "refrain from imposing conditions requiring religious activity (including Bible reading or the writing of Bible verses) or conditions relating to fundamental privacy interests such as marriage, and that you rescind any such requirements from existing orders."
Americans United's Senior Legal Counsel Gregory Lipper asked Judge Rogers to respond to the letter within 30 days.