Ethics Complaint Against Religious Judge

     (CN) – An East Texas judge illegally ordered a misdemeanor defendant to marry his girlfriend and write a Bible verse 25 times a day, a nonprofit claims in an ethics complaint.
     The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed the complaint on Aug. 13 with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct in Austin.
     Smith County District Judge Randall Rogers gave Josten Bundy, 21, the choice of marrying girlfriend Elizabeth Jaynes, 19, as part of his probation or face 15 days in county jail.
     Bundy told the judge he hit Jaynes’ ex-boyfriend in the jaw twice after the man “said disrespectful things” about her, ABC-affiliate KLTV in Tyler reported. Judge Rogers also ordered Bundy to copy out Proverbs 26:26, 25 times each day. The verse states “If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it.”
     Smith County is between Dallas and the Louisiana line. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide group based in Wisconsin.
     Foundation staff attorney Sam Grover blasted Judge Rogers for “illegal conduct,” for which “he should face serious consequences.”
     “Judges cannot require people to get married or force them to write Bible verses,” Grover said. “His actions demonstrate a religious bias with significant implications for any nonreligious or non-Christian litigants appearing before him.”
     According to transcripts, Judge Rogers asked Bundy if Jaynes “is worth it.”
     “I said, ‘Well, to be honest, Sir, I was raised with four sisters and if any man was talking to a woman like that, I’d probably do the same thing,'” Bundy told KLTV.
     Rogers gave Bundy 30 days to marry Jaynes.
     The couple said they applied for a marriage license out of fear Bundy would lose his job if he were jailed for two weeks. They say the judge refused to allow Bundy the chance to ask his employer for permission to choose the jail sentence.
     “The judge told me, ‘Nope, that’s not how this works,'” Bundy said.
     The couple say they are upset that the forced wedding did not give them time to plan a proper wedding. Bundy said his father and sisters were unable to attend.
     “It just felt like we weren’t going to be able to have the wedding we wanted,” said Jaynes. “It was just going to be kind of pieced together, I didn’t even have a white dress.”
     Jaynes’ father, Kenneth, told KLTV he is angry about the forced marriage.
     Rogers “can’t do this by court ordering somebody to be married,” he said. “I contacted a couple of lawyers but they told me someone was trying to pull my leg, that judges don’t court-order somebody to get married.”
     Rogers could not be reached for comment Monday evening.

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