A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, including but not limited to bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, and shall not knowingly permit staff, court officials and others subject to the judge's direction and control to do so.Texas Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 3(b)(6)
Oh, Murray, Murray, Murray.
Don't speak so quickly. Have you forgotten that there was a Thirteenth Apostle (the Christian equivalent of George Best, I suppose)? I'm sure if we look long and hard enough that somewhere we'll find a testament written by some guy named Murray claiming to be that long lost apostle. Maybe that's who wrote the alleged Christian texts found in a Jordanian cave between 2005 and 2007.
(By the way, Murray, I liked the old layout better. I'm getting older and it hurts my eyes. There's always Google Reader, though.)
Another Houston colleague, Eric Davis, chimed in with a defense of Judge Clinton's using the bench as a pulpit. I understand what the judge gave as his motivation to offer "Jesus time" in lieu of community service. There are too many judges out there who just line up defendants and bring out on the chain for a mass plea (about how you'd expect the Rev. Sun Myung Moon to do it if he were a judge and not
Wiping out eight hours of community service in exchange for a person writing an essay about what it means to be on probation? Excellent idea. Discussing Jesus over coffee in exchange for wiping out the rest? Not so good.
This idea that having someone read a Christian self-help book will help them turn their lives around is fairly laughable when you stop to consider that some of history's greatest mass murderers were "God-fearing" men and that the Catholic Church conspired to cover up the world's largest child molestation ring. Just because you accept Jesus Christ as your savior or because you've completed a bunch of workbooks in Sunday school doesn't mean you're a saint. And, conversely, just because you're not a Christian (which I guess would be the majority of our fellow denizens of the earth), doesn't mean you're bad.
And just what is the message in Judge Clinton's book?
The origin of all problems–family, finances, career, relationships – can all be traced back to a single source: life-dominating sin. No human remedy can cure it. But everyone can find victory over sin in the Word of God.
Yes, you can also have victory over life-dominating sin, based on two biblical principles remarkable in their simplicity:
- There is no human remedy for sin.
- The only cure for sin is in Christ.
Mark Bennett got it right when he looked at it from the perspective of the folks who didn't get offered the "I'm a Believer" discount. I don't think either of us is being alarmist when we ask whether the 4th, 5th or 6th Amendments are safe in Judge Clinton's courtroom.
This isn't a religious debate. I'm all for whatever people need to get through each day. I happen to prefer to lace up my running shoes and run around the neighborhood before the sun rises - but that ain't for everyone.
During the course of a meeting of the board of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association yesterday (called for the purpose of deciding what action, if any, to take regarding this incident), a member (who had spoken to Judge Clinton at the behest of the president) decided it would be a good idea to bring his new buddy, the judge, to the meeting.
And there he was, wearing a suit with a huge cross lapel pin. A true believer. The judge said he asked selected probationers if they were men of faith. He then asked if they were Christians. If he got the answers he was looking for, he offered them some "Jesus time" instead of community service. How could he not know that wasn't right?
In the end the leadership of HCCLA tucked its collective tail between its legs and decided not to do anything. Something about massaging the judge instead of stepping on him.
Said Stanley Schneider, past president of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association:
“I think this is a man that we really need to get behind. Anyone who wants to take the innovative, and trying to do something to help people in his courtroom to succeed in life, he’s someone we need to applaud.”Dottie Griffith of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas (who filed a complaint against Judge Clinton) had a slightly different take:
“The idea that a judge would use the power of the bench to coerce individuals appearing before him into accepting his religious beliefs offends the Constitution and should offend all Houstonians. If true, Judge Clinton’s actions are patently illegal.”See also:
"Judge's sentence involving Christian book causes controversy," KHOU-TV (3/28/2011)
"Reading lesson for cons was Christian book," Houston Chronicle (3/29/2011)