“What you do now matters.”

This week Amber Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the murder of Botham Jean. A white woman burst into the apartment of an innocent black man shot and killed him and wasn’t even taken into custody at the scene. I could go on and on about how lenient the sentence was, how it only happened this way because we live in a blue and white world that gives privilege to those that don’t deserve it, but I won’t. Instead I want to focus on the impact statement from Jean’s brother Brandt and the inappropriate behavior of Judge Tammy Kemp.

When addressing the court of the impact of Botham’s death Brandt spoke directly to Guyger. He stated that he forgives her, loves her as a person and wants only the best for her. In addition he stated that he didn’t even wish for her to go to jail but instead to give her life up to Christ. After stating the best thing she could do now is give her life to Christ he embraced her right there in the courtroom. I am not going to fault him for his reaction. He may truly believe that prison will not make the difference and Christ will . However as an Atheist I cannot imagine how devoting her life to Christ would in any way be beneficial. Clearly it did nothing to protect Botham, a youth pastor and active member of his church. The only thing his devotion to God could really do is possibly give hope to other believers that he is now in heaven, when in reality he is dead, killed for no reason, not even a martyr… just gone.

What really bothered me about the final moments of the sentencing phase was what the judge did. While overcome with emotion from the unprecedented act she had just allowed to occur in her courtroom, she decided to step far outside the bonds of our law. Judge Tammy Kemp left the bench and returned with a copy of the bible, she holds it out to Guyger and states “You can have mine. I have 3 or 4 more at home. This is the one I use every day. This is your job for the next month. Right here. John 3:16”. It continues on, in front of every member of Jean’s family she embraces Guyger, attempting to provide comfort to a murder while stating “I believe in Christ… you haven’t done so much that you can’t be forgiven. You did something bad in one moment in time. What you do now matters.”. Then she forces the bible upon Guyger who carries it out of the courtroom.

I cannot even process what just happened. I try to put myself there, having someone I loved taken away and having to watch a judge bring God into the courtroom and tell the killer that it’s what happens from this point on that matters. Does this mean that breaking into an innocent man’s apartment, shooting him, refraining from providing any life saving measures and then focusing completely on how it would affect you is totally meaningless? What kind of delusional world do these believers live in. I decided to look around at various sites to see what people were saying about the events and I must say it was unnerving. One exchange in particular caught my eye. While discussing the sentencing a person wrote “But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”.

Someone, anyone, please tell me how this is a positive thing? Yes, releasing your conscious of the weight of hate and forgiving can be beneficial for a victim to move forward in life, but they shouldn’t have to do it because if not they will be punished by God. The next response to the thread stated “the bible states if we do not forgive, we cannot be forgiven.”. Seriously, think about that for a moment. The murderer repents and is forgiven by God but if the victims cannot find forgiveness for the killer they will be judged by God. The third comment states “That’s what a true Christian would do.” but what I wonder is, why would they do it? Are they doing it because it is what they need to move forward? Are they doing it to honor the memory of the one they lost so that hate doesn’t tarnish their legacy? Or are they doing it because if they don’t God will never forgive them?
Let us also not forget that there is a huge difference between a grieving brother expressing that faith may be beneficial and a judge assigning religious work to a criminal. What gull it takes to think that you can force your beliefs, a person who has power over you, using that power to direct someone to take on their belief system. Imagine the outrage our country would have had if they judge handed her a Koran. There would have been protests and shaming, an appropriate reaction, but only if it applies to the bible as well. As an Atheist, if I was told that my punishment included finding Jesus I would have to decline. I would accept a punishment that fit my crime as long as it was within the boundaries of our country’s laws, but never would I allow God to be forced on me.
God and religion have no place in our judicial system. Do not let a beautiful embrace and act of forgiveness take away from the fact that a judge forced religion upon a criminal. Don’t let it negate the fact that people are seeing this act as inspirational and the perfect way to not be punished by God. I am fortunate to have never lost someone to a tragedy such as this, I cannot imagine the pain and I won’t pretend I do. I respect the Jean family and all those that loved Botham and I will not criticize their grieving process. But please, remember that this is just another reminder that Christian’s feel entitled to force their religion on us at all times and it is because we let them get away with it… and we cannot keep allowing this to happen.

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