Smith County, Texas, Judge Randall Lee Rogers overstepped his bounds when he ordered a man charged with assault to write Bible verses and marry his girlfriend as an alternative to jail, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Several media outlets have reported that Rogers ordered Josten Bundy to write Bible verses as a condition of his probation. Bundy was on trial for assaulting his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend.
It was also reported that Rogers ordered Bundy to marry the girlfriend, 19-year-old Elizabeth Jaynes. Under duress, the couple did marry.
“This is, to put it simply, outrageous and unconstitutional,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Judge Rogers seems to think he’s running a combination Sunday school and relationship counseling service. He needs to get back to dispensing secular law.”
In a letter sent to Rogers today, attorneys with Americans United warned the judge to drop the religious and marriage requirements.
“We respectfully request that you 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,” reads the letter.
The letter, drafted by AU Senior Litigation Counsel Gregory M. Lipper and Staff Attorney Ian Smith, requests a reply within 30 days.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.