I don’t think judges should ask that question of criminal defendants whose cases they are sitting on, or who they are about to sentence. On the other hand, I’m not going to get my panties all in a bunch over it, either. As problems with judges and the system go, it’s a waste of time and effort to concentrate too much on that one.
But Bennett thinks it’s a big deal. A “theocracy” and all that, doncha know:
But how many defendants have gotten worse deals because they didn’t profess Christianity? How many suspect (with good reason) that they did? How many of the nine felt pressured to profess a Christianity that they did not truly feel? How many defendants decided that they weren’t going to get a fair shake in Court Four because they weren’t Christians? How many bystanders saw these forays into theocracy and figured that that was just the way things worked in Harris County?
I don’t know. How many defendants got worse deals because they drew this or that prosecutor or this or that judge? How many suspect that they did? How many defendants professed to guilt they did not truly feel because they didn’t want to go to trial when the deck is so stacked against them and they were pressured into it because it was the only way out? How many felt they weren’t going to get a fair shake because that’s just what happens to criminal defendants all the time, so get used to it? How many bystanders see the routine workings of the system and figure, well, that’s just the way it works in the United States of America because our system is fucked up?
Sure, you can get up on your high horse about the Jesus-God stuff. The ACLU will throw its weight behind you. Good for them, good for you. Tell those judges they had better not bring their personal religious feelings into it or you’ll embarrass them and make them pay. Channel 11 will cover it.
But Channel 11 won’t cover the other stuff. And that happens every day, and all the time, to everyone unfortunate enough to be placed in the dock, innocence or guilt notwithstanding, because that doesn’t matter either and nobody cares. Or, they say they don’t.
I like this comment of Bennett’s in response to a blog post by fellow Harris County TX attorney Murray Newman:
I’d be asking the same questions about Clinton’s intellectual fitness to judge if he were a Jew, a Muslim, a Taoist, or an atheist. From the guy sitting up high in the black dress, “you don’t believe in God, do you?” would be just as offensive as “have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?”
Now, that’s a little weird. Maybe things are different in Texas, but in many places the judge sits on his throne in his black dress and prominently displayed somewhere near him is the motto: “In God We Trust”.
I admit, the ACLU is consistent in opposing that motto as well, wherever they may find it. And in this they have generally been quite successful. Unlike with every other more important problem with the criminal justice system, where they have been abysmal failures.
It’s not the ACLU’s fault, or Bennett’s, but our beloved “system” is incredibly fucked up and I don’t think some proselytizing judge is a big deal. In the slightest.
The constitution? Please. If the constitution were actually held to matter on this point, it would be the only time. The entire Bill of Rights is essentially a dead letter, and this applies across the board and from the top down. I hardly think some judge in the grip of the divine ecstasy poses a significant threat under these circumstances. But he’s an easy target.
Sorry Mark. If you want a lawyers’ strike this time you’re on your own.