Following is my letter to the editor which ran in The Republic (Columbus, Indiana) Saturday, 28 Oct 2006.
I was dismayed when I read the letter to the editor of Sept. 30 from Jeff West.
Mr. West alleged that Judge Chris Monroe was very harsh toward him at his visitation hearing and that the judge also told him in a hateful voice that "God is not in this courtroom, and he cannot be your witness today."
I do not know Mr. West at all, and I do not know Judge Monroe very well.
I stewed for about three weeks wondering whether and why Judge Monroe might have said such a thing. But I also kept thinking of the words of a very wise man, "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him."
So I e-mailed my concerns to Judge Monroe Oct. 21. The judge promptly composed a thoughtful reply to my e-mail and also gave me a phone call to discuss his reply.
At his invitation, I went to the courthouse today and we listened to most of the 25-minute public recording of the hearing for Mr. West. I concluded that Mr. West had seriously misquoted the judge.
When Mr. West began to affirm a statement with the phrase, "as God is my witness," I heard the judge briefly interrupt him. I believe the point he was making was that Mr. West had no need to add any confirming oath or affirmation to his words, but to simply give his testimony, without adding any additional claim that he was telling the truth.
The actual words the judge used to make this point were "God's not going to testify here today... that's not really helpful."
I wrote these down while listening to the recording about six minutes into the hearing. The recording is still available if anyone else cares to confirm it.
I did not hear any indication that Judge Monroe ever said anything about God's not being in the courtroom. In fact, the subject of religion came up several times during the hearing, and I thought that the judge always treated Mr. West's religious beliefs with respect.
I also did not detect any overall tone of harshness nor hatefulness in the judge's comments. There are three letters that Mr. West wrote to his wife. They are also in the public record for anyone who wishes to view them.
In these letters, Mr. West admits to serious moral shortcomings in his life, including lying and unfaithfulness. The judge sternly reminded him that his loss of fellowship with his son was a result of his own actions and choices.
The apostle Paul wrote, "For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad... But if you do wrong, be afraid... For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer." (Romans 13:3-4)
God also commissions judges in 2 Chronicles 19:5-7, saying "He appointed judges in the land... and said to the judges, 'Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the LORD. He is with you in giving judgment.'"
Mr. West, Judge Monroe, and I all claim to be followers of Christ.
It appeared to me that Judge Monroe made a good-faith effort to fulfill his God-given responsibility to hold Mr. West accountable for his actions.
Perhaps Mr. West chose to interpret the judge's stern demeanor in fulfilling this responsibility as harshness or hatefulness.
As Paul Harvey might say, now you know the rest of the story.
Letter: Tape indicates judge misquoted by letter writer
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