An Arkansas judge under fire for participating in a death penalty protest after issuing an order blocking an execution says critics seeking his impeachment want to infringe on his rights as a Baptist pastor to express his religious beliefs.
The Arkansas House of Representatives passed a resolution May 3 amending rules allowing lawmakers to impeach a public official. The vote came two days after state Sen. Trent Garner (R-El Dorado) released a statement calling for impeachment of Pulaski County Judge Wendell Griffen for behavior after granting a temporary restraining order blocking the first of a string of executions scheduled to begin the day after Easter.
“On Good Friday, about an hour after he had made a critical ruling against the state that effectively halted the executions, Griffen strapped himself to a cot in front of the Governor’s mansion to protest the executions he had just stopped,” the senator said. “Making a public statement about a case in which he was still involved reeks of bias. Setting aside the merits of the case itself, Griffen attacked the integrity of our legal system by showing some parties can’t get a fair trial in his court.”
“Because of his gross misconduct in office, I am calling for the Arkansas House of Representatives to bring an article of impeachment against Judge Wendell Griffen,” Garner said. “He should never again be allowed to hold office of any sort in Arkansas. We as the General Assembly can remove the stain that Griffen has left on our judicial integrity.”
Griffen, pastor of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship-aligned New Millennium Church in Little Rock, said in a personal blog May 3 the politicians seeking his removal took the same oath of office he did, pledging to uphold the Constitution of the United States.
“The First Amendment guarantees my freedom to express my religious beliefs as a follower of Jesus, whether politicians like my beliefs or not,” Griffen said.
Though Wednesday’s House vote did not mention Griffen by name, the pastor said the politicians behind it “disapprove of what I have written about morality, social justice, law and public policy in my blog.” Griffen reminded his political opponents that freedoms enshrined in the Constitution are important “especially when we disagree.’
Source: Baptist News Global | Bob Allen