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Judgment comes for self-appointed judge

Posted: July 22, 2012 - 12:14am

One of the more frequently quoted, and entirely misunderstood, verses in the Bible is Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

The passage is misinterpreted by taking it out of context. The second sentence is omitted, and without it the verse doesn’t have its full meaning: “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Jesus wasn’t calling for unquestioning acceptance of others, as the verse often is misused. Instead, as the remainder of the verse makes clear, he was warning his followers against being hypocrites – holding others to standards that they aren’t willing to meet themselves.

Theoretically, Lee Benedict had his come-to-Jesus meeting on Tuesday.

That’s when the Columbia County Board of Elections met to talk about Benedict’s Facebook posting of a photo of his voting screen. Taking a photo inside a voting booth is illegal, something Benedict assuredly should know after having run for office three times before. Big, orange signs at every voting precinct reinforce the prohibition, complete with circle-and-slash pictographs for illiterates. (And, no, it doesn’t matter whether you agree with the law – it’s still the law.)

County Attorney Doug Batchelor says the violation is a misdemeanor. That means it’s punishable by fines from $100 to $1,000, and up to a year in jail. Luckily for Benedict, even though the board handed the case to the Sheriff’s Office and district attorney, he probably won’t be charged.

So what’s the big deal? Just this: Last year, Benedict busied himself filing ethics complaints against judges, including one against Columbia County Chief Magistrate Bobby Christine. His basic thesis seemed to be that violating those rules made the judges unfit for office.

Those complaints didn’t claim violations of the law, mind you, but of judicial canon – professional guidelines for judges. The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission’s response to Benedict’s accusations was, in essence, to tell Christine that if he had sinned, to go and sin no more.

Yet that wasn’t the end of it. Late last year, Christine was told to prepare to be called up for active duty with the Army National Guard. Army regulations wouldn’t allow him to run for office.

At that point, Christine could have played the age-old political game of keeping his mouth shut, waiting until the last day of qualifying, and then withdrawing with just enough time for a hand-picked successor to sign up and run unopposed.

Instead, and much to the chagrin of many in the legal community, he took the honorable route: announcing his withdrawal months in advance and clearing the path for everyone who wanted to seek the office.

Yet Benedict had more gristle to gnaw. When the story broke, Benedict was first to comment online, scoffing at Christine’s reason for not running and insinuating Christine was chickening out of the race because of those ethics complaints. Christine since was, in fact, called to active duty.

During the spirited debate that followed, Benedict posted this comment: “It just steams my clams when judges, elected officials and the others simply do as they please, knowing that a good chunk is unethical, not permitted, or just plain wrong.”

How about illegal? Benedict portrays himself as “the honest one” in his fourth run for office, yet now he is under investigation for violating the law – not ethical guidelines, but criminal law.

Hypocritical? Feel free to judge for yourself.

Donations sought

One of the more bizarre deaths lately is that of Steven Cotton, the 42-year-old Grovetown man killed this past Monday when a limb fell from a tree in his yard and struck him in the head.

Sadly, it just shows once again that we never know when our time is up.

Cotton’s funeral is today in Evans. In addition to dealing with the shock, the family is accepting help with funeral expenses. The Steven Cotton Benefit Memorial Fund is set up for donations at any area Wells Fargo Bank branch.

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/
barrypaschal.)

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