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Does God have a place in the legal system?

Should those in the legal system consult God before sentencing criminals to see what He thinks? One New York judge thinks so.

Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III says he prayed over how to properly sentence a convicted rapist. 20-year-old Christopher Belter faced up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to the rape and sexual assault of four teenage girls. 

But Judge Murphy shocked the court by sentencing Belter to no jail time – instead choosing eight years of probation as the appropriate punishment. The decision, understandably, sparked widespread outrage.

Does God belong in the courtroom? 

Praying for Judgment

“I’m not ashamed to say that I actually prayed over what is the appropriate sentence in this case because there was great pain,” Judge Murphy stated in court. “There was great harm. There were multiple crimes committed in the case.”

In addition to his 8 years of probation, Belter will also be required to register as a sex offender.

By all measures, it was a light sentence. And the fact that the judge admitted consulting God – who apparently favored a reduced punishment – outraged many on social media. 

“This is how much we value young women in this country. The system is rooted in racism and misogyny. There is no denying it anymore. Disgusting!” exclaimed one Facebook user.

“At least the judge prayed on it,” said another sarcastically.

Is This God's Will?

The victims expressed similar sentiments. “To know that someone used God’s name to rationalize such a sick decision was heartbreaking to me,” said one. “That somehow Judge Murphy’s decision he made was appropriate because he prayed.”

Prosecutors agree. Steven M. Cohen, lawyers for one of the victims, stated plainly that “if Chris Belter was not a white defendant from a rich and influential family” he “would surely have been sentenced to prison.”

The case has many questioning just how much God should be involved in the courtroom. Is it ethical for a judge to consult God instead of the facts when sentencing convicted criminals? Would God really be pleased with the outcome of this case? And how different would this be if the judge prayed to any other deity - Allah, Buddha, Satan, Thor - instead?

Affluenza in Action

Some have compared the case to that of Brock Turner, who was from a similarly affluent family and received a light sentence for a rape charge.

The crimes took place several years ago, when Belter was also a teen. His extravagant Niagara County home was known as the “party house,” where drugs and alcohol were reportedly consumed free of parental supervision. His father is a partner at a local law firm, and both Belter’s mother and stepfather were charged with supplying alcohol to minors.

The judge in the case seemingly sympathized with Belter, requesting local papers not publish his name and saying he “agonized” over the sentencing decision.

What do you think? It okay for God to get involved in the courtroom?

57 comments

  1. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

    Disbarment would be the first step for Justice Dept. to initiate. Yet another sound reason for removing 'In God We Trust' from the walls of court rooms, when this is the resulting outcome.

  1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

    Amazing how misogynists resort to a make believe white guy in the sky they claim to consult in matters of criminality and law. They forget that guy in the sky of the historical bible was a Jewish entity who supposedly had a son born of a Jewish family. Jewish law has strict rules against rape. Someone should question Judge Murphy's mental status since he seems to have hallucinated and believes in an imaginary talk. A sexual predator should serve prison time for community safety with required specialized sex offender treatment programs in addition to lifetime probation This entitled rich guy will rape again.

    1. Shannon MacConnell's Avatar Shannon MacConnell

      I totally agree with what you're saying. Someone should put that judge on the spot for his hallucinations.this judge is obviously mentally unstable and shouldn't be in that position when his mental health has shown such behavior. Someone call Dr.phil please.

  1. James C Riggle's Avatar James C Riggle

    Leave God out of this. I truely believe that if God spoke to this judge, they would have said at least 10 years for rape. WTF?

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      And, presumably, that's also if your god had a voice.🤷🏼

      🦁♥️

  1. Matthew Mastrogiovanni's Avatar Matthew Mastrogiovanni

    Not surprised. It's well known that Christians are okay with raping children. Usually you need to be a priest though.

    1. Shannon MacConnell's Avatar Shannon MacConnell

      Good point

      1. Candice Beairs'Hodge's Avatar Candice Beairs'Hodge

        NO NO NO as a Christian I for one do not believe that it is ok to brake the law and I am a child of Good that is the difference between a Christian and a child God. Thoughts people that believe that they are Christian are anything but

        1. Matthew Mastrogiovanni's Avatar Matthew Mastrogiovanni

          Where is the outcry against these pedophile priests, from the followers of Jesus?
          I haven't seen a single online petition or Monastery topic calling for the Leaders of the church to have these men defrocked and arrested.

    2. Stephen Richard Jennings's Avatar Stephen Richard Jennings

      Bigotry comes in many forms including religious intolerance

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    I am sorry but no. He should have been sentenced to the maximum of 20 years in prison, and for added measure the convicts should be told what he did. They would deal with him in their own way.

  1. Charles Jude Platt's Avatar Charles Jude Platt

    If the rape occurred against the judge's family, would he be so lenient? Leave God alone, this judge is a 'whacko,' would he consult with Satan and? Sounds like he prayed to the lower power. Judges should only follow our laws and sentence guidelines.

  1. William Dusenberry's Avatar William Dusenberry

    As a SHP (Secular Humanist Pantheist) I have the only known provable God, and this provable God is the same as nature; and everyone knows that nature exists, ergo, God exists.

    This judge’s God, on the other hand, doesn’t exist — because there’s no proof that “he” exists.

    So, praying to an unprovable God, is just an excuse by the Judge, to slop off any blame on to God, instead of the friendly judge, who might know the accused rapist’s father, mother, or was a member of the same law firm as his uncle.

    1. Debbie L Sturgill's Avatar Debbie L Sturgill

      William, the judge might be covering for his own " sins". Perhaps he has a computer with child porn uploaded or is a rapist himself.

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    White Judge asks a White God what to do with a convicted White sexual predator.
    Think if the guy were Native American or black the sentence would be the same?

  1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

    Must have been a Republican.

  1. Ennyl Yesac's Avatar Ennyl Yesac

    He shall join the ranks of the other rapist Brock Turner. In 2015, Brock Turner was arrested and charged with two counts of rape, two counts of felony sexual assault, and one count of attempted rape after he was caught assaulting an unconscious student outside a frat party.

    One year later, he was found guilty of three counts of felony sexual assault. However, to the dismay of everyone, including his victim, who at that point was only known as Emily Doe, Turner was sentenced to just six months behind bars — though prosecutors recommended six years — and he was released after serving just half of his sentence.

  1. Amber Fry's Avatar Amber Fry

    Not at all. I think any judge who relies on prayer over actually scrutinizing the offenders through laws is the weak on law breakers. If one is to take the bible word for word, God destroyed the world several times because of those willing to break moral and legal codes. If a judge lets them off easy I'd suggest the judge needs investigated to see just what he himself might be hiding.

  1. Patricia Michelle Hedrick's Avatar Patricia Michelle Hedrick

    Separation of church and state is one of the building blocks of this country. That judge should be removed from the bench

    1. Peggy Ann Warner's Avatar Peggy Ann Warner

      Totally agree. This guy has no business on the bench.

  1. Terri Lynn Monaghan's Avatar Terri Lynn Monaghan

    I was not surprised when I read this. The one that needs to be praying is the accused. I would safely say a lot of criminals must walk out of this Judge’s courtroom free of any charges except probation. What a horrible message this sends to the public and future offenders. I am thankful I worked for a criminal Judge that believed in upholding the law! What this Judge did is gross misuse of our country’s laws.

  1. Deborah Dean's Avatar Deborah Dean

    This makes me worried as I have a great-granddaughter due to her step dad at the time raped her twice and she became pregnant! He has been in county since, but not sentenced! They better not let him get away with this.

  1. George Pitagorsky's Avatar George Pitagorsky

    .This judge, like many others may have mistaken bias for divine guidance. Racists and misogenists have long been using God as an excuse for justifying their views.

  1. John Casillo's Avatar John Casillo

    "And so this is Christmas....and all thru the year.....".......rest in peace........Rev john

  1. Jack A Mabry's Avatar Jack A Mabry

    This judge is a disgrace to the justice system. He needs to be disbarred immediately. The only thing he should ever judge again is what he eats.

  1. Michael K. Mac Munn's Avatar Michael K. Mac Munn

    As I read through these comments I have not seen one state that they are actually a parent or a parent of daughters. As a single parent and a single father of three children two that her daughters there is zero tolerance for anyone harming a child, there is no excuse, there is no rationalization. First it is not a judges place to forgive, it's a judges place to follow the laws as written. Second the person that committed these rapes never consulted God before doing so. Although I will be criticized by some for saying so if it would have been one of my daughters he never would have made it to trial. A Swap, a gallon of Maple syrup, stripped buck naked, chained to a tree and left. He may ask God for forgiveness but he would have no right to ask any parent.

    1. Debbie L Sturgill's Avatar Debbie L Sturgill

      Here hear! I totally agree with you. How about stake him over an anthill with wet leather strips tacked to pegs and honey poured all over him.

  1. KIM M SHAW's Avatar KIM M SHAW

    I will not address this Judge as "Your Honor". I see no Honor here. Plain and simple, you may have spoken to God, by calling out God's name, but God did not answer you with this Sentencing.

    "In God We Trust", slogan for a dollar ($!) bill. How do we value a Dollar? What is it worth? I value this Judge even less. I believe you lie somewhere between worm sh_t and the dirt.

    When you look at it at "Face Value", a Judge of this nature could not simply give anything more than a lesser sentence, not in their/his/her "Own Right." It would be like Convicting themselves/himself/herself.

    When a person of sorts, has lost control of themselves, their grounding in life, or left feeling loss, it is imperative they gain control in some Form or in a Manner. In order for some people to get control of a situation/themselves, the"Ultimate Surprising Shock Factor is to get someone off balance, and keep them off balance. IN THIS CASE - - - - Sadistic and Cruel, " RAPE!!!

    Judge, you may consider yourself victorious. There are some decisions in life, we just wish we would have done it differently. Is this one of those, For You?

    No Way, you can convince me, the God I Worship, answered ,,,,,,, No Way! Not only did this criminal hurt one (1) of God's children, but Four (4). He the Criminal and the Judge, should be Judged for breaking a Cardinal Rule. Karma is Real, and will be paid back with Interest.

    What the Hell, the Judge did the Criminal a Favor. He now, CAN NOT be Convicted for the same Crime.

    Was he taught a lesson? No! Will he do it again? Yes, Absolutely. Will be choose the same victims to victimize? Sorry to say. Chances are, and for several reasons.

    We must protect our children. That Word, is of God. The Supreme Court needs to Re-evaluate this Judge's standing and his values.

    This is not a Political ruling of, Democrat, go easy on the Criminal, or A Republican, throw the book at the Criminal. No, The Judge made this about God!

    Every Criminal will now ask for a Court Appointed Attorney and want his Case transferred to this Judge's Court.

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of Judges all over and every day making decisions like this or setting them free altogether. However, this is the first Case I've actually heard it being put off on God. What an Escape Route!

    Okay, I'll pray. Pray for the Girl's Healing, Pray for the Judge to Recognize and actually hear God's Voice.

    1. Patricia Susan Hanson's Avatar Patricia Susan Hanson

      He probably heard his “answer” from the Other God whose name is actually Satan. Satan and his evil spirits pose anyway they want to to people who are weak and believe what they hear in their thoughts. I believe that the judge is a male chauvinist himself and does not value females. But, I wonder what he would do if his daughter was raped?? This. Situation is horrible and lovely young girls have been damaged for LIFE. Heavenly Father never excepts an act of rape - EVER!

  1. Debbie L Sturgill's Avatar Debbie L Sturgill

    He can pray all he wants to to whichever god he chooses. But he certainly didnt pray to mine! He needs disbarring. Not for praying but for the ruling he passed down.

  1. Gwendolyn Lord's Avatar Gwendolyn Lord

    Yes, under the Patriarchy, their "God" says rape is no big deal, after all females are here on the planet to be used and abused. Here's where I see justice really being served: Both rapist AND judge, 15 years minimum in prison, no time off for good behavior. Lifetime parole, and registered as sex offenders. Must do 500 hours community service, which is per choice of victims. Manditory bi-monthly counseling sessions. And financial reparations to victims, up to 20% of perpetrators pay, 10% of judges. Judge cannot sit on bench, in perpetuity.

  1. Rev Mark D's Avatar Rev Mark D

    Reversible error?

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    Rev Page UK FFS This judge has no right to preside over court cases .He should be removed immediately.8 years probation then what.? And signing the sex offenders register what a joke.This perp should have gone to jail or face the death penalty.No excuse for the judge praying for intervention He is not in a fit state to hear anymore trials.End Of

  1. Clyde Lawrence Wilson's Avatar Clyde Lawrence Wilson

    It's misleading to ask whether judges should pray. Why not? However, when the answer from the invisible guy in the sky contradicts the rule of law, the rule of law should be the only thing considered.

    Sadly, SCOTUS is set to allow more public funding of religious schools. If the Reichwingnuts have their way, we will have publicly funded Talibaptist madrasas all over the country teaching nothing but religion.

    I'm glad that I'm 72 and not 22. We are so ******

  1. Zachary Max Morehouse's Avatar Zachary Max Morehouse

    Separation of Church and State exists for a reason. A judge has no right to base his legal decisions on what he believes God has told him, much the same as I have no right to judge another person.

  1. Michael Barton's Avatar Michael Barton

    Of course God is allowed in the Court Room. We're allowed our religious freedoms in America. There is no separation of church and state, only that laws cannot benefit one religion over the other.

    The Judge has every right to pray and come to decision based on that.

    It doesn't mean his decision came from God.

    At the end of the day, the Judge made the decision. Whether or not it was the right one is another debate, that should include evidence and data.

  1. AnnaMarie Ingrassia's Avatar AnnaMarie Ingrassia

    prayed? for what? for himself to be absolved from his own crime of a poor sentence for a rapist? THIS is NOT a "throw the first stone situation.

  1. Candice Beairs'Hodge's Avatar Candice Beairs'Hodge

    By all means pray but as a judge he needs to judge accordingly let the judgement fit the crime that person harmed another so therefore he should pray for that crime pray for his soul if you must but punish him for his crime but punish him for his crimes. God said Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and Render unto God that is God so the judge must obey the law of the land and punish him accordingly hope you don't punch him he will never learn not to do it again that it was wrong

  1. Elizabeth Allyn Smith's Avatar Elizabeth Allyn Smith

    The older I get, the less I understand.

  1. Ronaldo's Avatar Ronaldo

    Perhaps the judge made the best decision based on the law. If this young man did make mistakes, and does not have a history of violent behavior, probation would be sufficient incentive for him to behave. It costs money to incarcerate someone, and the taxpayers are funding that cost. Unless it can be shown that jailing someone will rehabilitate them and make them a better citizen, non-violent criminals should be punished in ways that don't cost the taxpayers so much.

    1. Patricia Susan Hanson's Avatar Patricia Susan Hanson

      You Feel that raping another human being is not a violent act?? What is wrong with you?

    2. Gerardo Salazar's Avatar Gerardo Salazar

      Do you really believe that after raping four ladies he will not do it again and again? In the Middle East, where I was fortunate to work for a long period the penalty for rape is death and I wholly agree with that. A person that has been raped will never be the same because not only his/her body has been desecrated but also the soul. Many victims end up committing suicide due to the pain and shame that never ends. Women and children deserve all the protection we can provide but we are not doing it.

      Rape is an absolute abomination and deserves a harsh punishment. To hell with the sick liberal mentality about being super kind to evil doers, many times relegating the victim to a position of feeling guilty for being at the wrong place/time.

  1. John Casillo's Avatar John Casillo

    "And so this is Christmas....and all thru the year.....".......rest in peace........Rev john

  1. Juan Rolón Rosario's Avatar Juan Rolón Rosario

    Forgive me how I am going to express myself, but everyone has the right to feel and express their opinion. Obviously the young man is a damned evil born by the actions that he carried out, since I have two daughters, I pray every day that Almighty God protects them from the evil that reigns in the world in which we live. We definitely have laws to try to live in peace and harmony, but it is not like that. The young person should receive the just punishment, of course I agree, according to our earthly laws, but the Judge, knowing the law and as a human being, has the negative dog to ask God for wisdom, regardless of the facts. I have so much to say as a former police officer in Puerto Rico, and if for me, he goes to hell, (God forgive me) but whether we like it or not there is a universal order. Perhaps through the Judge, God will send him to jail for much longer.

    1. Debbie L Sturgill's Avatar Debbie L Sturgill

      Brother Juan: its not enough of a punishment.

  1. Rob's Avatar Rob

    Setting aside all talk of the existence/non-existence of God, echoing what Mr. Cohen said in the article: if this had been a black defendent from public housing who pled guilty to 4 counts of rape of teenage girls, do you really think he would have gotten probation?

  1. James Paris's Avatar James Paris

    That judge needs to be disbarred, of he isn't gonna be doing his job.

  1. KIM M SHAW's Avatar KIM M SHAW

    I will not address this Judge as "Your Honor". I see no Honor here. Plain and simple, you may have spoken to God, by calling out God's name, but God did not answer you with this Sentencing.

    "In God We Trust", slogan for a dollar ($!) bill. How do we value a Dollar? What is it worth? I value this Judge even less. I believe you lie somewhere between worm sh_t and the dirt.

    When you look at it at "Face Value", a Judge of this nature could not simply give anything more than a lesser sentence, not in their/his/her "Own Right." It would be like Convicting themselves/himself/herself.

    When a person of sorts, has lost control of themselves, their grounding in life, or left feeling loss, it is imperative they gain control in some Form or in a Manner. In order for some people to get control of a situation/themselves, the"Ultimate Surprising Shock Factor is to get someone off balance, and keep them off balance. IN THIS CASE - - - - Sadistic and Cruel, " RAPE!!!

    Judge, you may consider yourself victorious. There are some decisions in life, we just wish we would have done it differently. Is this one of those, For You?

    No Way, you can convince me, the God I Worship, answered ,,,,,,, No Way! Not only did this criminal hurt one (1) of God's children, but Four (4). He the Criminal and the Judge, should be Judged for breaking a Cardinal Rule. Karma is Real, and will be paid back with Interest.

    What the Hell, the Judge did the Criminal a Favor. He now, CAN NOT be Convicted for the same Crime.

    Was he taught a lesson? No! Will he do it again? Yes, Absolutely. Will be choose the same victims to victimize? Sorry to say. Chances are, and for several reasons.

    We must protect our children. That Word, is of God. The Supreme Court needs to Re-evaluate this Judge's standing and his values.

    This is not a Political ruling of, Democrat, go easy on the Criminal, or A Republican, throw the book at the Criminal. No, The Judge made this about God!

    Every Criminal will now ask for a Court Appointed Attorney and want his Case transferred to this Judge's Court.

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of Judges all over and every day making decisions like this or setting them free altogether. However, this is the first Case I've actually heard it being put off on God. What an Escape Route!

    Okay, I'll pray. Pray for the Girl's Healing, Pray for the Judge to Recognize and actually hear God's Voice.

  1. Colleen McAllister's Avatar Colleen McAllister

    Anyone who considers themselves a person of faith would naturally pray or consult their chosen deity. I see nothing wrong with that. Change the word pray to thought and it would be the same. As a Christian I would have prayed over the decision. Translate that to I went over the facts in my head and feel comfortable with the decision

  1. Patricia Susan Hanson's Avatar Patricia Susan Hanson

    Prayer and belief in God is extremely important. But, this judge should be disbarred for not convicting this young man! Yes, we are all gods children. He loves all of us. But when it comes to raping one of gods daughters - that is an evil act and destroys them for the REST of their lives! These girls are God’S daughters and to rape them is an act of Satan not of God. It is not acceptable in any manner whatsoever! I feel this judge is a male chauvinist himself and does not value females . Would he like HIS daughter to be raped by this young man? Would that be all right with the judge?? This case is unbelievable! The judge should be kicked out of his position because he seems like he might be mentally ill or something...... God‘s law does not permit rape!

  1. Peggy Ann Warner's Avatar Peggy Ann Warner

    This judge prayed to an affluent, white god who told him this rapist is sorry, you can see that in the picture, and therefore you are expected to forgive him, because no one else will, and the check is in the mail. What a travesty of justice. Is it no wonder that people of other races are preponderantly incarcerated for longer sentences and milder offenses. Of course you hear all the misinformed people blathering about Critical Race Theory. This judge and perpetrator proved it in the most egregious manner. And for those white people who don’t believe it you better have money because it doesn’t extend to you. Wake up!

  1. Brien's Avatar Brien

    So, when do we get to label organized religion as domestic terrorism? It certainly has hundreds of years of proof to qualify.

  1. Dr. Jerry Moyes's Avatar Dr. Jerry Moyes

    This sounds like a violation of sepperation of church and state. The beliefs, practices, or religion of a convicted criminal, or Judge, should have no impact on trial or sentencing.

  1. Gerardo Salazar's Avatar Gerardo Salazar

    Let us examine how Christianity deals with the rapist: "If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives“ That’s it, no more.

    This was written thousands of year ago when women were regarded as mere objects, as it is today by many people so things have not changed a lot and apparently this judge is one-off them.

    As much as I believe in moral rules and restraints when it comes to Court business we have Codes, Regulations, etc, and as such the Judge should be well versed in them and act accordingly. New York State, where Niagara County is located, establishes the following for statutory rape depending on age and circumstances: Up to four years in prison

    Up to seven years in prison

    Five to 25 years in prison

  1. Rev Ned's Avatar Rev Ned

    Judges should pray for wisdom. This guy either didn’t or was denied.

  1. Frank Peter Guarino's Avatar Frank Peter Guarino

    Many deeds are done using God or any of the higher powers as a rationale. Everyday people to instances like these and they won't stop. Now here in the great United States of America we do have that expressly written article of separation of Church and State, which therefore the judge ethically violated.

    It is the same argument that people, including myself, claim about the Holy Bible. Many people feel that the Holy Bible is to be followed implicitly and do acknowledge that the Bible was written, several times over (ie- translations and versions) by man, whom is fallible. No man, including women and others, are prefect.

    Do I feel for the victims? ABSOLUTELY, as I, myself, am a victim of multiple rapes. The people have demanded this though, through legislation, protests and other measures by denying minimum sentencing requirements, claiming that they were unfair. We are currently in a climate of destruction and selfishness while all the while claiming entitlements and false rights. Until we stand up again, against this tyranny, we will be seeing more of this... may God help us all.

  1. Tami Lynn Holbury-Ferraro's Avatar Tami Lynn Holbury-Ferraro

    I believe God is non judgemental unlike what most religions depict. Therefore if we are to uphold our laws for safety,on earth, of others they are to uphold their positions as judges without any other influence but their own consciousness, or step down as judge.❤

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