So apparently in East Texas a judge has ordered that a man marries his girlfriend because he assaulted her ex-boyfriend.

The conditions for probation were:

  • Marrying his girlfiend within 30 days
  • Writing Bible verses; and
  • Attending counselling.

This got me wondering: is something that's happened (and reported on by either media or court reporters) before? If it's happened before in Texas, I don't think I'd be overly surprised, but has it happened elsewhere?

  • Are you asking if it's happened, or if it's been sustained?
    – cpast
    Aug 8, 2015 at 16:26
  • I suppose I'm asking if it's happened before.
    – jimsug
    Aug 8, 2015 at 16:26
  • 1
    I'm far more surprised by the admissibility of the Bible verses part. That can't be legal in the U.S. Then again, it's Texas. They already act like they're their own sovereign nation half the time... Aug 10, 2015 at 18:57
  • I couldn't find a precedent for this...
    – Pat W.
    Aug 10, 2015 at 21:58
  • 2
    @ParthianShot: I suppose it could be legal if the judge knew that the defendent was a practicing Christian, and requiring a practicing Muslim to write relevant Quoran verses could be legal too. But also, many bible verses (not all) are about ethical and lawful behaviour and not about religion at all and contain things that anyone should do, including atheists, Hindus, Muslims, Wiccans and so on.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 4, 2017 at 9:14

2 Answers 2


This happened despite the fact that the marriage and Bible verses requirement were almost surely illegal and similar things have happened on and off, mostly in rural courts with non-attorney judges, for pretty much as long as the U.S. has been a country (and earlier).

The trick is that the orders take effect unless someone appeals them, and since deals like this are usually a result of a plea bargain which waives rights to an appeal, and even if the result is simply imposed by the judge, one has to consider if taking the case up on appeal, having the sentence reversed, and then having it remanded to the same judge for resentencing would be worse from the perspective of the defendant, given the broad authority of a sentencing judge in a minor case like this one, than simply accepting the illegal sentence.

Also, cases that aren't appealed never create precedents and aren't generally available among resources used by legal researchers, so they systemically evade documentation in easily available sources.


This has taken place over the past century, mainly in the southern states of the United States.

These were the ones that popularized the term "shotgun" wedding. A man would be forced to marry his pregnant girlfriend, or face the business end of a shotgun. There would be a "mob" of people involved, so if a shotgun went off "accidentally" (on purpose), no one person could be blamed.

Because such maneuvers were part of the "popular" justice system, they carried over into formal justice system as well (with popular approval). The other parts, about writing Bible verses and getting counseling, would also be typical of the so-called "Bible belt".

  • 1
    Why the downvote? Downvoting without explanation is not very helpful.
    – phoog
    Oct 8, 2018 at 14:48
  • @phoog: The downvote is probably not on "legal" grounds. This kind of downvote comes from someone who feels that I was "dissing" his home region (the south) even though it is true.
    – Libra
    Oct 8, 2018 at 15:40

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