A Christian judge in Florida recognized as a gifted Bible teacher and preacher could soon be kicked from the bench because she used her office to promote her side business called Gaza Road Ministries.
According to the ministry's website Leon County Judge Judith Hawkins founded Gaza Road Ministries in late 2010.
The ministry, says the website, was "modeled after Philip's encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:30-35. Gaza Road Ministries represents her desire to help others answer the question, 'Do you understand what you are reading?'"
It also notes that Judge Hawkins' "expertise is developing appropriate messages based upon themes selected by the inviting organization. She is conversant with both legal issues and Bible based topics."
According to the Tallahassee Democrat, however, the Florida Supreme Court questioned Hawkins' wisdom last Monday when it indicated that it plans to kick her off the bench as part of a judicial-misconduct case involving the use of her office to promote her ministry. The penalty is the most severe punishment the court can impose.
The Judicial Qualifications Commission first charged Hawkins with judicial-misconduct in December 2012, and amended the charges against her in June 2013. Hawkins is charged with violating five separate canons of judicial-conduct codes on numerous occasions.
Among the charges were: "using her office to promote a private business; failing to respect and comply with the law; failure to act in a manner promoting public confidence in the judiciary; failure to devote full attention to judicial office; and lack of candor with the JQC," according to the Democrat.
Hawkins was found guilty of selling and offering to sell her ministry products in the courthouse to lawyers and employees. She also reportedly promoted the sale of the products on a website, which included photographs of her in judicial robes and using her judicial assistant to promote the sale of ministry products among other charges, the Democrat said.
Last October, after a three-day hearing, the JQC had recommended that Hawkins be publicly reprimanded, suspended for 90 days and fined $17,000. Hawkins did not object to the ruling.
Last Monday, however, six justices of the Florida Supreme Court decided to take things further, noted the Democrat. After considering the case, they asked that Hawkins "show cause why removal from office is not the appropriate sanction in this case." She has until Aug. 14 to respond.
James A. Ruth, JQC hearing panel chair, noted that that "Hawkins was guilty of deleting subpoenaed financial records of her ministry, misleading investigators during depositions and refusing to turn over material without an official order," explained the Democrat.
"This conduct is the antithesis of respect for the law that Judge Hawkins has sworn to uphold," Ruth wrote.
But not everyone agrees with the move.
Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor decried the JQC investigation of Hawkins last year, in an op-ed in the Democrat.
"Like everybody else, Judge Hawkins is human and imperfect," he wrote. "But many in this community believe her imperfections do not warrant an insensitive, high-profile beat-down that is experienced by too many women in Leon County."
In a YouTube video showing Hawkins in ministry at the 5:35-mark, she said: "The greatest testimony I will ever be able to give is the testimony that when Jesus comes again, he'll call my name."
You can jump to the 15:35-minute mark in the video below to hear more of Judge Hawkins' preaching.