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In Alabama Juveniles Can Chose Church Or Jail

In Alabama Juveniles Can Chose Church Or Jail

 

Starting this week, one Alabama town has decided to ignore the First Amendment all together and offer certain juvenile offenders a choice in their punishment: church or jail.

The program is called Operation Restore Our Community and allows Bay Minette city judges the discretion to allow misdemeanor offenders the chance to work off their sentences in jail and pay a fine or to go to church every Sunday for a year. Those offenders who chose church are allowed to pick a house of worship, but they must check in weekly with the pastor and police until the one year attendance has been completed. At that point will the offender’s case be dismissed.

Bay Minette has about eight houses of worship in town. All of them are Christian and most of them are Baptist or Evangelical. So for juveniles of a faith other than Baptist or Evangelical the choice gets even sharper between converting to one of those faiths or doing time.

There is no constitutional gray area here and even the most conservative reads of the Establishment Clause cannot come up with a way to make this program constitutional. Even Justice Scalia finds offensive any “threat of penalty” that is used to “coerce anyone to support or participate in religion or its exercise,” and it is hard to read Operation Restore Our Community as anything other than that.

 

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Photo from garrydincher via flickr.

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81 comments

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1:33PM PST on Feb 2, 2012

Okay, I really can't see how this is going to help kids. Perhaps if they were to do some community work like helping the elderly or disabled they might learn some responsibility and empathy but church seems to me just a way of trying to indoctrinate kids into religion.

12:44PM PST on Feb 1, 2012

I worked in juvenile justice one on one with the kids and can tell you they will not become good citizens because they go to church. They will pretend to get religion and then go on their merry way after they have conned the "good people".

5:55AM PDT on Oct 4, 2011

Interesting, but not sure this will help- though with them choosing church, at least our tax dollars are not supporting them...

5:52AM PDT on Oct 4, 2011

to Jennifer M. - Who ever told you 'religious people are perfect' doesn't know, religion is simply the repetitious practice of behavior. e.g., 'Uncle Jack goes to the bar RELIGIOUSLY every Friday after work.' That certainly doesn't make Uncle Jack perfect, except in attendance - btw, it DOESN'T mean he gets drunk either!
You are among many who don't realize the difference between a Religion and a Relationship with a loving God.

5:38AM PDT on Oct 4, 2011

The operative word is - OPTION.

8:47AM PDT on Sep 29, 2011

Oh yeah, cause we all know religious people are perfect... This is absolutely insane! Not only is it just ridiculous, it will be a complete failure. I agree that kids need guidance, but not from church. Making someone afraid to go to hell is not the way to save them! Why on Earth do people think religion will save everyone?? Religion is not the answer. Religion is violent and unforgiving, no matter what anyone says. It's the reason most wars are fought, the reason most people can't get along. Community service and unbiased counseling is what these kids need, not god. I'm so sick of the religious community breaking all kinds of laws and violating not only the first amendment, but human rights! Ugh, TO EACH HIS OWN. This is the motto we should all live by.

8:46AM PDT on Sep 29, 2011

Oh yeah, cause we all know religious people are perfect... This is absolutely insane! Not only is it just ridiculous, it will be a complete failure. I agree that kids need guidance, but not from church. Making someone afraid to go to hell is not the way to save them! Why on Earth do people think religion will save everyone?? Religion is not the answer. Religion is violent and unforgiving, no matter what anyone says. It's the reason most wars are fought, the reason most people can't get along. Community service and unbiased counseling is what these kids need, not god. I'm so sick of the religious community breaking all kinds of laws and violating not only the first amendment, but human rights! Ugh, TO EACH HIS OWN. This is the motto we should all live by.

9:52PM PDT on Sep 28, 2011

Alabama never has had much use for the U. S. Constitution, so this isn't much of a surprise.

7:13PM PDT on Sep 28, 2011

At least in jail i would be guaranteed freedom of religion.

3:09AM PDT on Sep 28, 2011

Yeah that sounds about right, using the church as punishment. I've been in a few of those places and I tell you! I felt like I was in jail, I couldn't wait to get out! To me, the difference between prison and the church is that in prison, they separate the pedophiles from the general population.

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