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Jesus Saves You From Doing Time

Jesus Saves You From Doing Time

Did you know that people who go to church are inherently good people? That they never do anything wrong or make bad decisions? Oh, you didn’t? That’s because it’s bunkum.

Somebody needs to tell that to Muskogee County, OK District Judge Mike Norman.

17-year-old Tyler Alred was convicted of manslaughter after colliding with a tree, killing his passenger. He had been drinking and, although under the legal limit, since he was a minor he was considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol. Last week, Alred’s conviction was deferred under the condition that — wait for it — he attend church on Sunday for 10 years.

Oh separation of church and state. You’re doing it so wrong.

Let’s think about this for a second. Part of this young man’s punishment is to go to church for 10 years. One could interpret this in one of two ways:

1. Going to church is horrible and basically like going to jail.

2. Going to church will help this guy mature into a responsible human being.

Somehow I doubt it’s number one.

I have two problems with this. First, there is no possible way this is legal. As the Tulsa World points out, if this sentence were challenged it would be unlikely to be upheld. The church/state issues are staggering:

Randall Coyne, a professor of law at the University of Oklahoma, said the church-attendance condition probably wouldn’t withstand a legal challenge but that someone would have to file such a challenge.

“It raises legal issues because of (the separation of) church and state,” he said.

Coyne said defense lawyers in other cases have successfully challenged orders that their clients attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings because of AA’s spiritual component.

But, of course, this would require a legal challenge. And, come on. This guy got probation if he agreed to go to church for 10 years. What would you do?

I’m offended by this ruling not only as a trained lawyer, but as a None. I mean, really. I was long ago disabused of the notion that churchgoers are inherently better people. Churchgoers are just like everyone else. Some of them are really great, genuine people, but others are definitely not.

Going to church (or any other religious service, for that matter) doesn’t make you a better person its own. Most of my friends are faithless, and they are the nicest, most compassionate people I’ve ever met. I wouldn’t want to extrapolate so far as to say that non-faith causes good behavior, but it certainly doesn’t prohibit it. To assume otherwise is insulting and dehumanizing. And, perhaps more importantly, it lets people who are supposedly religious off the hook for their bad behavior. (I think we could all name a few congressmen who fit this description.)

If this was an isolated incident, I might not be so upset. But it isn’t. According to the Tulsa World, this isn’t the first time this particular judge has sentenced a person to church. And earlier this year, a South Carolina judge sentenced a drunk driver to Bible study.

Jesus saves, indeed.

Here’s the kicker: Alred already goes to church every Sunday, according to his attorney:

Defense attorney Donn Baker said that although the church requirement is unusual, it is not something he intends to challenge.

“My client goes to church every Sunday,” Baker said. “That isn’t going to be a problem for him. We certainly want the probation for him.”

Oh good. I can tell this sentence is really going to change Alred’s life.

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Image credit: Ryk Neethling

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226 comments

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11:55AM PST on Feb 21, 2013

insane. although I find it humorous that church is being used as a punishment! I KNEW I wasn't the only one who thought it was torture to listen to that bull for an our!

8:45PM PST on Dec 26, 2012

Rainbow W. "Imagine: in a lot of states, I can't serve on a jury, serve as a Judge and in some cases practice the law. Why? Because I'm an atheist."

Can't believe it ! It's totally nut ! In what "democracy" are you living in ? In France, that would be unthinkable to even propose such a thing as debarring atheists from any position....

12:17PM PST on Dec 26, 2012

This Judge should be disbarred. Imagine: in a lot of states, I can't serve on a jury, serve as a Judge and in some cases practice the law. Why? Because I'm an atheist. This proves my point perfectly: theists cannot separate themselves from their religion. Therefore they are a danger. This will just encourage theists to do harm. After all if they can get a religious nut of a Judge, they will only go to church and get no punishment, thereby continuing to be a danger to the public.

8:43AM PST on Dec 26, 2012

520 Sundays in a church he already attends and he's off the hook of causing a young man's death and driving under the influence. Well, I guess USA is following suit of some other Banana Republics I can name, when it comes to sentencing. So sick of judges and courts disregarding the meaning of the law and the lifes lost. Noone put a gun to his head and forced him to drink and drive! Yes, young people do stupid things, but this isn't a prank or a joke. A young man is no more and his family will never see him again. Justice? No. There's never going to be any as long as we have judges and courts that uses their own beliefs instead of the letter of the law.

5:32AM PST on Dec 5, 2012

If it works and gets someone straight, then the taxpayers don't have to support them.

1:47AM PST on Dec 4, 2012

This cannot be legal in anyway. Losing complete respect for the system now.

8:05AM PST on Nov 30, 2012

Drunk driving, especially when it results in manslaughter, is a serious crime, and needs to be treated seriously by judges. Sending someone to church for this is just ridiculous.

7:40AM PST on Nov 30, 2012

So what happens when a drunk atheist appears before this judge? Sentence her/him to a school of theology in hopes of persuade atheists to convert?

I've been to alcoholics anonymous and personally being a non-believer, found AA to be unhelpful, because of the higher power meme. But in this 'man's' case, being sentenced to AA for ten years would make more sense to me, as he doesn't have a problem in the faith department.
'

9:47PM PST on Nov 26, 2012

Completely absurd. That judge needs to see a psychiatrist - after he's removed from the bench.

7:25PM PST on Nov 26, 2012

Mandatory taking of naltrexone (Revia - brand name) will reduce drinking and coupled with talk therapy would do much more than AAA or church. When will be rational enough to give judges this power?

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