Judge Sentences Drunk Driver To Bible Study


Written by Adam Peck

Circuit Court Judge Michael Nettles attached a rather odd — and unconstitutional — provision to the eight year prison sentence of a drunk driver: a mandatory bible study and what is essentially a book report on the Book of Job:

Circuit Court Judge Michael Nettles of Rock Hill has included in his sentencing of Cassandra Tolley the assignment of reading through the Book of Job and then writing a summary on the Old Testament Scripture.

Cassandra Tolley was convicted of drunk driving after she drove down the wrong side of the road and plowed into an oncoming car, seriously injuring two men. Her blood alcohol content was more than four times the legal limit.

Tolley undoubtedly deserved a stiff sentence, but sentencing someone to a religious activity clearly violates the Constitution’s ban on laws “respecting an establishment of religion.” As conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy explained in Lee v. Weisman, “[i]t is beyond dispute that, at a minimum, the Constitution guarantees that government may not coerce anyone to support or participate in religion or its exercise.”

Nettles’ biography on the South Carolina Judicial Department website lists his involvement with the Lake City First Baptist Church and his membership in the Foreign Missions Team.

Religion has clashed with the rule of law plenty of times before, though rarely during sentencing. Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was removed from his office in 2003 for refusing to comply with a federal court order to take down a monument of the Ten Commandments in front of the courthouse.

This post was originally published by ThinkProgress.


Photo: knowhimonline/flickr


Mel F.
Mel Fleming II5 years ago

He can attend church while in prison

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin5 years ago

Michael M.: What about "Cassandra", "she drove", "her blood alcohol"? Does that give you a clue that the article deals with a female defendant?

Jennifer M.
Jennifer M5 years ago

Yeah, cause Bible thumpers are SO perfect... I am so sick of people pushing THEIR religion on others! It really has to stop. This country was founded on religious freedom for crying out loud!

Robert C.
Robert Cruder5 years ago

Statistically, there are proportionately more Christians and fewer atheists in prisons than in the general population. Atheists are less likely to lie or to steal. They are more likely to plan and to carry out that plan. It is apparently beneficial to NOT have an imaginary friend on whom one can blame problems and by whom one will always be forgiven.

An order to read "God is not Great", "The End of Faith", "Letter to a Christian Nation" or "Breaking the Spell" has some statistical probability of reducing recidivism while the christian bible is more likely to increase it.

The judge's action therefore fails the Lemon test. It advances religion without any compelling societal benefit. Indeed, statistically he is doing harm.

Michael M.
Michael M5 years ago

HA! The drunk driver should take the sentence to appeals noting this is a violation of his constitutional rights (he could claim his religious view run counter to the bible!).

In any event: 1st Amendment of the US Constitution read "Congress shall pass NO LAW respecting an establishment of a religion..."

Miranda Parkinson

Plain ridiculous!

Brian Steele
Brian Steele5 years ago

I think Robert P has rather missed the point of the Book of Job, as it does anything but portray God and the Devil as drinking buddies (although I quite like the allusion, bearing in mind that this story is about a drunk driver).

It is also worth pointing out that the judge has not mandated in any way that this criminal should believe what the Book of Job actually has to say. He is mandating a book report because it does have a great deal to say about human relationships and the way in which people firstly react to difficult situations and secondly interact with each other. God only has a bit part in the narrative, in setting the scene for the main story.

Laura D.
Laura D5 years ago

The Book of Job? Aside from being blatantly unconstitutional, I find this a rather bizarre Biblical chapter to choose for someone. God is really quite a jerk in it. I'm not sure what this drunk driver is supposed to glean from this.

Ahron E.
Ahron E5 years ago

The Book of Esther would have been more appropriate because the distruction of the Jewish people almost came about becuase of drink.
The article doesn't say if the Judge gave her this assignment as a religious experience or as a seculer experience.

Robert Pavlick
Robert Pavlick5 years ago

Richard Zane S ends his comment with: "even if there is nothing wrong with the ancient myth as a legend."

But you know what Rich, even as myth or metaphor, the Book of Job is still absolutely dreadful. It basically portrays Satan almost as a friend of God and the two of them like drinking buddies making bets on mankind. God bets Satan that Satan can't can't destroy Job's loyalty to God and God ALLOWS Satan full sway in Job's life with the exception that he cannot take Job's life. So Satan then (while God watches) kills off all of Job's blood family and afflicts him with illness and sores, etc. God might just as well have tortured Job himself and killed Job's family himself. By standing by and watching, he was a passive accomplice and under any law of any land would go to prison as an accomplice.

To me, the Book of Job portrays an absolutely narcissistic, diabolical, sadistic deity certainly unworthy of worship. It portrays a domineering god with no self-esteem who knows so little about his creatures that he has to be continually testing them. This is why one of the characters in the Shakespearean play "King Lear" says:"As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport." When you visualize that, you could just see two little brats pulling the wings off of flies. And this is how the Old Testament portrays Almighty God ??????

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/judge-sentences-drunk-driver-to-bible-study.html#ixzz2045lFuNo