Choice Of Punishment: Jail Or Church Attendance

You have to wonder about the small town of Bay Minette, Alabama. Just what part of the First Amendment’s establishment clause do they not understand?

A small town in Alabama is offering non-violent offenders the choice between doing prison time and paying a fine, or working their sentence off by going to church every week.

The city judge of Bay Minette will give offenders the choice beginning Tuesday, as part of Operation Restore Our Community or “ROC,” according to WKRG News. If someone goes for the church option, they have to attend every Sunday for a year and check in weekly with the pastor and the police department before their case can be dismissed.

Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland said the program would save the town the $75 a day it costs to house an inmate. And, he said, “it was agreed by all the pastors that at the core of the crime problem was the erosion of family values and morals. We have children raising children and parents not instilling values in young people.”

You have to wonder what country these people think they live in, or perhaps what century. Did none of them… the police chief, the town leaders, and the pastors in town, all of whom apparently signed off on the policy… learn about the Bill of Rights in school? If you are looking for “people unclear on the concept,” try Rowland himself:

Rowland responded that the policy doesn’t violate the separation of church and state because the offender can choose whichever church he wants. Rowland also noted that non-Christians can choose their own place of worship, though the Press-Register pointed out that no mosques or synagogues are participating in the program because there are none in the area

A quick glance at teh Google shows Bay Minette as having Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Episcopal, Assembly of God and a couple of less familiar denominations. There appear to be no Jewish or Muslim establishments. And no UUs.

At least the state ACLU understands:

“This policy is blatantly unconstitutional,” Olivia Turner, executive director of the ACLU in Alabama, told the Mobile Press-Register. “It violates one basic tenet of the Constitution, namely that government can’t force participation in religious activity.”

Just how difficult is that to comprehend?

Alabama has a necessarily very active ACLU; I skimmed their site and found no reference to this violation but I’m sure they will take action on it.

 

 

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Comments

  • MandT  On Wednesday September 28, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Back to Salem! Let me know when they burn a witch.

    • Steve  On Wednesday September 28, 2011 at 2:49 pm

      Does it count if they burn a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows?

  • jams o donnell  On Wednesday September 28, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Fuck it I’ll take jail!

    • Steve  On Wednesday September 28, 2011 at 2:50 pm

      jams, with no UU fellowships or Quaker meetings in town, I’m with you… jail it is!

  • ellroon  On Wednesday September 28, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    I pointed on on Facebook that they didn’t specify WHICH church: Reformed Druid? Unitarian Atheists? How about a church thought up on the spot with a follower of one? I think it’s wonderfully wide open for misuse and abuse and so I’d take church anytime.

    Obviously the judge has never found guilty ANYONE in his court who was a religious person… /snark

    • Steve  On Wednesday September 28, 2011 at 2:53 pm

      ellroon, I know some UU atheists (also, oddly, some UU Christians; we don’t play favorites), but the Druids (actually Pagans) I know may or may not be reformed. I’m sure Chief Rowland would reform them right quickly.

    • Steve  On Wednesday September 28, 2011 at 2:57 pm

      BTW, “UU” is an absolutely standard label and a whole lot easier to say and spell than either “Unitarian” or “Universalist” … feel free to use it.

      When the local youth group went to a convention perhaps 20 years ago, they made up some T-shirts. There wasn’t room on the shirts for “First Unitarian Universalist Church, Houston,” so they abbreviated it as “FUUC Houston” … to the delight of the church membership. Not exactly a stodgy bunch, those UUs!

  • hipparchia  On Monday October 3, 2011 at 9:39 am

    bay minette is just down the road from me. lotta religious folks here, both the fundamentalist nuts and and just plain good people, even if they are deeply religious.

    the city is about 1/3 black. i don’t know about the rest of the country, but here in the south, their churches are just about the only social institution that has NOT failed the black population. like you, i can’t stand the idea of this mixing of church and state, but if it’s serving as an end run around the wholesale jailing of black people, i can’t help but like the idea.

    speaking of end runs around bureaucracy, check out the story of how bay minette became the county seat: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_Minette,_Alabama

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