In Bay Minette, Alabama, felons are being given the opportunity to climb the wall. Not the prison wall, mind you. The Alabama court and local police are helping felons over the wall of separation of church and state by giving convicted citizens an opportunity to avoid jail if they volunteer — so long as it is with a church.
Non-violent offenders with misdemeanor convictions are given a list of local churches unless they want to wait in jail and pay a fine. The constitutional problems are magnified by the absence of anything other than churches as an alternative to jail.
Town police chief Mike Rowland insists that this will save the city $75 per day to jail citizens and is based on the consensus of “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.”
To help Rowland make the case for an entanglement challenge, Rev. Robert Gates added You show me somebody who falls in love with Jesus, and I’ll show you a person who won’t be a problem to society.”
Of course, in addition to the absence of secular options, no mosques or synagogues are listed.
It will be interesting how much of that $75 per day savings will be spent on the litigation over this unconstitutional program.
In defense, Rowland insists that this is constitutional because there remains a choice between church and jail so that no one is being forced to serve the Lord. If that were the case, we could have extensive entanglement between church and state. Clearly, some judges and justices would agree. Justice Scalia in McCreary County v. American Civil Liberties Union, 545 U.S. 844 (2005), wrote a dissent that gave voice to this view of an accept monotheism in curtailing the scope of separation of church and state — virtually reducing the guarantee to the actual establishment of an official state religion:
Besides appealing to the demonstrably false principle that the government cannot favor religion over irreligion, today’s opinion suggests that the posting of the Ten Commandments violates the principle that the government cannot favor one religion over another. . . . That is indeed a valid principle where public aid or assistance to religion is concerned, . . . but it necessarily applies in a more limited sense to public acknowledgment of the Creator. If religion in the public forum had to be entirely nondenominational, there could be no religion in the public forum at all. One cannot say the word “God,” or “the Almighty,” one cannot offer public supplication or thanksgiving, without contradicting the beliefs of some people that there are many gods, or that God or the gods pay no attention to human affairs. With respect to public acknowledgment of religious belief, it is entirely clear from our Nation’s historical practices that the Establishment Clause permits this disregard of polytheists and believers in unconcerned deities, just as it permits the disregard of devout atheists.
Many fear that there is now a non-separation majority on the Court, though I count four justices who are reliable on such issues for the non-separation side. Nevertheless, there is clearly a shift on the courts toward greater accommodation of faith in government programs — a trend encouraged by President Obama who not only preserved George Bush’s faith-based programs but actually expanded on them.
31 thoughts on “Alabama Courts Give The Convicted The Choice Between Jail and Church”
“Well of course they would choose a church BUT they really should have secular options.”
Nursing homes and community parks come to mind.
“It will be interesting how much of that $75 per day savings will be spent on the litigation over this unconstitutional program. ”
What is “All of it and then some”?
I’ll take “Stupid Unconstitutional Decisions” for $500, Alex.
How does the church benefit? Is this a transfer of slave labor from the jail to the church? This sounds like something potentially sick and twisted, I’m sure nothing good will come from this.
it’s Bay Minette, Alabama. to them methodists are a ferrin religion.
if a person who is sentenced to church, later goes back and robs the church, is the county liable.
now i’m giving myself a headache.
Your pilfering preacher example makes my head hurt. How about the choice of jail time or community service at the closest mosque?
what if you’re a preacher whose crime is stealing from the offering plate?
If the action has a secular purpose, I think it is fine BUT there is an presumptive issue of bias that needs to be dealt with in some objective way before this option should be adopted as policy.
And as mentioned above with AA, the court would still need to take notice of the religious component, and not mandate “forced exercise”.
If people are being put in jail for crimes so minor that attending church will repay society then maybe society needs to re-think what it considers a crime for which incarcerations is appropriate IMO.
Unconstitutional on its face.
“To help Rowland make the case for an entanglement challenge, Rev. Robert Gates added You show me somebody who falls in love with Jesus, and I’ll show you a person who won’t be a problem to society.”
Man, if George Orwell were still alive, he’d be kicking himself for not putting those words in the mouth of Moses the Raven. “Opiate of the people”? I have no idea what you’re talking about!
Every once in a while, someone in one of these towns accidentally pays attention to what Jesus was actually talking about (instead of the money-making/political speech of the pastor) and, boy, do they stir up “problem[s] to society.”
It’s the crappy contemporary music that gets me. Going from Bach to Michael W. Smith would make ME a wrathful god too.
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