Seriously Alabama? Now I know that being stuck in church every Sunday morning for many feels like jail but how can they really be allowed to do something like this? What’s the alternative for anyone of no faith or with a religion that doesn’t use a traditional church or one that you can’t find in a small town in Alabama? This makes absolutely no sense to me, but that’s probably because I’m trying to look at it from the logical, reasonable, realistic side of things.
The city judge in Bay Minette (AL) will let misdemeanor offenders choose to work off their sentences in jail and pay a fine; or go to church every Sunday for a year.
If offenders select church, they’ll be allowed to pick the place of worship but must check in weekly with the pastor and police.
If the one-year church attendance program is completed, the offender’s case will be dismissed.
Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland says the program could change the lives of people heading down the wrong path. So far, 56 churches are participating.
Wow, Alabama. Have you not heard of the First Amendment?
I’d insist that they let me join a pastafarian or satanic church or something.
Has someone talked to FFRF about this?
Somebody should! Based on the FAQ on their website, it seems like they’re prepared to deal with this kind of case. (It talks about AA, but I assume this would be the same sort of thing…)
The trend of current case law shows that forcing a prisoner or probationer to attend A.A. or N.A. or other religiously centered rehabilitation program is increasingly seen as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Courts from the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 11th Circuits have all explicitly or implicitly ruled that this is true. In order to establish such a claim, prisoners must generally show three things: (1) that the program is religious; (2) that if they do not attend the program they will either (a) lose some benefit they are otherwise entitled to or (b) be subject to some detriment or punishment; and (3) that there is no secular alternative available.
They have a form for reporting state/church violations right here. I don’t know if it’s helpful for someone not in that jurisdiction to report it, though…is anyone in Alabama? Please pass this along!