Alabama Judge Tells Offenders, “Jail or Church!”
In something that is sure to ignite a battle of separation of church and state, a small town judge in Alabama is giving small time offenders the chance to go to jail and pay a fine, or go to church for a year.
Known as “Operation Restore Our Community”, a city judge in Bay Minette is allowing misdemeanor offenders the chance to go to jail and pay a fine, or go to church every Sunday for a year and have the charges dismissed. So far, over 50 churches have signed up for the program in which the offenders must check in with the pastor and police once a week. Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland has said the program is not a violation of the First Ammendment since the offenders are given a choice of going to jail or church.
Critics of the new policy have said it will be a violation of the First Ammendment if Christian churches are the only allowed religious institutions to attend. As of now, it is unknown if any synagogues, buddhist temples, or mosques have signed up to participate with the program. Also, some have noted the lack of a non-religious alternative, that would also result in the dismissal of charges, would leave people like Athiests and Agnostics with a lack of choice.