Alabama Attempts to Usher in a New Dark Age

Officials in Bay Minette, Alabama delayed a new program that would allow some nonviolent offenders to choose church over jail after a civil liberties group objected.

The “Operation Restore Our Community” initiative was slated to begin this week, but the southwest Alabama city’s legal team will take another look after the American Civil Liberties Union sent a cease-and-desist letter Monday.

via Reuters

What were they thinking?  The officials in Bay Minette, I mean.

I saw a small article about this tucked into a corner of an issue of the NY Daily News a few days ago and decided to look up more information about it online.  The Daily article didn’t mention anything about the ACLU or a protest; it was just all glowing and positive, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the reporter had suddenly forgotten about the separation of church and state provision in the US Constitution.

Reading the Daily article, I was mentally transported back to a time (a.k.a. the Dark Ages) when the Church presided over the sentencing and punishment/rehabilitation of criminals.  I thought we’d covered this ground already and gotten past it with that whole Enlightenment thing that happened in Europe.  The founding fathers of this country didn’t introduce the separation of church and state into the Constitution on a whim.

The officials mentioned in the article are trying to hide the obvious, that this is a drive to get criminals on the ‘right path’ by converting them to Christianity through extended exposure.  They’re instead claiming the weekly ‘check-ins’ are just for the purpose of accountability, and to access community based resources to help them fix their lives.

I wonder if such a thinly veiled excuse to get people into local churches will stand up in court?  I wouldn’t be surprised, since people can win lawsuits over spilled hot coffee, but I can’t believe that anyone would have thought that this would be OK, or that it would be true to the principles that this country stands for.  I’m not against churches.  I’m not against Christians practicing religion, but when you give someone an option of going to jail or going to church for a year, it’s not really a choice at all.  It’s more like a European telling natives in a newly ‘discovered’ land that they can either convert or be sold into slavery, or perhaps killed.  Freedom under a new religion will be preferable to a loss of liberty for most people.

There are reasons why church and state are separated in this country.  The US is diverse.  There are people of all faiths here and people who choose not to have any faith at all.  It’s one of our freedoms, and we should never be forced to choose between going to church or going to jail, even if the person in question is guilty of a crime.  A secular law system requires secular consequences.

8 thoughts on “Alabama Attempts to Usher in a New Dark Age”

  1. Tiny: I agree with you entirely, and I think the question about the potential Buddhist pretty much hits the mark on what I think the ACLU is questioning here. Why church? Why a religious establishment at all?


  2. I wonder, in case the offender was a Buddhist, where would they send him/her?It makes more sense to let the offenders chose community service or jail than church or jail.Besides, isn't it easier to choose church and PRETEND to be reformed than to go to jail? I wonder if they are promoting some charade here. Now, that is not justice.


  3. I can't disagree with you Ron, that some of the things the ACLU does, just doesn't make sense, but this isn't one of those things. Freedom of religion, and freedom from religion are both one of the ideas that this country was founded on. There should never be any time when the government gives you an option of going to church or being imprisoned, even if you deserve to be imprisoned.Also, have you stopped to consider the perversity of mentally associating church with punishment in the mind of the convict? How is that going to help him? If these church people want to help out in the community the way the article says, then they should be making preventative efforts, rather than trying to suck people into their congregations after the fact, in a way that's mandatory.


  4. Well, the ACLU has managed to stretch legal boundaries of 'rights' on the other side of the constitutional ledger. For example …. people can barely squeeze through the crowds on the main drag in Waikiki at night because of the huge number of street performers seeking 'donations' …. courtesy of the ACLU who took the ban to court and won under the “freedom of expression” clause. Go figure.


  5. as far as I'm concerned the ACLU is a bunch of publicity seekers. They've done guud, true, for our civil liberties, but they've also screwed up society even more. Probation is contingent on the incarcerated party not associating with known criminals. Like if probation officers actually check on this after putting in their 8 hours at the office. IMHO the Alabama program is a way to reduce recidivism since it'll introduce the prisoners into a new circle of acquaintances, instead of returning them back into the hood where they're more likely to share drugs and get caught up in gangland feuds etc. in the type of environment and life style that led to them getting thrown in prison to begin with. Now there is a difference had the prisoners been convicted for being non-believers, then given the same choice, but as long as the state doesn't push a dominant religion, I don't see the harm to the constitution by allowing an exception to the separation clause in this case. I think the true motive is that Alabama is struggling financially and this is a cost cutting strategy.


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