Alabama City Lets People Avoid Jail By Going To Church Instead

In a ridiculous violation of the separation of Church and State, Bay Minette, Alabama is offering those guilty of misdemeanors the choice between jail and a year of church. Now, I know what many of my atheist readers are thinking–having to attend church once a week is a punishment worse than jail, but think more carefully about this and you realize the city is actually interested in converting people, not punishing them here. This is clearly state imposition of religion, not of reformation, and giving the guilty a “choice”, a completely unbalanced choice, does not make it any less theocratic in nature.

via Religion Clause, more details on the story here.

On edit, I should have realized Friendly Atheist would already have extensive coverage, including details on who to contact to register your complaints.

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • F

    As if some form of community service wouldn’t be a better option than either.

    I don’t think they could make an excuse that would fly.

  • Chaz

    Is this proof that religions really are a punishment?

  • Gordon

    Can you listen to podcasts or music through the service sat quietly at the back?

  • trepto

    A friend of mine was given the same choice about a decade ago here in Virginia. Funnily enough, his court-ordered church attendance was responsible for the longest stretch of time away from his “home” church in his life; at the time, he attended weekly without any mandate other than societal.

  • Marta Layton

    This is truly, truly outrageous. The church/state issue (and yes, there is one) and also the issue of why it’s okay to subject people to jail if justice could be served on an “out-patient” basis. It’s really hard to know where to start with this.

    (Btw, I linked to you at the bottom of my own blog post on this issue.)

  • Alex

    So how is this possibly legal? Why not have them go to a Mosque or a Synagogue?

  • fastlane

    Alex, it’s not legal in the US, and there are previous cases where this has been addressed. (Don’t have time to do a thorough search now.) It’s pretty well settled law.

    It can be legal if the court allows the person to choose a religious or equivalent secular service of their preference, but this rarely happens, especially in the more backwater parts of the US.