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.

  • 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.