An Oklahoma judge has ordered a 17 year old man found guilty of DUI related manslaughter to go to church once a week for ten years. The American Civil Liberties Union has taken exception to it. Per the article:
Initially there was little outcry in Muskogee, Okla., last week when a judge, as a condition of a youth’s probation for a driving-related manslaughter conviction, sentenced him to attend church regularly for 10 years....But as word of the ruling spread in state and national legal circles, constitutional experts condemned it as a flagrant violation of the separation of church and state. This week, the American Civil Liberties Union said it would file a complaint against Judge Norman with the Oklahoma Council on Judicial Complaints, an agency that investigates judicial misconduct, seeking an official reprimand or other sanctions. We see a judge who has shown disregard for the First Amendment of the Constitution in his rulings,” said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the civil liberties union branch in Oklahoma....Randall T. Coyne, a professor of criminal law at the University of Oklahoma, agreed that the judge’s church requirement was unconstitutional. But unless the defendant fights the ruling, he said, civil liberties advocates have no way to challenge it in court, leaving the complaint to the judicial review agency as their only option.
This cannot stand. This is a per se violation of the First Amendment. It would also qualify as cruel and unusual punishment were the victim a non-believer. It violates much of the Bill of Rights and will not stand if pursued to SCOTUS, where not even Scalia would want to touch it.
No matter how ridiculous this is I'll bet the judge has quite a theist following regarding it. I'm glad the ACLU is pursuing it. I would like to see something done about having 'In God We Trust' on our money as well.
The other parts of the judge's "alternative sentence" sound like reasonable restorative justice.
But even if the defendant agreed to the church attendance condition, that part is still unconstitutional:
Mr. Alred told the court that he was happy to agree to church attendance and other mandates — including that he finish high school and train as a welder, and shun alcohol, drugs and tobacco for a year. By doing so, he is avoiding a 10-year prison sentence and has a chance to make a fresh start.
But his acquiescence does not change the law, Mr. Kiesel and others pointed out. “Alternative sentencing is something that should be encouraged, but there are many options that don’t violate the Constitution,” Mr. Kiesel said. “A choice of going to prison or to church — that is precisely the type of coercion that the First Amendment seeks to prevent.”
I too am glad the ACLU is pursuing it. (And can do without any sort of theism or "ceremonial deism" on our money as well. How about "In Good We Trust"?)
I like 'In Good We Trust'. I think the good without god approach is the way to go.
I completely agree! But man! If the judge's goal was to be punitive, he sure achieved it! I can't think of a worse punishment--I think I'd rather go to jail...but there's so many holy rollers there now (I hear) it's probably just as bad.