Jail or Jesus?

by mhenry0818

In most states when you commit a misdemeanor (such as getting into a drunken brawl), you can assume there might be some jail time. Unless you’re in Alabama that is. The town of Bay Minette, Alabama has passed a policy where first time, non-violent offenders have the choice of going to church every Sunday for a year or going to prison. This is a diversion program focusing on rehabilitation rather than punishment. It doesn’t sound that bad either. Instead of having to go through the stigma attached with going to jail, including losing your job, one can simply attend a church in the area. Too bad this program in entirely illegal.

To start off with, the only institutes of religion in Bay Minette are Christian churches. They have a population of around 7,000, which is predominately some form of Christian. They have no mosques or synagogues to speak of. If you’re agnostic or atheist you can probably suffer through giving up your Sunday morning for a year. But if you are Jewish, Muslim, or any other religion, it might not be acceptable to pray in a different house of worship. Even if those who aren’t Christian in the community did not have a problem with this type of diversion, the very premise of there being a program to keep people out of jail by way of going to church violates a multitude of values we have in this country. Like, oh say, the Establishment Clause of the Constitution?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…”. A simple middle school analysis of this clause is enough to determine that the policy is unconstitutional. While Congress itself did not pass this law, it is an office superior to the town of Bay Minette, Alabama and as such this clause applies to the town.

No matter which way you want to look at it, a government agency in America has created a law that imposes a religion on a population. Proponents of the plan cite that they aren’t forcing anyone to go to church, and are just merely providing the opportunity. Nobody except religious people of other religions would turn down this offer. Ergo, this law is unconstitutional as it heavily pushes people into Christianity. Your thoughts?

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