Alabama criminals sentenced to time in church

The separation between church and state has narrowed a bit in Alabama, where judges are now sentencing criminals to time behind bars or in a church pew.

Freedom of religion can get weird.

Freedom of religion inspires great works of satire.

WKRG in Mobile reports city judges in nearby Bay Minette began giving non-violent criminals that fateful choice this week.

“Operation Restore Our Community,” which could be called “Operation We Lock Up More People Than We Can Afford,” will save the town of 8,000 a lot of cash, if offenders choose to get right with Jesus (or Allah).

Lawbreakers get to pick the church of their choice, but must check in with the pastor once a week for a year to get off the legal hook.

Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland told WKRG it costs his department about $75 per inmate per day to feed, house and delouse criminals.

So far, 56 churches in North Baldwin County are participating. I bet none are Wiccan.

Rowland says the program doesn’t violate separation of church and state issues, but must not have run across any scorned atheists or ACLU lawyers, who are already considering a legal assault.

“This policy is blatantly unconstitutional,” said Olivia Turner, executive director for the ACLU of Alabama in an article in the Mobile Press-Register. ”It violates one basic tenet of the Constitution, namely that government can’t force participation in religious activity.”

Those planning to jaywalk in Alabama may want to go ahead and Google  ”Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster” locations near Mobile.

25 comments Add your comment


September 26th, 2011
5:10 pm

Hmmmm? Jail or Church? That’s a tough choice. Sitting in either sounds like equal punishment to me.


September 26th, 2011
5:19 pm

I like how the ACLU is quick to condemn, but slow to recommend viable alternatives.


September 26th, 2011
5:25 pm

Oh, I wouldn’t say that.
Going to church every week, always with a new T-shirt could be awesome.
I think I probably would start with one of “KISS”(Knights in the Service of Satan), you know, to take it easy at first. Then maybe Antichrist and “My god is Thor, you know, the one with the hammer. I heard, yours likes nails?”. Of course, one with the almighty, holy Spaghetti monster would be a must too.
Well, I would probably end in prison, but it would be worth it.


September 26th, 2011
5:30 pm

I would think community service would be a better option that church. What about Jail or Community Service? I doubt this will change behavior.

Elder Flower Child

September 26th, 2011
5:41 pm

This is wrong, just plain out wrong. The separation of church and state is for a reason…look at the countries where it is not. I suppose next we will be told that women cannot drive, and must cover their bodies totally, and our men will be indoctrinated in ways to live which are acceptable to the mullahs, and imans, and any other dictator in charge. I do understand that they may want to find other ways of dealing with their criminals…but forcing religion on a thug or delinquent is not the solution. And who is going to pay to delouse the churches?


September 26th, 2011
5:43 pm

Would promising to watch Benny Hinn on TV every Sunday morning count?

trouble is a brewin

September 26th, 2011
5:56 pm

Hmmmm? Jail or Church? That’s a tough choice. Sitting in either sounds like equal punishment to me

How about Jail or Hell? Where the fire is not quenched and the worm dieth not.


September 26th, 2011
6:11 pm

Why is it wrong that a justice system finally offer a real chance at rehabilitation? No one is being forced to go to church. If you read the article it clearly states that those convicted are given a choice of church or jail. It seems much better to me to be able to choose your “punishment.” Maybe the reason all of you atheists hate Jesus, Christians and/or church is because you feel the conviction of your choice to deny His existence.

I’m sure this thread will be followed by a plethora of atheists who say they don’t care what others believe, blah blah, “we don’t want to be discriminated against” blah blah “God isn’t real’ blah blah. But guess what, if you don’t believe in God, why do you put so much energy into convincing others of his lack of existence? It would seem to me that if you don’t believe in something that the issue would stop right there. Let’s think about this one. At Christmas, do you go around protesting Santa Claus? Do you have attorneys try to stop little children from writing letters to him for presents? Why not? We know Santa isn’t real but you don’t care that parents lead their children into believing in him. So why is it that when we teach people about God and try to help them live a better life that you have such an adverse reaction?

Here is the reason. Deep down you know that there is something more to life and the shear thought of that shakes you to the core. That feeling that you are having in your heart right now is conviction. If you don’t believe me let’s just see how many of you post something after this to try and disprove His existence.

So go ahead, hold tight to your theories, pop cultures attempts to debunk God and your contempt; all of that is chaff. One day when all of that is gone you will have to answer for your rejection of Him and then He will honor your decision. But just remember it’s not to late to turn from your sinful ways, repent and ask Christ into your heart. The miracle is not that we accept Him but that He has accepted us. Jesus loves you, I love you and there is nothing you can do about it!

easy choice, trouble

September 26th, 2011
6:12 pm

I’ll definitely take hell. I wouldn’t fit in well in heaven; I don’t like wearing white and I hate harp music.

what is this heart business?

September 26th, 2011
6:17 pm

FINALLY, what does Jesus want with my heart? I thought zombies preferred eating brains.

Also, I love you too!

Atlanta Native

September 26th, 2011
6:23 pm

They do not HAVE to go to church, there is another option. I think atheist evangelists need to see this as an opportunity to move into Alabama. I don’t know what the agnostics will do, but then again, neither do they!

Touched by his Noodly Appendage

September 26th, 2011
6:44 pm

“But guess what, if you don’t believe in God, why do you put so much energy into convincing others of his lack of existence?”

I don’t believe in God, nor do I put much energy into convincing others of anything. If you want to believe in mystical, imaginary friends more power to you. Just leave me alone.

I wonder why so many religious people want to put so much energy into getting me to believe in their faith? Here is the reason. Deep down you know the whole thing is just plain silly. But you need more people to sign on to your faith to validate your belief and make you feel better about your imaginary friends.

The issue here isn’t whether there’s a god or not, it’s why Alabama doesn’t understand the concept of separation of church and state.


September 26th, 2011
6:48 pm

I really like it. But perhaps it would be more defensible in the eyes of a liberal federal judge if there were a second “non-jail” option offered.


September 26th, 2011
7:03 pm

They’re being offered a choice – not being forced to the church. I agree with Ralph, maybe add another option – jail, church or community service. I believe in God but have a hard time with churches, others may feel that way too.

Atlanta Native

September 26th, 2011
7:08 pm

I was going to recommend either a Michael Bay or Merchant Ivory film festival, but that has 8th Amendment problems.


September 26th, 2011
7:20 pm

Touched by his Noodly Appendage:

I am not looking for validation from others and I am not offended by your blasphemous comments. That is how I expect a non-believer to behave. The reason us “religious people” try to evangelize folks like yourself is because were are commissioned by Jesus in the New Testament to share the good news with the world. By the way, I don’t consider myself a religious person. Religion is rituals, routines and actions that people use to try and earn favor with God. Since that is impossible to do I prefer to be spiritual which implies that I have surrendered to an all powerful God who has forgiven my sins through His sacrifice.

As for the separation of church and state, there is a clear separation you can go to church or go to jail. The choice is theirs to make. Don’t get arrested in Alabama and you won’t have to worry about that will you?

Give ME Jail

September 26th, 2011
7:26 pm


I’d go to jail before I’d spend a day (let alone a year)with people like you with your nonsense.


September 26th, 2011
7:36 pm

Maybe it is nonsense, maybe it isn’t. Why do you think it’s nonsense.

Church or jail? « Just a link

September 27th, 2011
1:35 am

[...] Alabama criminals sentenced to time in church [...]

Marilyn LaCourt

September 27th, 2011
9:44 pm

The first commandment:
God said “love me or go to hell”.
The Judge said, “Love god or go to jail”.

[...] or Jesus. Here is an article, with commentary, on Operation “ROC” written by George Mathis: Alabama criminals sentenced to time in church | News To Me with George Mathis The separation between church and state has narrowed a bit in Alabama, where judges are now [...]


September 28th, 2011
12:17 pm

Your argument with the basis of Santa Claus is fairly inappropriate. Santa claus is an imaginary friend we all grow out of; Christianity (insert your faith/religion here) is one only some of us grow out of by questioning it’s truth just like a child questions Santa; the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny. You cannot say Santa doesn’t exist because we can prove it. I’m sure there are millions of children out there that would argue in his favor. Just like there are millions out there that want to impose their imaginary friends on free thinkers like myself. I was raised Christian, the only thing that makes me a sinner is my outright denial that any god, let alone a doctored up Christian version of a pagan god, does not exist literally based on historical fact. So you see you’re not savig me from my sins, you’re asking me to lead a life of delusion, ignorance and bigotry. In some ways, even atheists are less of sinners than you are.


September 28th, 2011
12:20 pm

So I have to go to jail because I don’t have faith in an imaginary friend? That doesn’t sound like much of an option to me. Maybe instead of promoting ignorance we work to educate criminals and bring them to reason? Rather than delusion?


September 29th, 2011
7:40 pm

All of you are idiots…read the article AGAIN…it is an OPTION…jail or church. That is not government forcing anyone to church. It is giving you the chance if you want it..otherwise, you go to jail. King of Englad was head of Church of England. This is choose if you want to go to church and then you get to choose the church. BIG HUGE difference from forced belief in one church that our constitution was protecting us from.


October 7th, 2011
7:56 pm

Just when I thought that the judicial system couldn’t be any stupider. Surprise!