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.
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.