Prison or Church? (And other tough choices)

This Week’s Poll!

Alabama has a curious way of looking at punishment. In a program that was slated to begin last Tuesday, citizens of the city of Bay Minette convicted of first-time, non-violent misdemeanors were going to be offered a choice: prison or church.

The program, called Operation Restore Our Community, was delayed for legal review after it caused civil liberties advocates (and other people who aren’t insane) to completely freak out. “[T]he First Amendment still prohibits the government from becoming entangled in core religious exercise,” said ACLU attorney Heather Weaver. “The government may not serve as a conduit for church recruitment.”

Well, duh. This seems beyond obvious to us, but not to the Alabamians who support it, including the Bay Minette police chief who called it “a great program” and insisted it would go forward. Or to Robert Gates, one the participating pastors, who said, “You show me somebody who falls in love with Jesus, and I’ll show you a person who won’t be a problem to society.” Um… does that include Michele Bachmann?

We trust good sense will prevail and this whole thing will be declared unconstitutional — as it was when similar laws appeared in Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Virginia. But after it hits that roadblock, what will they try next? If these red states can’t force you to choose between prison and church, what are some other alternatives to prison they might suggest? What do YOU think?

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Before you leave, don’t forget to check out this week’s featured video!