The city judge will either let misdemenor offenders work off their sentences in jail and pay a fine or go to church every Sunday for a year.
The wall that separates church and state in the United States has been torn down and rebuilt many times over the past two centuries. While the height and width of the wall has determined the ability for these two to intermingle, the “legal” solution being offered by one Alabama judge seems to have obliterated the wall entirely.
In a means to reduce crime in this small Alabama town, Operation Restore Our Community, will give offenders the choice of either serving jail time for their crime or attending church services regularly for one year. While defendants will be given the choice of faiths and churches, the question still begs asking; “can the government compel citizens to attend church as a means of punishment?” Have we crossed the line set forth in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment when we require those convicted of a crime to attend religious services rather than serve jail time? Or is the choice being provided these defendants, just that a choice? In other words, while you may attend church to commute your sentence you are not required to and thus the policy does not violate the high court’s precedent?