No church in a while? That could change if you get caught up in Bay Minette, Alabama.
The town is giving non-violent criminals an option. They can either serve prison time and pay a fine or work their sentence off by attending church weekly. Starting today, the city judge of Bay Minette will give offenders this choice as part of Operation Restore Our Community.
If you elect to attend church, you would have to do so every Sunday for a year, and have weekly check–ins with the pastor and police department in order to have your case dismissed. According to Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland, the program will save Bay Minette the $75 daily fee that it costs to house an inmate. Furthermore, Rowland feels that the ROC program is an effective alternative because “at the core of the crime problem was the erosion of family values and morals.” Apparently, forcing people to go to church for a year will change that.
Not everyone is in love with this new religious alternative. Olivia Turner, executive director of the ACLU in Alabama condemned the policy as “blatantly unconstitutional” as it “violates one basic tenet of the Constitution, namely that government can’t force participation in religious activity,” the Alabama Press-Register reports.
The real issue here is whether or not there’s a difference between sending people to jail and fining them or making them go to church for a year. This isn’t exactly Sophie’s Choice, but here’s one way to guarantee you don’t have to choose: stay out of Bay Minette, Alabama.