|Jail or Jesus? Sounds like an easy choice|
|Written by Addie CaDavid, Columnist|
|Monday, 10 October 2011 21:05|
Back in September, an Alabama town, Bay Minette, introduced a law that would allow those who have been found guilty of a non-violent crime the option of jail, paying a fine, or attending church for a year.
The idea is that those who are not yet hardened criminals have the chance to get back on the right path, according to Police Chief Mike Rowland. He explained to WKRG that the best part of the program is the longevity it provides.
For myself, the choice would be pretty obvious. I can’t afford to pay a fine and I would most likely last two minutes in jail, so church it is. Who wouldn’t want to go sing hymns, sit in a pew with some nice people and pray the church has snacks after?
While the choice might be obvious, is it one that this town should be offering?
First, I am actually surprised this is being talked about in October. I thought the law would have been pretty much done away with by now. Not because I don’t think church can provide some benefits, but moreso because it’s blatantly unconstitutional.
If I could direct the town of Bay Minette’s attention to the U.S. Constitution, there is a large part dedicated to the fact that the government cannot force participation into any religious activity. Rowland explained this was not a violation because offenders could choose to go to church over jail, but is that even a real choice?
The offenders who are choosing to get on “the right path” have the option of picking any of the Bay Minette churches to attend.
In reality it’s not much of a choice considering the town doesn’t have a single synagogue or mosque in it.
This law would separate those of a certain religion from another and, in essence, force those that do not follow the generally accepted religion to change their beliefs or go to jail, while the popularly practiced religion allows the remaining criminals an easier sentence.
This also implies that while you are not required to go to church, religious people don’t commit crimes. What if a criminal already attends church? We’re sentencing them to continue on with their daily schedule, except when they repent and really mean it this time.
Also, we should think of how this law can affect the future. What can stop it from moving past misdemeanors to any crime?
If all sins are seen the same in Christian faith then why shouldn’t other offenders be able to go to church for a year as well? The fact is there is nothing stopping that from happening.
Instead of offering church as a reform for guilt, the town could offer better community service options. Maybe for the first project they can build a religious center for Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim followers.
Even though I feel strongly about this law, I do understand what the idea stems from. Jail often results in more crime and criminal activity. Paying a fine is usually not an option for people who have to steal to make a living and 30-day drug classes probably aren’t long enough to help an addict.
By implementing a community service option instead, not only is the town of Bay Minette not breaking the Constitution, but improving their community as well. Violators can still be in a positive environment with strong role models while repaying their debts to society.