Via TPM, a judge in Alabama plans to sentence non-violent offenders to go to church:
Non-violent offenders in Bay Minette now have a choice some would call simple: do time behind bars or work off the sentence in church.
Operation Restore Our Community or "ROC" begins next week. 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.
If offenders elect church, they're allowed to pick the place of worship, but must check in weekly with the pastor and the police department. If the one-year church attendance program is completed successfully, the offender's case will be dismissed.
A local Alabama blog, doing the reporting the local TV station skipped, talked with someone who has actually taken a constitutional law class:
"This policy is blatantly unconstitutional," said Olivia Turner, executive director for the ACLU of Alabama. "It violates one basic tenet of the Constitution, namely that government can’t force participation in religious activity."
But the local police chief who is heading up the program starting Tuesday called "Restore Our Community" says no one is being forced to participate.
"Operation ROC resulted from meetings with church leaders," Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland said. "It was agreed by all the pastors that at the core of the crime problem was the erosion of family values and morals. We have children raising children and parents not instilling values in young people."
Umm...jail is coercive. And churches don't create family values, as dozens of convicted televangelists demonstrate. And pastors don't set public policy in free societies.
Other than that, I can't see a thing wrong with the policy.