Religion is buried deep in American society. It motivates millions of people to do the strangest things, and to believe in mythological beings whose existence is rooted in a book. The bible. Now the founding fathers were concerned enough about religion’s hold on society that they included a clause in the constitution requiring a separation of church and state.
Unfortunately, some fanatics in positions of trust and responsibility could care less about the constitution, except as it exists to serve their interpretation. Check out this latest outrage from Slate.com:
On its face, the case seemed tragic, but unexceptional. Last December, two teenagers were driving a pickup truck down an Oklahoma road at 4 a.m. when the driver, Tyler Alred, swerved off the road and hit a tree, ejecting and killing his 16-year-old passenger. Alred told police he had been drinking earlier that evening, and took two breath tests that showed, at the time of the crash, a blood-alcohol level of around 0.07—under the legal limit for adults, but over the limit for an underage driver. Alred pled guilty last August to manslaughter in the first degree as a youthful offender. The sentence was four years to life in prison, with parole.
But Alred won’t be serving any time in jail, provided, that is, he goes to church every Sunday for the next 10 years. In a decision that has received national attention and widespread criticism, Oklahoma District Court Judge Mike Norman gave Alred a 10-year deferred sentence, which enables Alred to avoid serving any hard time as long as he fulfills certain probation terms such as, among other things, graduating from high school, taking regular drug and alcohol tests, speaking about the dangers of drinking and driving, and, yes, going to church every week for the next decade. If Alred fails to abide by these terms, Judge Norman told the New York Times that he would send the boy to prison.
It is not the first time Judge Norman, a member of the First Baptist Church of Muskogee, Okla., whose courthouse sits in the heart of the country’s Bible Belt, has told a defendant he has to serve time in church. Judge Norman recently told the Tulsa World that he had received his fair share of “bad calls” over the past few weeks from critics of his favored alternate sentence. About their constitution objections, he said, “They may well be right, but that’s what I did and we made a record,” adding, “If someone wants to appeal my decision, they’re entitled to do that.”