Judge sentences convicted felon to church instead of prison
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.”
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Did the judge dictate which church to attend or does Alred get to choose? If he can choose, does it have to be a Christian sect? Can he choose to attend a synagogue, mosque, temple or worship in a sacred grove of oak trees? How about worshipping the FSM in a greasy spoon each Friday?
This reminds me of a comment I’ve seen posted elsewhere: “If sitting in a church makes one a Christian, sitting in a garage makes one a car.”
As an atheist, always been one, maybe agnostic when 10, but I still remember loving to sing that Merle Haggard tune, “Okie from Muskogee”. Now, see, there’s an example of cognitive dissonance. Thank goodness that has disappeared. Now, I listen to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
LOL…Thanks for sharing that Rick. I too listen to “Imagine…” 🙂
It’s OK, but give me Pink Floyd, any day.
Wow. This is deep. On the one hand, I’m a staunch advocate of not punishing juveniles with the same yardstick we use for adult offenders. I don’t think the original 4 years to life was fair, even though a death was involved. I’m not saying the juvenile offender should be let off the hook without punishment, merely that his age needed to be a consideration when handing down a sentence that could possibly result in him spending the rest of his life behind bars.
On the other hand, MadMike’s point that religion should play no part in any legal decision, is certainly valid. I would have much preferred mandating community service and alcohol abuse counseling. I don’t think church is going to do much to help him understand the gravity of his behavior.
Just my 2 cents worth.
I have mixed feelings about punishing juveniles David because I’ve seen some monstrous kids in my day, those that are truly a threat to themselves and society. I know that juvenile detention facilities are an option but these seriously damaged kids could cause a lot of harm in places like that. In those cases they need to be sentenced to adult institutions. Under no circumstances should freakin’ Jesus come into the picture.
Agreed. But the yardstick doesn’t change. If the juvenile in question is a sociopathic monster – than sure. You do what you have to do. But you’re weighing his destructive potential against his age, as a factor in your decision.
Right now, we have a huge problem with overcrowding in prisons. There are numerous reasons for that, some of them necessary and justified. One of these reasons however, is the rise in long term adult sentences, in adult facilities – applied to juvenile offenders. These kids become victimized in the prison system, and hardened into lifers. Often, it’s a criminal career that could have been turned around, had we addressed it in time.
That’s all I’m saying. Granted, a kid can be a serial killer and a savage rapist – just like an adult. But many can be saved. Prison isn’t the place to do that.
David I teach criminology at a couple of universities so I don’t disagree with you. Our prisons are too crowded, as a matter of fact we incarcerate more prisoners that the entire western world combined. Regardless, the classification system has to take into account the destructive potential of all inmates, as well as their age. I agree that many kids can be saved, provided the money is available for the requisite treatment and post incarceration support.
It seems it’s usually Baptists that disregard the law, common sense, and even simple human decency with these things.
I agree that sending this young man to prison would be of no benefit to anyone. Sentencing him to church is obscene and should be overturned and the judge removed from the bench and disbarred, if he actually is an attorney.
There was a circuit judge in Missouri named Larry Davis. He released a man on probation who gouged out the eyes of a teenager girl because he had “found Jesus.” Judge Davis was not re-elected, but he did get a job on the federal bench. What a world.
I love the “Have you found Jesus?” question. I love to reply, “How can something that never existed be lost?” That usually closes the conversation pretty quickly.
LOL! I prefer, “Get the hell away from me, or you’ll be meeting up with him sooner than you think.”