Monday, December 3, 2012

(Cruel and ...?) Unusual judge sentences drunk driver to church.

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.
Well, I'd certainly take that deal. I understand why secularists are fighting sentence, as they should, but ... if I were that kid, I'd be glad my case got assigned to that particular theocratic judge.

On principle, I'm opposed to sentences of church attendance (as I am to AA sentences), and yet I have a hard time mustering the outrage for this instance. Certainly, such a sentence violates separation of church and state and should never be imposed, and if unchecked, what is harmless enough in this case -- if we concede the kid caught a break, weekly church attendance being less onerous than prison, one assumes -- could easily lead to church sentences for lesser offences.

If anything, the sentence may be too lenient. If we want our punishments to deter future offences, this doesn't seem likely to serve that purpose. What if the offender were already a parishioner? Would s/he be sentenced to attend a more fundamentalist church?

My advice to that kid would be keep his head down, mouth shut, and let the chips the fall where they may in terms of possible challenges. It'd be asking a lot for him to speak out against the sentence on principle, or to choose the prison term. He should applauded if he does for standing up and taking his punishment like a man.

Should the sentencing stand, and he does the ten years of Sundays,  I hope for his sake he reads widely and deeply from a list of authors including Dawkins, Harris, Paine, Twain, Rawls, & Dworkin the other six days and emerges from this ordeal humbled and chastened, but also wiser and more compassionate: an unlikely outcome should he bury himself dutifully in the Bible in the false belief the judge in his case understood anything about justice.


  1. There is likely an alternative sentence written into the decision if the defendant fails to go to church every Sunday.

    That would be the key for me.

    If the judge usually hands down four-year sentences, and THIS sentence was "4 years or church," then the defendant is not in a WORSE position than he would have been in otherwise.

    However, if the judge usually hands down two year sentences and THIS time it was "4 years or church," then that's a problem.

    I guess.

    Sitting in a pew and thinking about his week ahead isn't going to kill him, I guess. But it will probably get overturned on appeal.

    1. I get your point about the church sentence length compared to the regular sentence length, but you'd probably want to measure in hours since church is only 16 hours out of your Sunday (or, at least I remember it felt that way as a kid) where prison is every hour of your every day for the length of the sentence.

      There's also the risk of sexual assault to consider. Although as a young fellow, I'm not sure where his risk of getting molested is lower, prison or church?

  2. I question the motives of the church that becomes the executioner, so to speak.


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