Would you prefer Christ or cuffs sir?

Andrew Fergin, Editor-in-Chief

In the Alabama town of Bay Minette a program called Restore Our Community was recently put on hold pending investigations into whether or not it constituted a violation of separation between church and state laws.  This is unsurprising given that the program is essentially a union between church and state, giving offenders guilty of misdemeanors the choice between jail time or attending church.

Of the stronger arguments in favor of the program, Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland has commented, “A 30-day alcohol program does not work.  But long-term programs do work, and we believe that’s what’ll happen here.” But if all that’s needed is a therapy with a long and consistent time commitment, why can’t a non-faith based program be made?  The Christ is in the coin; sending offenders to church costs less than the $75 a day price to house them in a prison cell, Rowland explained.

Even ignoring the infringement on laws regarding church and state, the fact that nobody seems care enough about other faiths to try and offer a wide array of options instead of just church attendance is frankly offensive.  Even if the issue at hand is purely monetary it still implies a line of reasoning that regards cash more highly than creed.  It need to be asked what the logical conclusion of this process is?  Would it be so much of a leap to propose that instead of just using the churches at hand there should be some sort of bidding war in case other faiths want to build a temple and take in offenders instead?

Rowland believes that offenders aren’t being forced to go to church because the decision is still their own. However, when the choice is effectively between steak or spam for the next year it becomes hard to see the choice as anything but religious coercion.

Worst of all, the deal at present isn’t meant for all offenders; it’s to be proposed at a judge’s discretion.  What manner of discretion could be applied here?  Will atheist and Muslim offenders be forced to serve jail time while the Christians are forced to do what the majority of their peers already do every Sunday?

That Bay Minette is looking for an alternative to jail is laudable.  That they genuinely want to rehabilitate their criminals instead of just locking them up is an enviable thing.  But there is no inherent magic that makes going to church more effective than any other rehabilitative option.  If there was actually compelling evidence that churches possessed some innate supernatural faculty for reform, then the term “faith” would no longer be applicable.