A recent news story told of a plan by Bay Minette, AL., in which first-time, nonviolent offenders may choose between jail or going to church every Sunday for a year. Offenders select a participating church but must check in weekly with the pastor and police.
The Alabama Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is opposed to church being a choice. They say, "It is a fundamental principle of the Establishment Clause that the government cannot force someone to attend church. When the alternative to going to church is going to jail, the so-called `choice' available to offenders is no choice at all."
Some less-serious detractors have chided that the choice between church and jail makes it sound like church is a punishment that is equal to jail time. For some church services that may be true!! However, there is another way to look at it. There are some prisoners who find redemption in jail. While a vast majority of long-term prisoners become hardened or institutionalized, some find prison a place to get one’s life back in order. If some find redemption in jail, surely more would find it in church. For first-time, nonviolent offenders, it may be a great option. Going to church would be a whole less of a burden on society and the offender may get more out of going to church than he ever bargained for. Fifty-six local churches are participating in the program.