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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Church sentencing: Wall tumbling

(Photo by Rubyk)
When an Oklahoma district judge recently sentenced "a 17-year-old boy to 10 years of church attendance" (amongst other aspects
of a "10-year deferred sentence for DUI manslaughter" such as finishing high school and welding school), the proverbial "wall of separation between church and state" came tumbling down.

Greg Horton of the Religion News Service reports that this wasn't the first time that Judge Mike Norman had integrated church-going into his sentencing.  Although this was the first time that Norman had made church-going into a requirement rather than a recommendation, there are some who doubt whether a judge's
"recommendation" can ever be construed as just a suggestion…

Horton quotes ACLU Oklahoma Chapter Executive Director Ryan Kiesel as saying that this requirement to attend church is a "clear violation of the Establishment Clause [Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…] and the Free Exercise Clause […or prohibiting the free exercise thereof] of the First Amendment" [to the United States Constitution – part of the Bill of Rights].

Judge Norman is well aware of the conflict between a church-going court requirement and these First Amendment clauses.  Nevertheless, he takes this position:  Both families were satisfied with the decision… I did what I felt like I needed to do

This judicial (but not necessarily judicious) attitude seems like a blatant disregard for the existing law of the land.  It also seems like a far cry from some key precepts of church-based theology (such as humility, for starters).


Copyright December 2, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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