Christianity as a get out of jail free card

Oct. 3, 2011

Cherise Fantus
cfantus@uccs.edu

Jesus was a man that stood up for his beliefs, according to Christian belief, and that was why he was crucified. He believed he had a destined path and wouldn’t deny that, so the Romans killed him.

But what if the Roman judge had told him that he could escape crucifixion if only he would go to their temples and worship their gods for a year? Would Jesus have done it? And would he have been magically saved by what they deemed to be the right religion at that time?

Judges in Bay Minette, Ala. might say yes. Under a new program called Restore Our Community (ROC), judges will offer a choice to those who commit non-violent misdemeanor crimes: Go to (Christian) church every Sunday for one year, pay a fine or go to jail.

If I were the Christian church, I would be offended.

Never mind the blatant disregard for the Constitution and the complete lack of respect for those who may not be Christian, but using church as a punishment? Isn’t the Christian church trying to teach its followers that going to church is a good thing?

And, well, it is blatantly unconstitutional. According to the First Amendment of the Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Though this was originally written to prevent the federal government from establishing an official religion, it was taken to the state level in 1947 when Everson v. Board of Education applied the clause to the state, as well as the federal laws.

Some people, like Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland, argue that it is not unconstitutional. He told CNN affiliate WKRG that, since offenders are given the choice of going to church, they aren’t being forced, and therefore he doesn’t see it as a problem.

But offering a Muslim, a Jew, an atheist, a Buddhist, or anyone of a belief other than Christianity the choice between attending a Christian church and going to jail sounds a whole lot like prohibiting the free practice of religion.

Offenders are able to choose which church they would like to attend, but those from any religion other than Christianity are not given the option to “reform.”

For them, attending services for something in which they do not believe in order to “reform” them is not an option.

So, all that’s left for them is jail and fines.

But going to church every Sunday will “reform” these criminals, right? History has certainly shown us how religion turns bad people into good people. Here are a few examples:

Dennis Rader was an avid churchgoer. He was a member of Christ Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kan., and was even made president of the Congregation Council in 2005.

A few months later, he was convicted of murdering at least 10 people over the course of about 30 years in Sedwick County, Kan., as the BTK killer.

Howard Douglas Porter was a reverend at Hickman Community Church in Hickman, Calif. He led services at his church every Sunday.

In 2008, he was convicted of first-degree murder, embezzlement, elder abuse and attempted murder, after tricking en elderly man into trusting him before he killed him and took all of his money.

A 2004 John Jay Report (report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests and deacons in the U.S.) that was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops revealed that there were 10,667 victims of clergy sexual abuse reported between 1950 and 2002 in the U.S. alone.

All of the reported victims were under the age of 18.

That’s not to say that church makes good people into bad people, it just doesn’t really “reform” people who are inclined to do bad things.

What it does, though, is offer an easy way out to those who are intent on being criminals. Someone who already goes to church every Sunday now has permission to commit all the misdemeanors they want with no repercussions.

Yes, no repercussions – because completing a year of attending church does not result in a time-served stamp, it results in a complete dismissal of charges.

So, Christian petty criminals in Bay Minette can do whatever they want and get off scott-free.

Aside from the fact that this is completely unconstitutional and disrespectful of other religions, it is just going against simple common sense. We should be punishing criminals for their actions, not rewarding them simply for being Christian.