Starting this week, Bay Minette, Alabama will begin Operation Restore Our Community (ROC), which will give misdemeanor offenders a choice between fines and jail or a year of Sunday church services.
Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland told the Alabama Press-Register: "Operation ROC resulted from meetings with church leaders. It was agreed by all the pastors that at the core of the crime problem was the erosion of family values and morals. We have children raising children and parents not instilling values in young people."
However, critics say the program is unfair to minority religious groups because no mosques or synagogues are participating and atheists would have no choice but to compromise their beliefs or go to jail.
Pastor Robert Gates assurred WRKG-TV that the church solution would work: "You show me somebody who falls in love with Jesus, and I'll show you a person who won't be a problem to society."
From a biblical standpoint, Gates didn't mention that Jesus was a huge problem for society and was executed by Roman authorities. In fact, most of his disciples were executed by the law enforcement of the day.
ACLU of Alabama director Olivia Turner stated: "It violates one basic tenet of the Constitution, namely that government can't force participation in religious activity."
She added that the ACLU is "considering options for response."
This type of punishment has been tried before. Earlier this year, the Mississippi Supreme Court suspended Mississippi Justice Court Judge Theresa Dearman for 30 days for forcing people charged with crimes to attend church as a condition of bail.