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Isn't coercive thought control and state mandated religion, oh I don't know.. Unconstitutional?

June 3, 2005

Here is an article out of Kentucky: The Sentencing option questioned

LONDON – A Laurel County judge has been offering some drug and alcohol offenders the option of attending worship services instead of going to jail or rehab, a practice some say violates the Constitution’s separation of church and state.

“The goal is to help people and their families,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a church-state issue because it’s not mandatory and I say worship services instead of church.”

The constitution says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” This is the ‘establishment clause.’ It limits what Congress can do, so there is danger here of getting sidetracked on the nature of “states’ rights.” Just to clarify, Kentucky’s state Constitution has this to say about religious freedom. (Which, I think, makes states’ rights a moot issue in this case.)

The judge claims that this practice is not unconstitutional because it does not specify a particular religion. Where does that leave secular and non-religious people? It’s not mandatory so those people have the choice of going to jail or rehab instead of church.

That’s just plain wrong. It violates the establishment clause as it establishes that you need religion to retain your personal freedom. The argument could be made that criminals need to give up freedom in one form or another as punishment for their crimes. But this particular option only punishes those who would otherwise not be religious.

The option is being offered to repeat drug and alcohol offenders. I do not know much about it, but I assume that these cases are probably for possession of drugs or pubic drunkenness, etc., where the defendant is harming nobody but theirself. Laying aside the issue of whether we should even be policing this behavior at all (where it harms no others), we should think about what it means to police it in this manner:

  • Sentencing someone to religious worship is essentially saying that to mend their behavior, they need a different way of thinking.
  • Limiting the options for this to organized religion is thought control plain and simple.
  • Doing so with the only alternative being a loss of personal freedom, makes it coercion.
  • This coercion being exercised by ‘the state’ makes it unconstitutional.

Doesn’t it?

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