A judge in Muskogee, Ok., sentenced a youth last week to attend church regularly for 10 years as a condition of probation for a driving-related manslaughter conviction. Judge Mike Norman, 67, had sentenced people to church before, but never for such a serious crime. Constitutional experts have condemned it as a flagrant violation of the separation of church and state, says the New York Times.
The American Civil Liberties Union will file a complaint with the state Council on Judicial Complaints. Defendant Tyler Alred, 17, was prosecuted as a youthful offender, giving the judge more discretion than in an adult case. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter for an accident last year, when he ran his car into a tree and a 16-year-old passenger was killed. Although his alcohol level tested below the legal limit, because he was under age he was legally considered to be under the influence of alcohol. Randall Coyne, a professor of criminal law at the University of Oklahoma, agreed that the judge’s church requirement was unconstitutional.