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Jesus or jail? Alabama town offers options for serving time
An Alabama town is offering low level crimals a choice - Jesus or jail.
September 27th, 2011
10:18 AM ET

Jesus or jail? Alabama town offers options for serving time

(CNN)–If you're charged with a nonviolent crime in one Alabama town, you might just have the chance to pray it all away.

Starting this week, under a new program called Operation ROC (Restore Our Community), local judges in Bay Minette, Alabama, will give those found guilty of misdemeanors the choice of serving out their time in jail, paying a fine or attending church each Sunday for a year.

The goal of the program is to help steer those who are not yet hardened criminals the chance to turn their lives around. Those who choose to go to church (there are no mosques or synagogues in the area) will have to check in with a pastor and the police department each week, CNN affiliate WKRG reported. Once you attend church every week for a year the case would be dismissed.

Police Chief Mike Rowland said the measure is one that would help save money and help direct people down the right path. Rowland told WKRG it costs $75 a day to house each inmate.

Read the full story from CNN's This Just In.
- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Church and state

soundoff (226 Responses)
  1. Marie R.

    I would have to think hard about that one. I was forced to go to church as a teenager because my mother thought my so-called "bad influence" friends were the problem. She should have looked in the mirror to find the reason (and maybe the solution), for my "issues". I don't believe in god, realized I never believed and feel better now that I say it outloud. This is just plain ridiculous. This judge is being played for a fool because I'm sure lots of people who don't believe will do their one Sunday a year instead of jail.

    October 6, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  2. Wow, Ridiculous

    I am a Christian and I am disgusted. This is absolutely atrocious. You can't FORCE someone to pray to get a second chance at a new life. Religion is a choice. You should never make individuals feel that it is necessary to be a Christian in order to leave prison or be a good person. This is ridiculous.

    October 4, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Dr. Guy

      As a Jew I agree with you- plenty of criminals of all religions claim to "find God" as a way of gaining a court's sympathy to receive a reduced sentence. While the judge has good intentions, I doubt he really understands that this will be of minimal benefit to society or to the guilty party. I consider any criminal who does not honestly repent for his or her actions and make proper penitence and compensation, but claims to do so in God's name, to be defaming the Almighty. There are plenty of "religious" criminals out there, and their level of religious observance has little to do with their criminality.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • KC

      Thank you for the common sense comment.

      October 7, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
  3. Maria

    Umm...why are criminals getting a choice? And what is praying going to do? You think that this is really going to change people? Talking to an imaginary friend, and singing useless hymns with a bunch of hypocrates is going to change someone? How about somthing usefull, like community service..oh wait we already have that!

    October 3, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  4. Jweitzel3

    If they are smart, the criminals will opt for jail!!

    September 29, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
  5. Joe Fattal

    I'll choose jail.

    September 29, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  6. William Demuth

    If you suggested they go to a Synagouge or Mosque the Red Necks would lynch you, and their preachers would bugger your corpse.

    September 29, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  7. Joe

    How the Hell is this legal????????????????? This is an even clearer violation of the separation of church and state than Roy Moore and his 10 commandments statue!!!!!!!! I'm SO glad I left Alabama for good.

    September 28, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Redneck louie

      in a newest poll alabamans was real glad yall left the state two

      September 29, 2011 at 4:48 am |
    • tipsana

      redneck: The word is "too". Go bama - 48th in education!

      September 29, 2011 at 7:29 am |
    • sniped

      Learn to use proper grammar idiot. Change the "was" into "were" but of course language in a sense is a science and science is EVIL!!! To you good ol liquor drinking, in breeding, child molesting, hate mongering, date raping "Christians"!

      October 2, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Razorback Guy

      That was my first thought too when I read the headline. The story didn't change that for me either. The local judge(s) is/are way off base on this one. Besides the legality of this issue (and I hope the ACLU or some group will pick up this case and run with it), we know too often how people conveniently 'get religion' in order to try to beat charges against them. I don't say the judges hearts weren't in the right place but how they are trying to go about making social change in their community is all wrong.

      October 9, 2011 at 1:52 am |
  8. Brother Maynard

    OK ... so this is proof positive that these judges ... or the people that inacted "Operation Restore our Community" ... do NOT truly believe. Reason why? ... because they only allow NON violent crimes to go opt for Sunday School. Apparently these individuals have no faith that a murderer can be saved.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  9. Archived

    I think if you're not religious you should be allowed to go to a natural history museum or planetarium...though they probably don't have those "devil sciencey houses" in 'Bama.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  10. Hypatia

    This is a revolting violation of the separation of church and state and every single person involved should rightfully be charged under federal law.

    September 28, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Ridiculous

      Seriously? If the criminal wants to sit in jail and serve his/her crime, then let em! This is an Option, he/she doesn't have to take it. Perhaps you're suggesting criminals be given more options? You probably wouldn't be so generous if it was your car they stole or your home they broke into. Criminals should be so blessed to even get ANY Options! They have a CHOICE, do the time or enjoy Church.

      September 28, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  11. Tom Leykis

    And they wonder why the perception (and REALITY!) of the south as being backward/ignorant and racist is too prevalent!

    September 28, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  12. markusp

    Does atheism count as a religion? It should definitely meet all of the strict aspects of a formal, and recognized form of religion. My point is that atheists like myself could now move into that portion of Alabama, and then build a simple pole building, citing it as my corporate HQ. Then I'd go out and committ misdemeanor crimes, telling the judge that I'll attend the atheist church services. If attending christian church services is accepted, then does that county have to provide transportation to other more remote locations? I highly doubt that forcing christianity on persons convicted of misdemeanor crimes will work at all. Frankly, I'd take jail over the brainwashing and constant begging for money in their bigoted christian assemlies.

    September 28, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Tom Leykis

      I like you already.

      September 28, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  13. John

    Someone needs to send Chief Rowland down the road. He's just another moron of the Christian cult who believes that religion can cure anything from being gay to being a criminal. Anyone mired in magical beliefs and fairy tales has no business being placed in charge of a town's law enforcement agency.

    September 28, 2011 at 7:19 am |
    • Squire L

      Amen!

      September 28, 2011 at 7:43 am |
  14. Woody

    Welcome to the Alabama Inquisition. The only thing missing is being burned at the stake. I think they may be working on that.

    September 28, 2011 at 7:16 am |
    • Bud

      Nobody expects the Alabama Inquisition!

      September 28, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and Jesus...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are Jesus and surprise...and bumbling inefficiency.... Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and bumbling inefficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the bible.
      Our *four*...no... *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, Jesus....Oh never mind!

      September 28, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No it isn't. Yes, it is. This is not an argument.

      Come at me with that shrubbery!

      September 28, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • 21'stCenturyFaith

      you like that bush then huh tom?

      September 30, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • sniped

      MarkinFL, bravo sir, bravo

      October 2, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  15. Dan

    I would choose jail. At least I could live with myself.

    September 28, 2011 at 7:14 am |
    • Robert Hawkins

      Believe me Danny boy, you won't be alone in jail~ Better take church for a year and keep you "perspective".

      September 29, 2011 at 7:59 am |
  16. Mike

    Oh wow, great idea, give them the choice between jail or christianity. That sounds like christianity to me, seems to be a running theme with that religion. And how convenient, no synogauges or mosques in the area, so jesus is your only choice. Nice one, Alabama, way to show your ass

    September 28, 2011 at 7:02 am |
  17. gupsphoo

    Yay! If I go to church regularly, and I steal a car, my punishment would be being forced to go to church regularly, which is equivalent to no punishment at all!

    Man I'm seriously thinking about emigrating to Canada.

    September 28, 2011 at 6:06 am |
  18. NoGr8rH8r

    Can they attend a Synagogue ,Temple or Mosque? Seems highly illegal to offer this bogus deal , RIGHT?

    September 28, 2011 at 1:51 am |
  19. NoGr8rH8r

    Going to church every Sunday for a year or Jail? I'll take jail. : )

    September 28, 2011 at 1:48 am |
  20. Chris

    Science......Darwin ........ Nope I don't see any half monkeys / cavemen walking around. Will we continue to evolve into something else??? I think not...want the truth read the bible

    September 28, 2011 at 1:23 am |
    • HellBent

      You didn't do so well in high school science, did you? To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln – it is better to be thought a fool then to post something like that and remove all doubt.

      September 28, 2011 at 2:03 am |
    • Cat MacLeod

      Millions of years of evidence there for the witnessing or talking to an invisible man in the sky and reading a compilation of Sumerian and Egyptian Myth rehashed, topped off with Ancients Rome's solution for class warfare. The ignorance of some of my species is saddening.

      September 28, 2011 at 2:06 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Want the truth...read a book on evolution!

      September 28, 2011 at 4:27 am |
    • Ted M

      Evolution doesn't address any religious topic.
      It is a scientific field and does not have anything to do with your religious delusions.
      Too bad you can't figure that out. Even though everyone keeps yelling it at you.
      Evolution isn't about the origin of life, it deals with how DNA changes over time.
      That's it. Nobody is worshiping Darwin. You think all you have to do is debunk a curious man's ideas about how similar animals have changed because of their environment. That is not the whole field of Evolution. You are an idiot.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:38 am |
    • Dr.K.

      There are about the same number of half cavemen / half monkeys walking around as their are half iron age man / half gods walking around.

      It's irrelevant, though because caveman/monkeys are not remotely part of any understanding of evolution.

      September 28, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • Church of Suicidal

      They may not be walking around, but they sure do like to post uninformed comments on CNN's message boards.

      September 28, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • markusp

      @chris - the christians have clouded your judgement. Apparently you accept the biblical version of how the human species came to be in existence. You dismiss evolution due to your misconception that humans would evolve, but the "half monkeys" you cite would not evolve? That's not only ridiculous, it's dangerously naive. A cursory attempt on your part to educate yourself about evolution will yield the very real fact that the human species is continually evolving, and we can support it with medical data - the human appendix formerly served some archaic physiological function, but in modern times, it is being genetically bred out, and now appears to only provide appendicitis to the unlucky patients.

      When I've looked to the bible for truth, I find the opposite: lies. The Red Sea did not, and will not, part divinely for people to meander through it. If Adam and Eve were the first people that the christian god created, humans would have been inbred to extinction shortly after. People who die by crudifixion remain dead, forever. The discrepancy in number of ribs between male & female anatomies are simple gender differences. But if you need to believe that Eve was created from Adam's rib, how can you be sure it wasn't the other way around? Maybe Eve was first, and Adam was created from her penis.

      September 28, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Wow

      To HBent....paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln doesn't even come close to quoting scripture. Take time to learn the Bible, there's no other book/lesson you need.

      September 28, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • Brian

      Wow, you don't want everyone to only have read the bible. Otherwise you wouldn't have been able to post your message, drive your car, drink clean water, see your doctor, watch T.V., phone your friends, see a movie, eat your bananas, corn, apples, carrots.....although you could hang out with friends and burn a witch every Saturday night.

      September 28, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • Brian

      Chris, evolution allows a species to adapt to a new environment over thousands of generations. A brain with the ability to learn and change our environement to suit our needs allows us to evolve during our lifetime. The formation of a society allowed us to specialize and the society to evolve very rapidly. So much so that it was common for more advanced societies to learn from local populations of a new environement only to subsiquently wipe them out. Finally the continuous aquisition and build up of knowledge allows us to evolve millions of times faster than evolution. We are evolving so fast our laws and regulations can't even keep up. Hitler was not only crazy, he was stupid. He didn't even realize that trying to create a super race was a total waste of time. Investing in the aquisition of knowledge far out weighs any gains you can achieve in making people smarter than we already are. So humans don't need to biologically evolve anymore.

      September 28, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You don't see any "half monkeys"? Try looking in the mirror, you dolt.

      September 28, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • snipes

      Your trolling. You can't be that stupid.

      September 28, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • dixiejon

      there were never any half anythings. we have a common ancestor.some went monkey some not. our DNA is 90some % the same as chimps. reading is fun, if your smart

      September 29, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • sniped

      You suck ass at life. How hard was it to pass high school biology?
      Oh wait.. you didn't...

      October 2, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.