ACLU calls it unconstitutional
Certainly here in Texas, we've seen our share of unusual punishments handed down by judges. However, one judge in Oklahoma has sentenced a teen to go to church as part of plea deal for manslaughter.
That's a lot different than former judge Ted Poe's famous sandwich boards, and unconstitutional according to the ACLU of Oklahoma, which wants the judge reprimanded.
"Our objection is to the government, in this case a judge, telling an individual that they have to go to church," says the ACLU's Ryan Kiesel.
South Texas College of Law professor Charles "Rocky" Rhodes agrees.
"Certainly by giving them the condition of either you must attend church or go to jail, that's coercing somebody into going to church," says Rhodes.
But if the teen goes to church, he'll stay out of jail on a manslaughter charge. And that's where it gets complicated according to Rhodes.
"We shouldn't be, especially when we're talking about the establishment clause, it's not the government's position to coerce religious beliefs on individuals," he says.
Kiesel asks what if the teen stops going to church. Because the order is unconstitutional in the first place, the county couldn't hold him to it, he says.
"If the judge or the district attorney in that jurisdiction attempted to enforce it, that would be unenforceable," says Kiesel. "As unenforceable as any other unconstitutional act by the government."
The judge in question now faces a letter of reprimand, or censure, or possibly losing his seat on the bench.