Yikes! Here I am trying to work on my sermon, and I see that a judge has used going to church as a punishment! Talk about a blow to the ol’ esteem.

In Muskogee Oklahoma a judge sentenced a teenager to 10 years of church attendance for a DUI. The judge was trying to be humane by deferring a harsher sentence and requiring that the teen finish school, attend welding classes and go to church.

Not surprisingly many have seen the verdict as a violation of separation of church and state:

“I’m a minister,” Prescott said. “I want people to go to church, but it’s not helpful for a judge to sentence someone to church. What will the judge do if the young man changes his affiliation in the next few years? Will he be allowed to switch to a mosque or become an atheist? Religion is not a tool of the state, and it’s certainly not for the state to use as a tool of rehabilitation.” -The Rev. Bruce Prescott, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State

But the judge said he is receiving calls from both sides of the issue:

“One gentleman from Missouri left a message on my phone. He said judges can’t order people to go to church. People are calling from all around the country. I live in the Bible Belt, though. The Bible is still alive down here; churches are still open. I’m sure those people are right, but they’re going to have to do what they want to do.”

Constitutional issues aside, it does not speak well of my profession that we are now on the list of possible plea bargains.