“There are at least two sides to every story,”
Today, America seems to be separated into three broad social and political mindsets – the right, the left, and somewhere in the middle. When it comes to social issues, abortion for example, we see that the right position is generally that abortion is a moral sin and should be illegal. The left, however, feel that moral, religious thought should be excluded from the issue and a woman should be able to choose the fate of her own body and its’ contents. The middle generally partly agrees with one side or the other whilst issuing a “but” somewhere along the way. We will exclude this middle group for the purposes of this article.
It’s pretty much the same right and left general argument for everything from prayer in school to gay rights. The right wants to have their religious freedoms without government interference but then turn around and use the tenets of their religion as a basis to belay others from their freedoms without government interference. Hypocritical, Yes? The left wants a secular society of pretty much absolute freewill, but begrudges those with religious pretense in their freewill. Hypocritical, Yes?
Oh, what a dangerous web we weave…
This brings me to a story I came across on the Huffington Post today.
Tyler Alred, a 17-year-old Oklahoma boy, was convicted of manslaughter after a drunk driving accident killed a 16-year-old passenger in Alred’s pickup truck. While Alred wasn’t drunk by legal standards, he was under the legal drinking age in Oklahoma when he crashed his vehicle.
He pled guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 10 years of probation given he graduate from high school and then welding school; wear a drug and alcohol bracelet; take drug, alcohol, and nicotine tests; and take part in a victim’s impact panel.
Not so interesting story, right? Well, it wouldn’t be if the judge hadn’t tacked on a stipulation that Alred “regularly attend church” during the course of his probation.Translation – go to church or go to jail ~!!~
Alred’s attorney says that his client doesn’t have a problem with the stipulation since he already regularly attends church.
However, this legal requirement is bigger than Alred. It’s setting a precedent that, left unattested, could affect hundreds, thousands of other cases. It’s a clear violation of separation of church and state if there ever was one.
Furthermore, if Alred was indeed attending church regularly prior to this sentence and it didn’t stop him from drinking underage and inadvertently killing another human, then how will this legal stipulation of probation possibly contribute to lessening the risk for a re-offense, which is the primary purpose of probation stipulations like drug and alcohol testing.
Another point is that this now puts the court in the position to either view this stipulation as hoopla not to be enforced -or- go to the church and ask for attendance records. Either way, this isn’t a good look for our judicial system.
Lastly, this brings me back to my “two sides of every story”… As a religious person myself, I can’t hold on to the fallacy that I can project and force my religious beliefs onto others or try to ‘make’ others do right by using the Bible as a two-pronged lasso and bullwhip and still expect everyone that doesn’t abide religion to sit quietly and respect a one-sided approach to separation of church and state. The injection will eventually work both ways! So, the bottom line is to leave religion out of politics, and in this case the courtroom, -and- politics out of religion.