A Bay Minette, Al., alternative to incarceration program that asks first-time, nonviolent offenders to choose between church or jail, was slated to start this week but is being delayed for legal review, Mayor Jamie Tillery tells ABCNews.com. “The city will ask the Alabama Attorney General to review the program as well,” Tillery said.
The Restore Our Community program, called Operation ROC, aimed to offer those convicted of first-time misdemeanors the opportunity to attend church once a week for a year and answer questions about the services, or go to jail and pay a fine. While Tillery said the first-time misdemeanor offenders would be offered a “menu of options,” including community service, the American Civil Liberties Union stepped in to say church should not be among them. “The First Amendment still prohibits the government from becoming entangled in core religious exercise, which includes attending church,” said ACLU attorney Heather Weaver.