On the heels of our recent discussion about a decision by a small town in Alabama to offer criminals a choice between a short prison sentence and attending church, I want to offer the following considerations:
1. Such a decision violates the US Constitution and its guarantee of separation between church and state in an egregious way.
2. It sets a dangerous precedent of the government relegating its functions to private individuals and organizations. From there to vigilante justice, there is a very short distance.
3. If the government starts relegating its functions to private individuals, we will soon lose any vestige of the separation between the public and the private spheres. When the functions that belong strictly to the government are not well-defined and limited in nature, there is nothing to stop the government from invading every aspect of our personal lives.
4. The goal of incarceration is, first and foremost, to impose punishment for a crime. Equating church attendance with punishment is offensive to the religious people.
The very reason this country came into existence was the need to separate the church and the state. I can imagine nothing more un-American can opposition to this separation. A society where there is absolutely any overlap between religion and government is not a civilized one. The separation of church and state is one of the greatest inventions of humanity on the road to progress. Any violation of this great principle will lead to horrible results.