A Little Church Won’t Hurt


By Todd A. Smith

          The First Amendment of the Constitution clearly states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

            The United States of America has a history of respecting the separation of church and state, but Muskogee County (Okla.) District Judge Mike Norman recently made headlines for forcing 17-year-old Tyler Alred to attend church every Sunday for 10 years after he pled guilty to manslaughter for an alcohol-related death.

            According to FoxNews.com, the 17-year-old was sentenced to 10 years probation, mandatory church attendance, forced to wear an ankle bracelet and to speak at events aimed at curbing drinking and driving.

            The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a complaint against Norman on Tuesday on the basis of separation of church and state, but Norman’s sentencing nor his motive violate the separation of church and state as it is written in the First Amendment, and mandatory church attendance can possibly rehabilitate Alred better than incarceration can.

            Unfortunately, the ACLU has a history of protesting everything spiritual in this country as if they are on a crusade to wipe out faith.  The organization has no standing to formally sue for a violation of the separation of church and state because Alred already attended church regularly and he and his parents have no quarrels with the judge’s punishment.

            “My client goes to church every Sunday.  That isn’t going to be a problem for him.  We certainly want the probation for him,” Donn Baker told TulsaWorld.com.

            Furthermore, the First Amendment states that Congress should not prohibit the free exercise of religion and Alred freely wants to attend church regardless of the sentence.

            The beauty of religion is that it offers forgiveness more than judgment.  Alred made a deadly mistake when he got behind the steering wheel of an automobile and ended the life of 16-year-old John Luke Dum.

            No amount of jail time will bring Dum back, but if a 17-year-old is not worth redemption and a second chance in life than who is? 

As teenagers, we all made stupid decisions and if it wasn’t for the grace of God we could have easily been in Dum or Alred’s shoes. 

However, we were given a chance to learn from our mistakes and use our wisdom to prevent others from making the same mistake.

Alred might change his life for the better because of the mandatory church attendance and those services will probably make him a better adult than prison would.

            Separation of church and state is needed in our country, but the term does not appear in the United States Constitution and the language of the First Amendment does not call to an end of referencing God or the elimination of religion, it simply states that Congress should not establish a national religion or prevent people from freely expressing their religious faith or practices.

            Nevertheless, we constantly see organizations doing just that by calling themselves advocates of separation of church and state.

            We see the prohibiting of religion when Nativity scenes are forced to be removed in cities across this country. 

We see it when crosses or other religious symbols are taken off the streets. 

We also see it when Christians are encouraged to say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.

            The separation of church and state is needed because the government should not tell people what they can believe in religiously, but what harm does it cause for one to see a cross on the street?

            What harm does it cause for one to see a Bible in front of a courthouse?

            What harm does it cause for one to hear the words Christmas, or Hanukkah or Ramadan?

            And what harm does it do for someone who already attends church to do so every Sunday?

            No harm it all.

 The separation of church and state is necessary, but trying to remove religion from all aspects of American culture goes against everything our country was built on.


Smith is publisher of Regal Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.

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