Okla. district judge sentences teen to 10 years of church attendance

An Oklahoma district judge has stirred up a bit of First Amendment fury by sentencing a teen to ten years of church attendance last week as punishment for DUI manslaughter.

Judge Mike Norman gave 17-year-old Tyler Alred ten years in church as part of a deferred sentence for the the death of Alred’s 16-year-old friend John Dum, who was killed when Alred — who had been drinking underage — hit a tree in his Chevrolet pickup, according to news reports.

In addition to the church requirement, Norman also ordered that Alred complete high school and welding school, instead of going to jail.

Both Dum’s family and Alred’s attorney agreed to the terms of the sentence, according to a report from Religion News Service.

The Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union was not pleased, however, calling the decision “a clear violation of the Constitution.”

While the ACLU considers its options to legally challenge the decision, RNS reports that they must show a legal standing, and at this point neither Alred or the victim’s family are likely to seek an appeal.

“Both families were satisfied with the decision,” Norman said in an interview with RNS. “I talked to the district attorney before I passed sentence. I did what I felt like I needed to do.”

Norman, who acknowledges his ruling would likely not pass constitutional muster, has received an earful from both side of the issue, but is staying with his original decision.

“One gentleman from Missouri left a message on my phone,” Norman added to RNS. “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.”

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