ACLU files judicial complaint over Oklahoma teen's church sentence
A complaint has been filed against an eastern Oklahoma district judge who sentenced a teenager to attend church for 10 years as a condition of parole.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has filed a judicial complaint against a Muskogee County district judge who sentenced a teenager to attend church for 10 years as a condition of parole.
The complaint, filed Tuesday, accuses Muskogee County District Judge Mike Norman of violating Oklahoma's Code of Judicial Conduct.
“It is shocking that a judge would so blatantly ignore the First Amendment, which at a minimum prevents the government from forcing church attendance and from interfering in deeply personal matters of faith,” said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma.
The complaint stems from a parole requirement Norman placed on Tyler Alred, 17, of Muskogee, as part of a deferred sentence in a youthful offender manslaughter case.
Alred was driving a pickup about 4 a.m. Dec. 3, 2011, when it crashed into a tree along a county road east of Muskogee, killing his friend and passenger, John Luke Dum, 16, of Muskogee.
Alred admitted drinking but tested below the legal blood-alcohol limit of 0.08 on two breath tests. However, because he was underage, he was considered to be driving under the influence.
“Judge Norman's decision to give this defendant a choice between church and prison cannot be enforced without illegal governmental intrusion into a young man's conscience,” said Brady Henderson, legal director of the ACLU of Oklahoma. “Not only is this inconsistent with our nation's fundamental guarantees of freedom of worship, it is also offensive to the very religion it is meant to advance. Acts of worship should come from a freely made choice to adopt a faith, not from the government giving its citizens an ultimatum to sit either in a pew or a prison cell.”
ACLU officials said they filed the complaint with the Oklahoma Council on Judicial Complaints.
ACLU of Oklahoma officials filed the complaint of their own volition, and it was not requested by Alred or his family, Henderson said.
Henderson said as far as he knows, Alred is not upset about being required to attend church.
“Our concern is more with what happens from here on out with this judge,” Henderson said.
See our commenting and posting policy.
News Photo Galleriesview all
- 30214Oklahoma weather: Crews work to clear storm damage in Oklahoma City as the state braces for severe weather Sunday.
- 19534Oklahoma Severe Storm Updates
- 7073OKC Thunder GM Sam Presti won't amnesty Kendrick Perkins
- 6093Wild hogs continue to be a growing menace across Oklahoma
- 5026OKC Thunder: Thunder trio praise fans before potential departures
- 4433Student shot dead during botched home invasion
- 3498Oklahoma State football: Todd Monken thinks Wes Lunt should've stayed in Stillwater