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Man chooses church over jail sentence

May 31, 2005 at 11:06 PM

LONDON, Ky., May 31 (UPI) -- Scott Hays had three sentencing choices in London, Ky., after pleading guilty to a drug charge: go to jail, go into rehab or go to church.

He chose church.

The Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal said Judge Michael Caperton, a devout Christian, believes church attendance might help people convicted of crimes to find spiritual guidance.

He told the newspaper: "The goal is to help people and their families. I don't think there's a church-state issue, because it's not mandatory and I say worship services instead of church."

But some civil libertarians and constitutional scholars told the Courier-Journal that Caperton's unusual sentencing procedure raises serious constitutional problems.

A Louisville American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, David Friedman, told the newspaper: "The judge is saying that those willing to go to worship services can avoid jail in the same way that those who decline to go cannot. That strays from government neutrality towards religion."

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