Teen sentenced to attend church

Nov. 22, 2012 at 2:56 PM
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MUSKOGEE, Okla., Nov. 22 (UPI) -- An Oklahoma judge who sentenced a 17-year-old boy to attend church for a manslaughter charge says he stands by the ruling, even if it is unconstitutional.

Judge Mike Norman -- who ordered Tyler Alred to attend church for 10 years as part of his 10-year deferred sentence for driving under the influence manslaughter -- acknowledged the terms of the sentence likely would not pass a legal challenge, but both Alred's family and the family of the victim, John Dum, 16, agreed to the terms, Religion News Service reported Thursday.

"Both families were satisfied with the decision," Norman said. "I talked to the district attorney before I passed sentence. I did what I felt like I needed to do."

The sentence requires Alred to finish high school and complete welding school.

The charges stemmed from a Dec. 4, 2011, crash involving a drunken Alred crashing a vehicle into a tree with Dum as his passenger.

Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the sentence is a "clear violation of the First Amendment."

However, Kiesel said not much can be done about the issue unless a person or organization can show legal standing to challenge the ruling.

"If the court or the district attorney attempts to enforce this requirement, we will look at possible ways to intervene," Kiesel said. "I know the boy agreed to this, but is someone facing a judge in open court really making a voluntary decision? Government officials should not be involved in what is a very personal choice."

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