Over the weekend, I mentioned that police in Trenton, New Jersey had a proposal to curb the recent increase in violence: They would take kids who are caught violating curfew and take them to a local church. As if that wouldn’t create more problems than it would solve.
Thankfully, some church/state separation groups are now taking action.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter to Trenton officials yesterday warning them against implementing this policy:
… the Trenton Police Department and the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office have announced that they will unilaterally deposit underage curfew-violators in “houses of worship” to await their parents. This plan is plainly designed to communicate to youthful offenders that they ought to be engaged in religious activity instead of violating curfew. And the minors will be surrounded by religious iconography designed to send proselytizing messages. While we are sensitive to Trenton’s difficulties with youth violence, the City and County cannot legally solve the problem by forcing religion upon its youth.
“This proposal is an egregious violation of the First Amendment, since it is a bedrock principle of constitutional law that the state cannot coerce citizens to participate in religious practices,” FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel writes to Trenton Police Director Ernest Parrey Jr. “It is not surprising that Trenton’s city code does not allow for transporting juvenile offenders to churches for counseling because as a government agency providing youth counseling, the Trenton Police Department has a duty to remain neutral towards religion.”
Now it’s up to city officials to decide whether they want to proceed with this awful plan, or risk a lawsuit they would inevitably lose.
(Image via Shutterstock)