According to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Judge Charles Schrumpf of the Sulphur City Court in Louisiana has a completely unconstitutional way of handling first-time drug offenders. If they want to receive probation, they must attend a Christian program called “Life Choices” at a local church.
And what if the probationers don’t want to participate in the program or request a secular alternative? Schrumpf isn’t having it.
We are informed that during this program, probationers are given a bible and are required to do homework that involves reading passages from scripture and the evangelical book “Made to Crave.” We are told that the classes regularly open and close with Christian prayer…
We are further informed that when probationers have raised objections to participating in Life Choices due to the religious nature of the program, probation officers have told them to “take it up with the judge” in an intimidating tone that led one probationer to believe that there would be retribution for doing so. It was made very clear to probationers that failure to complete their assigned programs would result in the revocation of their probation.
It’s been said before, but it’s just awful policy to require drug users to replace one bad habit with another. There are strong, secular programs out there that can help them. It’s not like Christian rehab programs are the only game in town, even in Louisiana.
FFRF is not saying Life Choices can’t be offered to offenders. But a secular alternative must be provided for those who want it.
I spoke with someone a while back who was told to take these classes and the person told me a couple of details that FFRF leaves out of their letter:
— The teacher said that while some class attendees may not be Christian, that was the ultimate goal.
— When one attendee told Probation Officer Barbara Adam he was an atheist, she allegedly said to him, “We’ll see how you feel after the eight weeks [of class].”
The question now is whether the judge will comply or try to fight back.