AU Warns KY Judge About Worship Sentences

A Kentucky judge’s practice of offering drug and alcohol offenders the option to attend worship services instead of jail or rehab has drawn a complaint from Americans United.

In late May, the Associated Press reported that Laurel County District Judge Michael Caperton had been providing drug and alcohol offenders the option of going to church instead of spending time behind bars or in a rehab center.

Caperton told reporters that he saw no constitutional problem with his sentencing because “it’s not mandatory and I say worship services instead of church.”

In a June 9 letter to Caperton, Americans United Legal Direc­tor Ayesha Khan asked the judge to “discontinue this practice.”

The letter stated, “The federal and state courts have uniformly held that a criminal defendant cannot be put to the choice of either participating in a religious program or suffering an adverse consequence such as jail time.”