How is it possible that an actual United States judge sentenced a teen facing a manslaughter conviction to go to church? I’m not sure how it could happen – but it did.

The situation that led to the conviction and subsequent sentence, is one of those awful stories no parent ever wants to hear. From Tulsa World News:

The defendant, Tyler Alred, 17, was behind the wheel of a Chevrolet pickup about 4 a.m. Dec. 3 when he crashed into a tree on a county road east of Muskogee. His friend and passenger John Luke Dum, 16, of Muskogee died at the scene.

Although not legally drunk – he was given two breath tests, which, at 0.06 and 0.07, fell below the legal 0.08 blood-alcohol threshold for legal drunkenness – he was underage and, as a result, considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol.

Alred was charged with manslaughter as a youthful offender. He pleaded guilty in August, with no plea deal with prosecutors to govern his punishment.

What a nightmare for both families – especially the family that lost a child. The family of the boy that died expressed remorse – not anger – over the whole horrible ordeal. ”We don’t need to see two lives wasted for a mistake,” Dum’s sister, Caitlin, wrote in a statement. The defending attorney was quoted by the Muskogee Times making a plea to the judge. “I usually represent outlaws, and criminals. This is a kid that made a mistake. Judge, I think he’s worth saving.”

Judge Mike Norman agreed, and instead of sentencing him to prison time, gave him a 10- year deferred sentence. In order to stay out of prison, Alred will have to graduate from high school; graduate from welding school; take drug, alcohol and nicotine tests for a year; wear a drug and alcohol bracelet, participate in victim’s impact panels, and attend church for the next 10 years.

All of that other stuff makes sense – but you lost me at attending church. Alred doesn’t have a problem with that part of his sentence. He already attends church every Sunday. But again – what? How is it possible that in the United States of America we are weaving religious activities into law enforcement? Separation of church and state is a real thing, isn’t it? Apparently not in Oklahoma.

The kid was already attending church regularly. Clearly it did nothing to stop him from acting irresponsibly and committing manslaughter. If church magically cleared people of all stupidity and instantly “reformed” them – well, let’s just say the religious right would look a lot different.

This is insane. Alred is apparently already a Christian, but what if he wasn’t? What if he came from a family of Atheists? Could the law still force him to go to church? This may seem like one small case from one small town, but I don’t think it should go unnoticed.