Here’s a case that I find disturbing. A woman in South Carolina has been ordered to read the Bible every day as part of a sentence for injuring two people after driving drunk and crashing into them. The woman agreed to it, but I don’t think that matters all that much:
Circuit Court Judge Michael Nettles also included another order in the sentence, one that’s much less common.
Tolley of Rock Hill must read the Old Testament book of Job and write a summary.
It’s a rare ruling, according to legal experts.
Similar sentences have raised constitutional concerns, but Tolley’s case is special.
“Under normal circumstances, the judge wouldn’t have the authority to do that,” said Kenneth Gaines, a University of South Carolina professor of law specializing in civil and criminal litigation. “You can’t just arbitrarily add anything you want to a sentence.
“But if she consented, it’s really not an issue. It’s critical that the defendant was in entire agreement with it.”
Tolley’s attorney, Amy Sikora, a York County, S.C., public defender, said Tolley was thankful for the assignment. She already has started working on it.
The problem here is that it’s very difficult to distinguish between genuine agreement and subtle coercion. If a judge wanted to order you to do that, would you say no? Would you risk the judge changing the other parts of the sentence if you refuse? No court should ever, under any circumstances, order anyone to participate in religious rituals or activities of any kind.