When Americans do embrace the Christian religion in the public square it appears they sometimes overshoot the mark. Friends of mine sent along a couple of stories which illustrate why the principle of separation of church and state, though badly abused by secularist zealots, is not entirely without merit.
By Norman Sinclair / The Detroit News
December 6, 2005In Detroit, the American 19th century Know Nothing movement lives on.
DETROIT - In a lawsuit filed on his behalf by the civil rights group, a 23-year-old Catholic man from Genesee County is asking a federal judge to set aside a drug conviction, saying he was punished for not completing a Pentecostal rehabilitation program. Joseph Hanas was 19 when he pleaded guilty to a marijuana possession charge in February 2001 in Genesee Circuit Court and was placed in a diversion program for young, non-violent offenders.
Upon the recommendation of a probation officer, Judge Robert Ransom sentenced Hanas to the state-sponsored rehabilitation program - the Inner City Christian Outreach Residential Program, run by a Pentecostal church.
Hanas said the program did not offer drug treatment or counseling, nor did it have any organized program other than reading the Bible and attending Pentecostal services. He said his rosary and prayer book was taken from him and his religion was denounced as "witchcraft." Hanas said he was told his only chance of avoiding prison and a felony record was to convert to the Pentecostal faith.
After seven weeks, his mother and lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union in Flint succeeded in getting Hanas back to court. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, claims Ransom acknowledged the failings of the center but ruled that Hanas did not satisfactorily complete the program and sentenced him to three months in jail, three months in a boot camp, and placed him on a tether for three months. Ransom also placed Hanas on four years probation, which he continues to serve.
"This man was punished for insisting on the right to practice Catholicism and refusing conversion to the Pentecostal faith,? said Kary Moss, director of the Michigan ACLU." The pastor who operates the center, Rev. Richard Rottiers could not be reached for comment. Ransom has retired. Before leaving the bench he said he would not send any more prisoners to the Inner City center, citing a lack of accountability.
Mr. Hanas has brought suit against the state for his mistreatment and the American Civil Liberties Union is representing him. According to their brief Mr. Hanas was denied the right to have his priest or his parish deacon visit him. He was told he had given up his religious rights upon entering the program.
You may have noted that I am a blogger with somewhat strong opinions. This case leaves me unable to muster so much as a tiny protest. It speaks for itself. Jesus wept and well he might.