ArtSpitzer at AOL.COM
Mon Feb 9 13:43:41 PST 1998
ACLU Wins Texas Suit to Stop
Judge From Ordering Teenagers to Church
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, February 5, 1998
DALLAS -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas has reached a
settlement with the justice of the peace who ordered a 14-year-old
Native American boy to attend church and Sunday school as community
The settlement, filed on February 3d, calls for Justice of the Peace
Bruce McDougal to "cease sentencing anyone to attend religious service
and/or religious instruction as community service" and to allow the
teenager, Zack J. Smith, to participate in community service through an
The ACLU became aware of the situation when the boy's mother requested
assistance because the court staff would not allow her son to substitute
the "church program" for a secular one. [Sic. Presumably means vice versa -
The Smith family was given a form by the court to fill out stating that
the defendant was "to attend church of his/her choice for eight
consecutive weeks" if he was unable to pay the fine.
"We really had no idea how many kids had been sentenced this way before
Zack, but knowing that there was an actual form for a "church program"
indicated to us that many people have been affected by Judge McDougal's
violations of the First Amendment," said Diana Philip, ACLU of Texas
Northern Regional Director.
"We are relieved that the matter was resolved in such a prompt fashion
and that the county immediately stopped its unconstitutional practice,"
stated Michael Linz, the ACLU volunteer cooperating attorney who
Zack will be volunteering his community service at a non-profit
organization in his town of Lancaster, Texas and the ACLU urged the
court staff to take the time to find a variety of community service
opportunities for young people who go in front of Judge McDougal's
"The boy's mother called around and found at least five different places
that her son could do his community service," the ACLU's Philip said.
"Getting kids to participate more in their community is a way for them
to think twice about committing an act that would disturb the peace in
their own neighborhoods."
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