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ACLU files complaint over teen's sentencing to 10 years of church attendance

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma is not happy with a judge's decision to require a teen to attend church as a condition of probation for a fatal drunk-driving crash.

In November, Muskogee County District Judge Mike Norman stipulated that 17-year-old Tyler Alred should attend church regularly for 10 years as a requirement to avoid a prison sentence, the Tulsa World reported. The teen admitted to police he had been drinking in the Dec. 3, 2011, crash that killed his 16-year-old passenger and friend, John Luke Dum, according to the newspaper.

The ACLU of Oklahoma filed a complaint with state judicial misconduct authorities Tuesday alleging Norman's ruling disregarded religious liberties in the federal and state constitutions.


"It is shocking that a judge would so blatantly ignore the First Amendment, which at a minimum prevents the government from forcing church attendance and from interfering in deeply personal matters of faith," Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, said in a statement.

"I hope and pray that church will give him his lord and savior, and make a difference in his life," said Oklahoma judge Mike Norman, who sentenced a teen to 10 years of church as part of his probation for a conviction of manslaughter. NBC's Thanh Truong reports.

Alred had been charged with manslaughter as a youthful offender and had pleaded guilty in August, according to the Tulsa World.

By getting the mandatory church order as part of the decade of probation, Alred averted prison time. The judge also required the teen to wear an alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelet, undergo drug and alcohol assessments, finish school, attend counseling, and speak about the consequences of drinking and driving, among other probation requirements, the Tulsa World reported.

"If someone wants to appeal my decision, they're entitled to do that," Norman had told the newspaper in November.

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But Alred's defense attorney, Donn Baker, has told the Tulsa World they have no plans to fight the probation terms.

"My client goes to church every Sunday," Baker told the newspaper last month. "That isn't going to be a problem for him. We certainly want the probation for him."

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