Don’t Force Bible Study on Minor Criminal Offenders

Target: Harrison County Judge Albert Fountain

Goal: Stop offering to keep charges off of youths’ permanent records if they write about the Bible.

Mississippi Judge Albert Fountain has been offering to keep charges off of youths’ permanent records if they write essays about the Bible’s Book of Revelation. This is a blatant infringement of the separation of church and state. Demand that Judge Fountain end this unconstitutional practice at once.

For years Harrison County’s Judge Fountain has seen minors come through his courts, often for the relatively negligible offense of possessing alcohol while under the age of 21. In order to keep these young people from having to enter a guilty plea and have the charge placed on their permanent records, Fountain has been offering them an alternative: writing essays on the Bible.

Specifically, Fountain “suggests” that they write on the Book of Revelation—the Bible’s chapter on the apocalypse—and alcohol’s effects on the body. They can then turn in their essay, and Fountain will revoke their driver’s license for 10 days and place them on a 90-day probation, without a trace of the ordeal going on their permanent records.

Though Judge Fountain’s heart may be in the right place, his methods are morally and legally misguided. Choosing between having a criminal history on your permanent record and writing an essay on the Bible is no true choice at all. Demand that Judge Fountain cease this practice immediately.


Dear Judge Fountain,

I am writing you today regarding your practice of giving minors the option of writing an essay on the Book of Revelation instead of having to plead guilty and get a permanent criminal history. This is religious coercion and should be discontinued immediately.

While you justify this method because the offenders technically have the option of choosing whatever they want to write about, by your own admission only about one in every twenty decide to write about something other than your recommended Book of Revelation. Clearly, it is rare that a minor is going to risk not doing the assignment properly, and consequently getting a criminal history, by writing on something other than what the person in charge of their fate has recommended they write on. There is a fundamental power imbalance between you and the offender that makes the “choice” you use to justify your practice irrelevant.

You are effectively using your position as a government official to force these minors to study the Bible, something that is very much unconstitutional. Neither the government nor its employees can advocate for a specific religion. I demand that you end this practice at once.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Jastrow via Wikimedia Commons

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