Don’t Let Judges Insert Religion into Sentencing

Target: Judge Michael Nettles

Goal: Don’t require those sentenced to do bible study as part of their sentence

Michael Nettles, a South Carolina judge has attached an unusual and highly unconstitutional requirement to a recent sentencing: he has required a convicted criminal to read the bible as part of her sentence. The criminal in question, a drunk driver, was convicted and sentenced to 8 years in prison—not an unusual sentence, given the facts of the case—and to read the bible as well as turn in a paper on the book of Job.

It goes without saying that sentencing a person to study a specific religion as part of a legal sentence is an absolute abrogation of the first amendment; compelling anybody to read a religious text, regardless of what the specific text is, constitutes a state endorsing of a religion. Nobody in a position of power in the United States government or legal system has the right to force anybody else to practice or study a religion which they do not choose to.

Imagine the public uproar if this judge were a Muslim and he sentenced those who came through his court read the Koran. There is no possibility that the public would see this as anything but an unconstitutional overreach of judicial power and an infringement on the separation of church and state.

Sign this petition in order to demand that Judge Michael Nettles immediately stop sentencing people to read the bible with his authority as a judge. The separation of church and state is absolute and we, as Americans, cannot tolerate judges violating this separation without outcry.


Dear Judge Michael Nettles,

Recently, you sentenced a woman convicted of drunk driving to 8 years in prison and to read the bible. This letter is sent to you in order to protest the addition of bible study onto the normal sentence of prison time which you hand out to people in your courtroom. Your attachment of bible study to a prison sentence, well-intentioned as it may be, is a complete abrogation of the civil rights of those who you sentence.

If you weren’t already aware, the first amendment created a separation between church and state which precludes government or law enforcement officials from enforcing their religion (or religion itself) onto an individual. Even if you believe that convicts may benefit from bible study, it is not up to you to force such religious activity on them as part of their sentence.

If another judge, perhaps a colleague of yours, were Muslim and decided to sentence people to reading the Koran, I seriously doubt that you would be okay with it; the sense of outrage which you would feel over the mandated reading of the Koran is identical to the one that some feel over your sentencing people to read the bible.

I, as well as everybody else to sign this petition, implore you to immediately stop sentencing people to bible study and to vow never to start assigning such unconstitutional sentences to convicts in the future.


[Your Name Here]

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77 Signatures

  • Frédérique Pommarat
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