*A new alternative sentencing program offering first-time, nonviolent offenders a choice of a year of church attendance or jail time and fines is drawing fire from the American Civil Liberties Union as well as national attention, officials said Friday.

“This policy is blatantly unconstitutional,” said Olivia Turner, executive director for the ACLU of Alabama. “It violates one basic tenet of the Constitution, namely that government can’t force participation in religious activity.”

But the local police chief who is heading up the program starting Tuesday called “Restore Our Community” says no one is being forced to participate.

“Operation ROC resulted from meetings with church leaders,” Bay Minette Police Chief Mike Rowland said. “It was agreed by all the pastors that at the core of the crime problem was the erosion of family values and morals. We have children raising children and parents not instilling values in young people.”

Read more at al.com.