Sulphur judge under fire by anti-religion group - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Sulphur judge under fire by anti-religion group

SULPHUR, LA (KPLC) -

A Sulphur City court judge is under fire from an anti-religion group asking him to stop coercing people to participate in religious programs.

But Judge Charles Schrumpf says he offers the "Life Choices" program by a local church as an alternative to other punishment. And he believes it’s perfectly legal. The program is provided by the Celebration Worship Center, which is an Assembly of God church in Sulphur.

For fifteen years Schrumpf has served on the bench in Sulphur City Court.  For all that time, he says he's offered religious programs as an alternative to traditional sentencing.

But Schrumpf is now being criticized by the "Freedom from Religion Foundation" which says, in a letter, that it is "wholly inappropriate to compel vulnerable individuals to participate in support groups that promote religion through prayer or religious study."

However, Schrumpf says he doesn't force anyone.

"Once they make the choice, then it is, you have to complete the program.  If you don't want to complete the program then you have to come back to me and I can give them another choice," said Schrumpf.

He says the program works.

"It's been very effective.  If you talk to the probation office, she tells us it's been remarkable understanding from the people that do this," said Schrumpf.

Still, the group says "complainants regularly express concern they are being pressured to conform to religious practices...rather than receiving neutral, science based assistance."

Schrumpf disagrees, explaining that they are provided with choices.

"We've got to try to avoid putting people in jail that can't afford to pay, and secondly, we've gotta offer them a choice.  If we're going to offer them a religious program, that you offer them a secular program as well, and so I do that.  I offer them community service, a year of church, and I offer them moral and ethical training," he said.

While the Foundation asks that concerns be addressed, Schrumpf says he'll keep offering alternatives including a religious study that he thinks turns lives around.

Schrumpf says those being sentenced can choose a church of their choice.

 We've reached out to the Freedom from Religion Foundation for an interview but have not yet heard back.

Copyright 2017 KPLC All rights reserved

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