It’s easy for the atheist community to dismiss the actions of people like Houston judge John Clinton. He was trying to think outside the box when he assigned book reports instead of jail time for petty crimes. Being a Christian, he chose an overtly Christian book, The Heart of the Problem, for his smalltime crooks to read. I’m sure he thought that he was helping. The ACLU warned him off. To his credit, he stopped the program immediately.
I liked his intent, but not his choice of reading material. Keeping people out of jail while still holding them accountable seems like a great idea to me. I like the idea of a bunch of stoners reading a good book or two, and the writing something to settle their debt to society would be a bonus. Judge Clinton – make a list of 10 good non-religious books. Let your convicted criminals choose their own poison. I’d even go so far as to say that you should collect and publish the results. It would be the judicial equivalent of the People of Walmart. And set a high standard for the book report. Make it at least 10 pages of text and have them use the APA style guild. Let’s see what they learn.
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- Neuromancer by William Gibson
- The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
- Bury my heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. (Black Elk Speaks as an alternate)
- North of Boston by Robert Frost
- The Stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov