Seven U.S. cities have signed on to a program that allows fugitives to surrender themselves into churches, rather than law enforcement agencies, Lisa Parro reports for Christianity Today. Run by the U.S. Marshals Service, Fugitive Safe Surrender is designed to “take that desperateness out of the equation” according to project developer Pete Elliott. Elliot says that 85 percent of fugitives who turn themselves into the churches claim they would not have surrendered were it not the program.
In spite of its success, critics believe that Fugitive Safe Surrender violates the separation of church and state and therefore is unconstitutional. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, for example, opposes the program, citing the lack of a secular alternative site. The organization also sees a danger in churches functioning as tools of the state.
Supporters of the program, however, believe the conflict between church and state is negligible, especially compared to its concrete benefits. Charles Haynes, a scholar from the First Amendment Center told Parro that there’s no conflict, provided that churches don’t use the program to proselytize.