A Teenager Is Facing Prison Time for Posting This Photo to Facebook

A Teenager Is Facing Prison Time for Posting This Photo to Facebook
Source: Facebook

Is it distasteful? Yes. Is it worth prison time? That's a tougher question.

A 14-year-old could be facing that actual prison time after he simulated oral sex with a statue of Jesus in Everett, Penn., according to KRON 4.

The statue, which is in front of the local Love in the Name of Christ organization, features Jesus kneeling. The teenager climbed up and well, you know. He later posted the photos to Facebook, where police found them.

Why is this happening? Pennsylvania has a state law, passed in 1972, that doesn't allow "defacing, damaging, polluting or otherwise physically mistreating in a way that the actor knows will outrage the sensibilities of persons likely to observe or discover the action." The law was previously used in 2010, according to the Altoona Mirror, to punish a college student who urinated on a nativity scene.

Plenty of states have similar laws, notes Mother Jones, but most require that some type of physical desecration or vandalism be involved. Pennsylvania joins Alabama, Tennessee and Oregon as states that just require that something offensive occured.

The reaction: The arrest has stirred questions of freedom of speech and separation of church and state. Would the teen be facing this large a punishment if he had simulated oral sex with just any old statue, not one with Christian significance?

One large focus has been on the lack of damage to the property itself. As Patheos writer JT Eberhard notes:

So let's say an adult (subject to harsher penalties than minors) elected to spray paint "Jesus loves dicks" on the side of this boy's school. That guy, at most (and the "at most" comes in to play for people with previous criminal records, which this boy doesn't have), would serve a year in jail – and that's assuming the cost of having the wall re-painted exceeds $150, otherwise the penalty would be less.

But a 14 year-old does something stupid that causes literally zero property damage and he could face two years in juvenile jail because it's a "venerated object"? That's insane. That's really ludicrous.

For the record, Love in the Name of Christ says it didn't want to press charges at all. "We have asked for prayer for this young man," a spokesman told Raw Story. "And Love Inc. did not press charges against him. So, what is happening is from the police. It is not from the ministry."

h/t Mother Jones

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Matt Connolly

Matt has written for Mother Jones, the Washington Examiner and Chicago Public Radio among many others. He's a resident of Washington, D.C., but much like Bruce Springsteen and pork roll he is a product of New Jersey.

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