TODAY | November 24, 2012
>>> an oklahoma judge is facing heavy criticism after handing down an unconventional sentence. following a deadly car accident, a judge sentenced a young driver to a place many people visit -- church .
>> reporter: this 17-year-old was handed an unlikely and highly controversial sentence, church , for the next ten years.
>> i hope and pray that church will give him his lord and savior and make a difference in his life.
>> reporter: oklahoma district judge mike norman sentenced allred to regularly attend church as part of his probation. allred crashed his truck on this road last year. his friend was ejected and died.
>> i'm not able to hug john or to give him a kiss, but i am able to feel him in my heart.
>> reporter: the incident report states allred was under the influence. judge norman says locking up the teenager would do more harm than good.
>> i think it would have had a terrible effect on him to go to prison at age 17. he would not come out the same man.
>> reporter: the american civil liberties union of oklahoma claims norman 's so called church sentence is unconstitutional, violating the separation between church and state .
>> if the first amendment means anything, it means that the government can't coerce an individual to believe in a particular faith or to go to church or to not go to a church .
>> reporter: both the defendants and victims' families support the judge's decision.
>> i think in essence, it's already ruined two families and two lives. one life has a chance to turn around and improve.
>> reporter: allred 's family issued a statement saying in part, it was a bad mistake on all the boys' parts. we are thankful that we had a judge who could see our grandson's potential for the future. in addition to attending church , allred must also finish high school and avoid drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. the aclu plans to file a complaint against the judge next week, but for now, allred faces penance instead of prison. f .