A Pennsylvania teen who posted a photo of himself in a lewd position with a statue of Jesus Christ will have to perform community service and be deprived of social media access as part of his punishment.
A 14-year-old from Bedford County received his punishment from Judge Thomas Ling last week, which includes 350 hours of community service, probation, a six-month ban on social media, and a 10 p.m. curfew, WJAC-TV reports.
District Attorney Bill Higgins said in a statement that the Christian organization that owns the desecrated statue of Jesus "has every right to practice their faith unmolested."
"I was pleased to hear that this young man apologized to [church members at] Love in the Name of Christ and I am glad he has accepted responsibility for his behavior," said Higgins.
"He is a 14-year-old boy with the potential to have a bright future. I am confident that if he applies himself, he can put this matter behind him and become a productive citizen."
In July, a teenager from the town of Everett posted a photo of himself on Facebook posing with a statue of Jesus at the church.
The statue showed a kneeling Jesus praying with two hands clasped together; the teen proceeded to stand in front of the statue implying a sexually lewd act.
KRON channel 4 noted last month that the teen had the possibility of facing upwards of two years in juvenile prison on the charge of desecration, according to state law.
"The criminal charge, which will be heard in family court, consists of 'desecration of a venerated object,'" reported KRON.
"Pennsylvania law defines desecration as '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.'"
Higgins had initially attempted to go for a punishment under the statute, garnering criticism from groups like the Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
In September, Americans United sent a letter to Higgins arguing that the statute in question was constitutionally dubious.
"By prosecuting this teenager because of the message conveyed by his actions — and because these actions may have "outraged the sensibilities" of others — the county is violating both the free speech and establishment causes of the First Amendment," wrote Americans United.
"Even if the county obtains a conviction, it is almost certain to be overturned, and the county would also be vulnerable to a lawsuit for civil rights violations."
Americans United argued that while the teen's actions were despicable, it was not the job of government to punish him, especially since no physical damage was done to the statue.