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Judge says Christian prison program must end

Discussion in '2006 Archive' started by Ben W, Jun 4, 2006.

  1. Ben W

    Ben W Active Member
    Site Supporter

    Sep 16, 2002
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    In Australia an inmate tried fortunatley unsuccessfully to sue the Salvation Army for running the Alpha Course in the prision. I am surprised though that a Christian organisation would sue to prevent the Gospel being preached - That really does not make a lot of sense, unless I am reading the article incorrectly?


    Judge says Christian prison program must end
    InnerChange Freedom Initiative will continue at the correctional center in Newton during an appeal.


    June 3, 2006

    A faith-based Iowa prison treatment program in which inmates immerse themselves in evangelical Christianity is unconstitutional and must be shut down, a federal judge said Friday.

    U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt of Des Moines, in a 140-page ruling with national implications, said the Innerchange Freedom Initiative at the Newton Correctional Facility violates the First Amendment's clause barring government from the establishment of religion.

    Pratt said the Iowa Department of Corrections must close the program within 60 days, and $1.5 million in contract payments must be returned to state officials. However, those orders will be suspended while an appeal is pending, the judge said.

    The InnerChange program has operated at the Newton state prison since October 1999, sponsored by Prison Fellowship Ministries. About 210 inmates spend their days in education, counseling and work, with a heavy emphasis on Bible teachings.

    Prison Fellowship contended the program was voluntary and it had the secular benefits of improving inmate behavior, reducing recidivism and protecting public safety.

    The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, praised the decision. His organization, based in Washington, D.C., had sued on behalf of some inmates and Iowa taxpayers, contending the program unconstitutionally represents a merger of state and religion.

    "We are absolutely delighted that the court found significant constitutional defects in a government-funded prison program that involves religious proselytizing or religious evangelism," Lynn said Friday. "If the reasoning in this case is followed elsewhere, and I suspect that it will be, it will pose an enormous challenge to faith-based programs at the state and federal level in many kinds of institutions."