Skip to comments.Judge Rules Christian Prison Program Unconstitutional; (Prison Fellowship: founder Chuck Colson)
Posted on 06/05/2006 2:47:29 PM PDT by xzins
Judge Rules Christian Prison Program Unconstitutional; Appeal Planned
"The courts took God our of America's schools -- now they are on the path to take God out of America's prisons." -- Mark Earley, Prison Fellowship President
By Jody Brown June 5, 2006
(AgapePress) - Evidently it matters not that a well-known and highly successful prison ministry believes one of its premier programs is constitutional and well within the guidelines of the First Amendment, or that statistics bear out the effectiveness of the program. A federal judge has ruled the program is unconstitutional -- and now the program that equips prisoners to successfully re-enter society is in jeopardy.
A federal judge has ruled that an Iowa prison program that involves inmates immersing themselves in evangelical Christianity is unconstitutional and must be shut down. Associated Press reports that Judge Robert Pratt, in a ruling expected to have national implications, said Prison Fellowship's InnerChange Freedom Initiative amounts to a government establishment of religion.
Pratt ruled that the Iowa Department of Corrections must close the program within 60 days and that $1.5 million in contract payments must be returned to state officials, but he suspended those orders while an appeal is pending.
Prison Fellowship, which sponsors similar programs in Texas, Minnesota, Kansas and Arkansas, argued that the Iowa program is voluntary and has secular benefits. The ministry claims the program has produced "dramatic results" in the lives of hardened criminals and has been effective in stopping what it describes as "the revolving door of crime."
Mark Earley If Judge Pratt's ruling is allowed to stand, says Prison Fellowship president Mark Earley, it will "enshrine" religious discrimination. The ruling, he states, "has attacked the right of people of faith to operate on a level playing field in the public arena and to provide services to those who volunteered to receive them."
In addition, observes Earley, the federal judge's decision fosters what the ministry leader describes as a "lock 'em up and throw away the key" approach to fighting crime.
"It assumes by warehousing criminals and providing no services to help them change, that society will be safer when they get out," he says. "Nothing could be further from the truth." Prison Fellowship says it plans to appeal the ruling to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and that it believes the case will eventually make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
It was more than three years ago -- February 2003 -- that the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit against the InnerChange Freedom Initiative in Iowa, alleging that it represented an excessive entanglement between state and religion.
More than two million people are serving time in Americas prisons. Nearly 700,000 offenders are released back into society each year. Studies show that 67 percent of these released inmates will be re-arrested and more than 50 percent will return to prison for committing new crimes within three years.
Founded in 1976 by former Nixon aide Chuck Colson and led by former Virginia Attorney General Mark Earley, Prison Fellowship is the largest prison outreach and criminal justice reform organization in the world.
In this effort, Prison Fellowship provides ongoing support, recruitment, research, training, and resources to more than 20,000 churches throughout America. It also works with thousands more individual volunteers who are active in an outreach to the prison population and with inmate families.
Programs of Prison Fellowship include:
Outreach to prisoners and ex-prisoner transitional care
Assistance to families and children of prisoners
Advocacy for criminal justice reform
A 2002 study showed that faith-based prison programs result in a significantly lower rate of re-arrest (recidivism) than vocation-based programs16 percent versus 36 percentwith a national recidivism rate of nearly 70 percent (Assessing the Impact of Religious Programs and Prison Industry on Recidivism, Texas Journal of Corrections, February 2002).
If Judge Pratt's ruling is allowed to stand, says Prison Fellowship president Mark Earley, it will "enshrine" religious discrimination. The ruling, he states, "has attacked the right of people of faith to operate on a level playing field in the public arena and to provide services to those who volunteered to receive them."
They are there for rehabilitation supposedly. Being exposed to morals interferes with this?
i personally know at least 11 people who benefited from this program...it is voluntary...and ALL of them are makeing a headway into a new life.....NONE of them have been back in....shortest term out to date, 3.5 years....longest 11 years....the program ministry makes a difference....
Mark Earley is a friend of mind and a fine man. I am so happy that he found this important position and this organization, rather than be lost in the very unimportant job of being governor of Virginia.
But it's OK to allow practitioners of the "Indian" religions to have sweat lodges on prison property. I wouldn't be surprised if they let them use peyote as well. A double standard?
Earlier thread here...
If the program used private monies to fund itself, I'd be 100% in favor of it. I cheer its methodology, results, and Christian compassion.
I, too, have problems with using taxpayer money to fund it. Keep government's corrupt and grubby paws off religion--government can only ruin it. What if a state decided to use millions of dollars in taxpayer money to fund a program that preached fundamentalist Islam to prisoners? Would anyone object to their tax funds supporting that?
This is an unconstitutional, though unsuprising ruling. Hopefully it makes it all the way to the Supreme Court where the majority of Judges actually care about what the Constitution has to say on the subject.
Meanwhile thousands of prisoners are being converted to radical Islam by the Muslim Chaplains
This is completely ridiculous.
This is ridiculous.
If the Muslim chaplains are getting state funding, I would object to that, too.
However, no religion should get government funding to carry out its missions. Government can only ruin religion by getting involved in it.
So let me get this straight. Britain is spending millions so Muslims don't sit on the can with thier backs to Mecca, but here in America, one nation under God, we now have no room for God in prison. Amazing that it's okay to attack Christians even though the US constitution forbids the judge from blocking a prisoner from practising his religion?
--Pratt ruled that the Iowa Department of Corrections must close the program within 60 days and that $1.5 million in contract payments
What is a prison fellowship doing taking money for things others do for free?
But Muslim radicals preaching in the slammer is perfectly OK? Hmmmmm ......
"What if a state decided to use millions of dollars in taxpayer money to fund a program that preached fundamentalist Islam to prisoners? Would anyone object to their tax funds supporting that?"
Thats a good question. I'd support any peaceful religion although I'd greatly prefer Christian. Does Islam qualify as a peaceful religion?
I cannot understand where these courts come form on here except that their intent is to persecute Christians. America is a Christian country. Our Constitution and country was created so that people could be Christian. It also allows the exercise of other religions. It does not guarantee freedom FROM religion though.
The federal courts have ruled that chaplains are a legitimate function of the US government in order to preserve the right of religion, so they are employed in various institutional settings at government expense, to include the military, the Veteran's administration, and in the House/Senate. (Perhaps others...prisons, for example.)
The reason is this: the government has placed people in these institutions, and the nature of the institution itself separate the "members" from regular society in some extraordinary way. Additionally, the controls necessary in the institutional setting require the goverment to have control of persons who regularly interact with the "members."
This is clearly the case with the military, and it is about the military that the federal courts ruled years ago. They decided that the chaplaincy was the "best" solution to the problem of providing the FULL free exercise rights to the members of the military.
As a military chaplain, we regularly spent tax monies for an assortment of soldier support programs.
All legal....and necessary.
I see the same issue in prisons: a) an institutionalized membership, b) extraordianary separation from normal society, c) necessity of institutional control of access to membership.
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