The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that an evangelical program at Iowa’s Newton Newton Correctional Facility violates the First Amendment by using state funds to support a particular religion.
While the court reversed a lower-court ordered to force the program InnerChange Freedom Initiative to repay up to $1.7 million, it found that no state funds could be used in the future. Under the program (organized by the Virginia-based Prison Fellowship), over a hundred prisoners spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week in prayer and religious sessions.
According to testimony, the staff refers to non-Christians as “unsaved,” “lost” and “pagan” and “sinful.”
The ruling is a blow to people like President Bush who favor faith-based solutions to such problems as habitual crime. Christian and non-christian groups (particularly the Nation of Islam and Scientology) have been making considerable investments in anti-drug and anti-crime programs. The decision raises questions about the plethora of faith-based programs that the Administration funds. The distinction is that those programs claim that they focus on such goals as drug rehab without the emphasis on conversion.
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