Iowa Prison Program that Saves Prisoner “Pagans” is Ruled Unconstitutional

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.

For a copy of the ruling, click here

For the full story, click  here

5 thoughts on “Iowa Prison Program that Saves Prisoner “Pagans” is Ruled Unconstitutional”

  1. Sorry deeply worried, I was multi tasking in the blogosphere and thought I was responting to Patty. I don’t beleive that this church is interested in the prisoner’s welfare as much as they are interested in claiming their souls for Jesus.

  2. Commoner, were you answering my post or some other by Patty C? I didn’t see any from her on this thread (unless it was deleted)

  3. No offence to you Patty C, but it seems that the church is much more interested in prostelyzing than in the welfare of the prisoners. Jews for Jesus, funded largely by the Baptists, employs similiar tactics, snagging religously confused or elderly jews and then converting them to Christianity. The strategy here is similiar; many prisoners would grab on to any program that gets them better treatment, just as a religously desperate person is easier to deceive. Preying on the weak is not exactly something any religion should be proud of.

  4. The 8th Circuit was spot-on.

    Many of us believe that government is forbidden to spend any public monies whatsoever in support of any religious enterprise even if that enterprise is aimed at the general good with no religious qualifications attached. The faith-based programs of this administration are (to me at least) facially unconstitutional. The government cannot violate the separation of church and state merely because a laudable goal of social welfare is furthered thereby.

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