Church and State: August 2006 Archives

August 28, 2006

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United States: Fundies are unhappy that federal judges have declared that an Iowa programme which gave early release to prisoners if they converted to evangelical Christianity is illegal.

The June 2 decision in Americans United for Separation of Church and State v. Prison Fellowship Ministries was a staggering loss not just for Earley's group but perhaps for key elements of President George W. Bush's faith-based initiative as well.

U.S. District Judge Robert W. Pratt didn't mince words. Officials at Iowa's Newton Correctional Facility had become, he wrote, far too entangled with religion by establishing a special wing for Prison Fellowship's InnerChange program. InnerChange, Pratt declared, is suffused with religion.

The religion classes are not objective inquiries into the religious life, comparable to an adult study or college course, offered for the sake of discussing and learning universal secular, civic values or truths, Pratt wrote. They are, instead, overwhelmingly devotional in nature and intended to indoctrinate InnerChange inmates into the Evangelical Christian belief system.

You have to wonder what the programme was meant to acheive. The most recent figures available are for 1997, but show that the most grossly underrepresented group in the US prison population is the athiest, making up between 8 and 16% of the population but only 0.209% of prisoners.

Evangelical Conversion-for-Parole Program ThwartedAlterNet, 28th August 2006.

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