Americans United to Challenge Faith Based Prison Program

October 21, 2005

Source: Americans United

On October 21, 2005 Americans United reported, "An important legal challenge that will test the boundaries of government involvement in 'faith-based' initiatives gets under way in federal district court in Iowa next week. Americans United for Separation of Church and State is suing officials in the Iowa Department of Corrections and Charles Colson’s Prison Fellowship Ministries to stop state funding of a prison program called InnerChange that is based on evangelical Christianity. The challenge, filed on behalf of inmates and taxpayers from a variety of faith traditions, charges that the arrangement violates the constitutional separation of church and state... The lawsuit targets use of the InnerChange program at Newton Correctional Facility. The publicly funded program, sponsored by Colson’s ministry, is saturated with an evangelical version of Christianity and hires only evangelical Christians to serve as staff... Evidence uncovered by Americans United during discovery shows that InnerChange inmates have increased access to treatment classes that boost their chances of being released on parole. They also get better prison jobs, have separate bathrooms and keys to their cells, receive softer discipline for rules violations and even receive pay for being in the program... Americans United argues that the state may not legally sponsor such a sectarian approach."