July 23, 2024

Christ not Welcome in Prison

Here’s an example of the sort of ideological boondoggles that today’s polarized, us-against-them power struggles produce on a regular basis here in the old U.S. of A:

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that government support for the InnerChange Freedom Initiative at Newton Correctional Facility — a program operated by Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship Ministries — advances religious indoctrination at state expense.  Americans United brought the litigation against InnerChange on behalf of inmates, their families and taxpayers.

This is a fascinating ruling from the perspective of self-destructive domestic policy.


The decision states: “In the present case, plaintiffs demonstrated . . . that the InnerChange program resulted in inmate enrollment in a program dominated by Bible study, Christian classes, religious revivals, and church services.”

American prisons, while some of the nicest facilities of incarceration in the world, are nonetheless fertile breeding grounds for future criminal behavior. 

True, some criminals are reformed there.  But more are hardened and emerge determined to do anything it takes not to go back.  Anything, that is, except conform to the unpleasantness of the 8-to-5 schedule of a productive working (wo)man. 

According to Wikipedia, the rate of recidivism of American criminals is 60%, a rate which is 10% higher than the U.K.’s.  Clearly we’re not curing what ails prisoners with what we’re doing now.  Perhaps a new approach is in order?  If so, Chuck Colson’s is not wanted here.

Not surprisingly, the ruling made a certain class of Americans happy:

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, hailed the ruling.

“This is an extremely important decision,” said Lynn. “Government officials have no business paying for religious indoctrination and awarding special treatment and benefits to those willing to embrace one religious perspective. 

While I understand the logic behind the court’s decision – and even accept Lynn’s rather narrow perspective on the issue to a certain degree – I can’t help but believe that a more open-minded, pragmatic justice system – indeed, a wiser generation of leaders – would have found the courage to have left well enough alone and allowed the program to continue.

Regardless of whether you accept Christianity or not, it’s obvious that every type of education that helps inmates build a foundation for a future life free of crime should be invested in, including Christianity. 

Like it or not, there are already other religions hard at work in our prisons, ones that the average American atheist would be well-advised to consider less friendly than his or her local pastor.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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