Reverend Lynn an Obstacle to Christianity

8 02 2007

Filed under: IFI, Iowa Prison, Church and State

Reverend Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State is wrong on about 99.9999999999999999999999999999999999999999% of what he says. Matter of fact, I can’t really think of a time when I’ve agreed with him. Heck, my site is named to counter his deceitfullness.

His organization is arguing a case that seeks to ask an appeals court to rule against a tax-funded religious program in an Iowa prison. From his website:

Can the government force inmates to become evangelical Christians as the price of receiving rehabilitation, better treatment while in prison and the prospect of earlier release? Can taxpayers be forced to support a prison ministry that indoctrinates inmates in one religious tradition and attacks other faiths as false?

Now, you must appreciate an opening like that. “Force inmates.” “Attack other faiths.” Let’s read more:

What if to make matters worse the sectarian program has no proof of success in its performance?

Those questions are at the heart of an important court hearing scheduled before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Arguments in Americans United v. Prison Fellowship Ministries will take place Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2007, at 9 a.m. at the Thomas F. Eagleton United States Courthouse in St. Louis, Mo.

The case will be heard by retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Circuit Judges Roger Wollman and Duane Benton.

A retired liberal justice who, unfortunately, developed a bad case of the liberals in her later years on the high court after being nominated by the Gipper, will undoubtedly side with UA on this. She’s offered to do this on her own. I’m sure she is wanting in so she can bring the sledge hammer to the Christian-bashing party.

A federal district court has already ruled that public funding of the Prison Fellowship Ministries program violates the separation of church and state. Judge Robert W. Pratt’s decision is now on appeal.

According to Judge Pratt’s decision, “Non-religious persons were often characterized by InnerChange staff as ‘unsaved,’ ‘lost,’ ‘pagan,’ those ‘who served the flesh,’ ‘of Satan,’ ‘sinful,’ and ‘of darkness.’”

Great. Now that we have AU’s deceit on file, let’s now examine the truth from the source of its provider, the InnerChange Freedom Initiative, or IFI:

On its front page [on Dec 5, 2006], the NYTimes ran the following headline above the fold: “Religion for a Captive Audience, Paid for by Taxes.” The headline alone tells you the kind of picture the Times intended to—and, in fact, did—paint.

But what did the Times not tell us in that article? First, the Times failed to mention that prisoners who participate in the program do so voluntarily. Every potential participant is told about the religious aspects of the program. Participants may leave it at any time without penalty. And they do not need to accept or profess Christianity to graduate. That’s why every prisoner who testified at trial said that he was not coerced into enrolling in the program.

Ok. Christians: 1 AU: 0

Neither did the New York Times tell you about what the judge [Pratt] considered to be “coercion”: offering inmates a quality program and the tools they need to succeed on the outside, such as drug treatment, job preparedness, and general education. These are what he regarded as bait to lure unsuspecting prisoners into a Christian program where they can be converted!

The Times did tell you that one Catholic inmate left the program because he felt IFI was hostile to his faith. And while the Times granted that the program does not condone anti-Catholicism—which, of course, it doesn’t—it didn’t tell you that the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights filed an amicus brief on IFI’s behalf.

Christians: 2 AU: 0

In its zeal to make it look like the taxpayers are picking up the tab for jailhouse evangelism and indoctrination—their words, not mine—the Times didn’t tell readers that Prison Fellowship pays 60 percent of IFI’s costs in Iowa. The other 40 percent paid by the state of Iowa, pursuant to a competitive bid contract, is used for the non-sectarian or non-religious aspects of the program.

Christians: 3 AU: 0 I smell a shut-out . . . But maybe Lynn can be right just once . . .

While the Times did note that attorneys general in nine states “fiercely protested” the judge’s decision, and that IFI has been “widely praised by correctional officials and politicians,” it didn’t tell you why.

The reason is that IFI has been proven to help states reduce recidivism, as shown by a study by the University of Pennsylvania. And it helps states to manage corrections costs. In short, state officials like IFI because it works.

Aww. Christians: 4 AU: 0 Shut out.

Former U.S. Attorney General, John Ashcroft has endorsed IFI:

The court did not order the program closed because it is a failure; by every measure, it is remarkably successful. It didn’t order the program closed because it costs too much; the state pays only 40 percent of the cost, while private donations cover 60 percent. No, the court ordered the program closed because the state partnered with a faith-based re-entry program, the InnerChange Freedom Initiative, to reduce recidivism in Iowa.

That is sad. Our prisons desperately need the flexibility to try new ways to change the hearts and habits of offenders. Under exisiting systems over the last 20 years, two out of every three former inmates have been re-arrested within three years of their release.

But hey, as long as Christians can’t force their views on those that need it most…

Judge Pratt cited no authoritative reference for his opinion that rehabilitative treatment was “a function traditionally reserved to the state.” This is not only without legal support, but also is historically inaccurate. From the earliest days of our republic, religious societies and organizations have ministered to prisoners.

But since when do liberals pay any attention to history, orginal intent, or the actual Constitution?

When I served in the U.S. Senate, this is the type of activity I sought to encourage when I sponsored the Charitable Choice Amendment, which allows government agencies to contract with social service providers to tackle significant social problems, even if the provider is a religious organization. The IFI program follows the model of Charitable Choice: Government funds are used for non-sectarian purposes only to fulfill a legitimate public need — reducing recidivism — while private donations pay for the religious portion of the program.

What? A Christian organization that is allowed the free exercise thereof? Can’t happen. Another example of how breathingists always default to “establishment” instead of “free exercise.”

Neither Judge Pratt nor Americans United offers a better way to stop the revolving door of prisons. They simply want to s
hut IFI down. Even worse, Judge Pratt’s decision ordered IFI to repay the money it had been paid for non-religious programming, even though Iowa was entirely satisfied with the work performed.

Judge Pratt’s opinion ties the hands of corrections officials who are trying to make our communities safer. It also pushes away the helping hands of the religious volunteers who are making a difference in the lives of the returning inmates. Most tragically of all, it denies inmates the opportunity to participate in an excellent, voluntary program with proven success.

All in a day’s work for a liberal judge. A separation case, supress Christians, and go soft on criminals. What more could he ask for?

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