Lawsuits and Faith-Based Solutions
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, run by Rev. Barry Lynn, has sued Prison Fellowship, the InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI), and the state of Iowa over our remarkably successful faith-based prison program.
According to the lawsuits, we are violating church-state separation because we are running a Christian prison and accepting state funds, even though those funds are used for secular purposes.
Ironically, these suits have been filed just as the first serious studies about the success of this program are being made public. Last week, Texas announced the conclusion of an exhaustive study of the prison we have run there for five years. Recidivism has been cut by two-thirds.
And researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are putting the finishing touches on a peer-reviewed, well documented academic study to be issued next month.
The lawsuits have received major coverage in the nation's media over the last twenty-four hours. And a lot of misinformation is out there, like the charge that inmates have keys to their rooms. Well, most of the inmates live in regular facilities like all other inmates. If a cell has a wooden door, the inmate has a key. I had a key to my door when I was in prison. It's no special privilege.
And then there's the claim that inmates have big-screen TVs -- false! Our guys get up at 5:30 in the morning for Bible study, and then they go for a full day of work and instruction. After their evening meal, they have devotions and Bible study until 10:00. For 18 months -- all day, every day -- they are immersed in the Gospel and a Christian culture. And we're getting dramatic results.
You'll also hear that inmates are coerced into the program -- also false. Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley said to the press Wednesday, we make no bones about this program. We make it clear: This is Christ-centered, voluntary, and hard work. If they don't want to be part of the program, they don't have to be.
The truth is that these lawsuits are part of a bigger effort. The New York Times reported that the suits "are intended to provoke a constitutional challenge to the president's religion-based initiative." IFI began six years ago in Texas when President Bush was governor. He often points to it as a showcase example for faith-based solutions. And now when it's proving to be a success, it is just too much for Americans United for Separation of Church and State -- not because it's a violation of church and state, but because it works, and Christ is given a powerful witness.
So we're in a tough fight. But providentially, God has sent us Mark Earley, former attorney general of Virginia, to lead this ministry and lead us in this battle. We will be ably defended and led. But we also need the support of the Christian community: friends, like you, to pray and support us. For more information, please call us (1-877-3-CALLBP) or visit our website (www.breakpoint.org). If you log on, give us your e-mail address so we can keep you updated (click on "subscribe" to receive newsletter updates). We need to know you're with us. We want you to have the facts.
What's at stake here is not just a prison program, but how we deal with social problems in our country. Do we do it through grassroots organizations or big government? We know what works. Armies of compassion, the ordinary men and women who love God, are best able to help their neighbors and solve our problems in America.
Barry Lynn does not like that idea. But you and I know it is true, and it is time to stand our ground.
|For Further Reading and Information |
Learn more about InnerChange Freedom Initiative.
Michael Eisenberg and Brittani Trusty, Initial Process and Outcome Evaluation of the InnerChange Freedom Initiative: The Faith-Based Prison Program in TDCJ, Criminal Justice Policy Council, February 2003. (Free Adobe Acrobat reader required.)
Michael Eisenberg and Brittani Trusty, Overview of the InnerChange Freedom Initiative: The Faith-Based Prison Program within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice Policy Council, February 2002. (Free Adobe Acrobat reader required.)
Laurie Goodstein, "Group Sues Christian Program at Iowa Prison," New York Times, 13 February 2003 (free registration required).
The "Christian Prison Wing" segment from NPR's All Things Considered, February 12, 2003, includes the misinformation to which Charles Colson referred.
Ted Olsen, "Weblog: Christian Prison Program Sued," Christianity Today, 13 February 2003.
Margaret Talbot, "Catch and Release," Atlantic Monthly, January/February 2003.