Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Another Faith Based Initiative Stopped

The federal courts have begun looking at the use of government money to fund what amounts to evangelizing and over the last year have decided that those programs don't pass constitutional muster. The latest of those decisions was reported in today's NY Times.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in St. Louis, was the latest in a series of rulings over the last year to reinforce laws that bar government money from promoting religion, said Robert Tuttle, a law professor at George Washington University who is an expert on religion-based initiatives.

“The main thing it does is reaffirm the obligation of government not to fund programs that intermingle secular and religious content,” Professor Tuttle said of the new ruling. “The federal government has come to terms with that over the last year. Even when it has won cases, there hasn’t been a single decision that would allow the government to intertwine secular and religious content.” ...

...In its decision, the appeals court quoted an InnerChange brochure describing the program as a “24-hour-a-day, Christ-centered, biblically based program that promotes personal transformation of prisoners through the power of the Gospel.”

It wasn't just the literature promoting the program that did InnerChange in. The program was the only one at the Iowa prison used to facilitate the transition from prison life to the outside, and participants got some extra goodies while in the program:

InnerChange Freedom Initiative is the lone so-called transformational program, religious or secular, at the prison. Its participants were allowed better privileges than other inmates, like more family visits and computer access, the appeals panel said. Anyone who wanted to participate had to be willing to accept a “Christian based” program. [Emphasis added]

Unfortunately, the group got to keep the $1.5 million it had collected from the government for providing the "service," so it has decided not to appeal the ruling. There is still some question as to whether the state of Iowa will ask for a hearing before the entire Eight Circuit before filing an appeal before the US Supreme Court.

Still, at least the federal judges remember their Con Law days and the importance of the separation of church and state. If only government leaders would pay that kind of attention to all of our founding documents.



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