Apparently an Iowa prison is
Prison Fellowship Ministries, a Christian organization, has been hired by the prison to help reform the prisoners. However, it’s been going farther than just trying to get them out of a criminal lifestyle:
Lynn’s group accused Prison Fellowship Ministries of giving preferential treatment to inmates participating in the program. They were given special visitation rights, movie-watching privileges, access to computers and access to classes needed for early parole.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt called the perks “seemingly minor benefits” that constituted unfair treatment to those not in the religious program. Despite any claims of rehabilitating inmates, the program “impermissibly endorses religion,” Pratt wrote.
The InnerChange Freedom Initiative was implemented in Newton in 1999. State prison officials have said they hired the religious group to improve inmate behavior and reduce recidivism “” not promote Christianity.
As for the people behind Prison Fellowship Ministries? They had this to say:
Ministry president Mark Earley said in a statement Friday that the group plans to appeal the ruling and believes its program is constitutional.
“This decision, if allowed to stand, will enshrine religious discrimination,” Earley said. “It has attacked the right of people of faith to operate on a level playing field in the public arena and to provide services to those who volunteered to receive them.”
This is not how it’s supposed to be. First off, there is the issue of the First Amendment banning this, and the Fourteenth Amendment making the First apply to the states. This is not permissible by the Constitution, or any reasonable interpretation of the secular law that governs this nation.
From a Christian perspective, too, this is wrong. Granted, there is a mandate in Scripture for Christians to minister to, among others, those people who are in prison. Matthew 25:34-40:
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
Christians are supposed to be ministering to those in prison, but not like this. The hand of government is the hand of coercion, which has no place in a true understanding of Christ. As Christ Himself says in Revelation 3:20:
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
The door to Christ is opened willingly, not because it might get you a shorter sentence or extra perks. Furthermore, Christ disavowed any connection between earthly and spiritual powers in Luke 20:25:
And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
How can this program possibly be doing any good? Is there any prisoner in there that is going to be an honest convert, convicted of his actions and sworn to follow Christ as the Christians behind the program are obviously intending to happen? Or are there just going to be a lot of people who lie to get through the system, making a cosmetic change but holding the entire program at arm’s length because it was forced on them?
If there is really any religious discrimination, Mr. Earley, it comes from you. If there is any aversion to authentic Christianity and the true commands of Christ, it originates from your group, and the state of Iowa that went along with it, not the judge that upheld the law.