Does this sound like religious freedom to you? Or more like government actively interfering with religious rights, in violation of the Constitution?
Sadly, attempts to scour public life of anything remotely resembling religious activity are increasing?both inside and outside prison walls. When religious believers fight back against such violations of religious freedoms, we?re immediately accused of trying to impose theocracy on
Nonsense. A theocrat wants to force everyone to believe in his own god and follow that god?s rules. Christians are doing the opposite: trying to protect the right of citizens of all faiths to worship as they see fit.
Why do militant secularists attempt to snuff out religious practice, even in prisons, where it is so desperately needed? Partly, it?s a fanatical hostility toward religion. But these efforts also reflect a serious misunderstanding both of the role religion should play in public life and of religion?s social benefits.
First, we don?t enjoy religious freedom because the courts allow it. The founders secured this basic human right in the Constitution because, as the Declaration of Independence recognizes, the right to worship is given by God, not government.
Second, religion provides demonstrable social benefits. For example, Dr. Byron Johnson of the
The abuse of prisoners? religious liberties is why Prison Fellowship supports the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), signed into law in 2000. The law promptly came under attack, and the Supreme Court will soon hear arguments in a case that will determine whether prisoners? access to religious materials and programs can be protected by congressional action.
On this Sunday, Religious Freedom Day, get your church and your friends to join in praying that the Court will uphold this statute. The religious liberty of prisoners must be protected; nowhere do the lost need the Gospel more.
For further reading and information:
Today?s BreakPoint offer: Justice Fellowship?s booklet ?Religion Behind Bars? is an important resource for prison volunteers, chaplains, corrections officials, and prisoners to help them understand the rights of prisoners to practice their religion and the reasonable limitations on those rights that may be permissible.
Learn more about the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).
Adelle M. Banks, ?Appeals Court Upholds Law Protecting Prisoners? Religious Rights,? Beliefnet,
Pat Nolan, When Prisoners Return (Prison Fellowship, 2004).
For more information on criminal justice reform and religious freedom for prisoners, visit Justice Fellowship?s website.
BreakPoint Commentary No. 050107, ?The First Freedom: Religious Freedom Day.?
Learn more about InnerChange Freedom Initiative.
BreakPoint Commentary No. 030618, ?Shutting the Revolving Door: IFI and Texas.?
BreakPoint Commentary No. 030701, ?Anatomy of a Conversion: Prison Programs and the Public Good.?
BreakPoint Commentary No. 030214, ?The Risk of Doing Good: Lawsuits and Faith-Based Solutions.?