Chuck Colson

Second, religion provides demonstrable social benefits. For example, Dr. Byron Johnson of the University  of Pennsylvania studied graduates of Prison Fellowship?s InnerChange Freedom Initiative program for two years following their release. He found that they had a recidivism rate of only 8 percent compared to more than 20 percent for similar inmates and 67 percent nationally. This is great news to anyone but a secularist ideologue. Even while this study was underway, Americans United for Separation of Church and State sued the state of Iowa, claiming the program violates church-state separation. What?s galling is that they not only would destroy the religious rights of prisoners, but they would also deny society the advantage of changed lives: that is, fewer crimes.

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.

America?s founders wisely made religious freedom the first right; they knew that without it, all other rights are meaningless. Two centuries later, the prisoner sitting in his lonely cell, stripped of his Bible, his minister, and his right to worship, knows exactly what they meant.

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, 16 December 2004.

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.?

Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson was the Chief Counsel for Richard Nixon and served time in prison for Watergate-related charges. In 1976, Colson founded Prison Fellowship Ministries, which, in collaboration with churches of all confessions and denominations, has become the world's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners, crime victims, and their families.
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