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December 3, 2007

Eighth Circuit issues ruling in faith-based prison appeal

The Eighth Circuit today released its long-awaited opinion in Americans United v. Prison Fellowship U.S. Court of Appeals Case, No. 06-2741 (8th Cir. Dec. 3, 2007) (available here), which addresses a variety of issues surrounding the operation of a faith-based prison program.  Here from the Eighth Circuit's wensite is the unofficial summary of the ruling (from a panel that included semi-retired Justice O'Connor sitting by designation):

In action by inmates, taxpayers, inmate relatives and Americans United for Separation of Church and State alleging prison officials decision to pay the non-sectarian expenses of a values-based pre-release program violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the inmates, the taxpayer and Americans United had standing to challenge the program, while contributors to the inmates' telephone accounts did not; matter was not moot; defendants Prison Fellowship and InnerChange were state actors for Section 1983 purposes; because the indoctrination and definition criteria indicate InnerChange had the effect of advancing or endorsing religion, the state's direct aid to InnerChange during the years 2000 to 2004 violated the Establishment clauses of the U.S. and Iowa Constitutions; the district court did not err in finding that the per diem structure used for the program from 2005 to 2007 also violated the Establishment clauses of the U.S. and Iowa Constitutions; standard established in Turner v. Safely, 482 U.S. 78 (1987) that regulation which impinges on inmates' constitutional rights is valid if reasonably related to valid penological interests cannot be used to validate funding violations of the Establishment Clause; district court erred in ordering defendants to return funds received under the programs; provisions of the injunction concerning further funding of the program were not overbroad and did not forever ban the defendants from operating in Iowa.

December 3, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink


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