Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Prison Ministry

ACLU wants to block prison ministry.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia says the use of public funds to pay such organizations as Good News [Jail & Prison Ministry], an evangelical Christian group headquartered in Richmond, threatens the constitutional separation of church and state. The ACLU has called for three jails in the state to end similar contracts with another Christian jail ministry, the Southeastern Correctional Ministry, and last month it wrote to 25 jail administrators asking for information about their contracts with Southeastern, Good News and other organizations that provide religious services.

Maybe it's because I'm a skeptic, but I've always been skeptical of these programs. Donjim is not a skeptic, but he's skeptical of them, too:

A lot of our culture-war readers will immediately jerk their knees, but it seems to me that the ACLU is on to something. If government monies are going to a program, it should actually be of service to the prison and not engaged in proselytism. Whether or not that has been the case in all of these programs, I don't know, but I have heard Catholic prisoners complain about Protestant indoctrination in these sorts of programs before. It's also noteworthy that two Catholic prison chaplains interviewed (who don't receive and don't request any government funds for their ministries) seem basically to support the ACLU's contention of an Establishment Clause violation.