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Coercive religion in America's prisons: unfair sentence. (Editorials).

A person's beliefs about religion should be irrelevant to the government.

To borrow a phrase from Thomas Jefferson, whether an American believes in 20 gods or no god is none of the state's concern. The government must never grant preferential pref·er·en·tial  
1. Of, relating to, or giving advantage or preference: preferential treatment.

 treatment on the basis of religious belief. That is a central tenet TENET. Which he holds. There are two ways of stating the tenure in an action of waste. The averment is either in the tenet and the tenuit; it has a reference to the time of the waste done, and not to the time of bringing the action.
 of American life.

That is also the principle being violated in an Iowa state prison right now. At Newton Correctional Facility The Newton Correctional Facility is a low and medium security correctional institution. It is located near the Jasper County community of Newton, Iowa. Newton is about 30 miles east of Des Moines, Iowa. Currently the institution has 350 staff members and about 1,050 inmates. , inmates who agree to undergo conversion to fundamentalist Christianity Fundamentalist Christianity, or Christian fundamentalism, is a movement that arose mainly within British and American Protestantism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by conservative evangelical Christians, who, in a reaction to modernism, actively affirmed a  through Charles W. Colson's InnerChange Freedom Initiative get benefits that, behind bars, mean a lot--greater safety, better jobs, free phone calls and bathroom privacy, to name a few.

Iowa's adoption of InnerChange is exactly the type of church-state union that would have horrified hor·ri·fy  
tr.v. hor·ri·fied, hor·ri·fy·ing, hor·ri·fies
1. To cause to feel horror. See Synonyms at dismay.

2. To cause unpleasant surprise to; shock.
 Jefferson and James Madison. The government is promoting a program that has religious conversion as its core tenet. People who agree to adopt a certain religious outlook get better treatment from the state.

Americans United is challenging InnerChange in federal court. The program's backers have argued that Iowa isn't paying for the religious aspects of InnerChange. This argument collapses when one examines the materials produced by InnerChange--materials that make it clear that there are no non-religious aspects of InnerChange. The program, the materials boast, is totally subsumed in fundamentalist Christianity "all day, every day." It is repeatedly described as "biblical" and "Christ-centered."

The InnerChange website makes it clear that conversion to fundamentalist Christianity is required for the program to work. Staffers essentially rate inmates on how religious they are. Those who don't measure up can be removed.

Many Americans support Colson's Prison Fellowship and his ministry to inmates. Those people should fund InnerChange with voluntary contributions. The attempt to pass the buck Pass the Buck may refer to:
  • Pass the Buck (pricing game), a pricing game on The Price Is Right
  • Pass the Buck (game show), a 1978 game show hosted by Bill Cullen
  • Pass the Buck (Australian game show), a 2002 game show hosted by John Burgess
 (or, more appropriately, the collection plate) to the taxpayer amounts to government support, promotion and advocacy of a specific religious view. This idea was anathema anathema (ənă`thĭmə) [Gr.,=something set up; dedicated to a divinity as a votive offering], term that came to denote something devoted to a divinity for destruction. In the Bible, the term is herem.  to Jefferson and Madison more than 200 years ago. It hasn't improved with age.

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of the InnerChange situation is that President George W. Bush considers the arrangement a model of "faith-based" social service. Bush established the first InnerChange program when he was governor of Texas, and he touted the scheme during his presidential campaign.

If this administration has its way, it won't be just prisoners who are subjected to proselytism pros·e·ly·tism  
1. The practice of proselytizing.

2. The state of being a proselyte.

 and other faith-based pressures. It will be all Americans who need a little help from their government.

That's utterly unacceptable, and those of us who care about religious freedom must tell our elected officials so.
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Publication:Church & State
Geographic Code:1U4IA
Date:Mar 1, 2003
Previous Article:Born again: voucher booster: in his new budget proposal, President Bush resurrects push for voucher aid to religious education.
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