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(Feb 11, 2008) On December 3, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that government funding of an evangelical Christian prison treatment program violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

For several years, the Iowa Department of Corrections provided funding to a prison program in which inmates voluntarily enrolled and received various benefits not provided nonparticipating inmates if they participated in Bible study, religious instruction, and church services. A group of taxpayers who objected to this program on constitutional grounds sued for declaratory and injunctive relief. A federal district court held in June 2006 that the program violated the Establishment Clause, and ordered that the ministry repay the government the funding previously provided. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling that the program violated the Establishment Clause, finding that the program had the effect of advancing or endorsing religion. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's ruling that the ministry was required to repay the money received from the government during the period prior to the district court's order, but ruled that funds received from the government following the date of the district court's order should be repaid. (American United for Separation of Church and State v. Prison Fellowship Ministries, Inc., No. 06-2741 (8th Cir. Dec. 3, 2007) available at http://www.ca8.uscourts.gov/opndir/07/12/062741P.pdf.)

Author: Luis Acosta More by this author
Topic: Church and state relations More on this topic
Jurisdiction: United States More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 02/11/2008