Faith-Based Prison Program Called “Unconstitutional”

On June 2, 2006, U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt ruled that Charles Colson’s Prison Fellowship and the state of Iowa violated the Constitution by running the InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI) program at Newton Correctional Facility.

It is a partially (40%) state-tobacco tax funded program for rehabilitating prisoners by introducing them to Christianity.  Inmates voluntarily enter the program and do receive benefits from the $3.5 million dollars (60% from private funding).  There are no similar secular or other religious programs that provide this level of service and education to inmates.  IFI uses resources created by The Navigators Prison Discipleship Ministries.

Does the program work in the five states in which IFI operates? In America four out of five ex-prisoners will return to prison, 60 to 70 percent within the first three years after release.  Not so with those who have participated in InnerChange Freedom Initiative’s program, where the return rate is well below one in ten, 10-20 percent.

How different would this nation be if more inmates left prisons as transformed men and women? Rather than building prisons, we would have to reduce the number of prisons by half!

Still, according to the ruling, the program is to disband within 60 days and Prison Fellowship must pay back at least $1.5 million it has received in state funding since 1999. Both rulings have been stayed awaiting the outcome of an appeal.

“The overtly religious atmosphere of the InnerChange program is not simply an overlay or secondary effect of the program—it is the program,” the judge wrote. Yes, the judge sees the truth clearly—this is a Christ-centered transformational program that works—not another secular program that doesn’t.

For Christians, this program makes sense. When Jesus read Isaiah’s prophecy in the Temple, He was talking about Himself. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed” (John 4:18). The only way any of us, including U.S. prison inmates, will experience transformation and freedom is through Jesus Christ.

“We will fight this court order all the way to the Supreme Court and it may take a few years.” said Mark Earley, president of Prison Fellowship and former Navigator staff member who went on to serve as Attorney General of Virginia.

Do you want to support The Navigators and Prison Fellowship in this Kingdom battle against darkness? Do you want to help keep this faith-based, life-transforming ministry from being shut down by the courts?

Please pray for religious freedom in our country.

Write your congress and state representatives – let them know what you value.

The gospel is advancing, God’s word changes hearts and it is working… but there is opposition from the every side. Join us in this Kingdom battle by giving generously to The Navigators.  Send a donation to:

The Navigators
Prison Discipleship Ministries — “Freedom”
3820 North 30th Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80904

Or you can call toll free: 1-866-568-7827 Process Team

Post by Gwen Sellers -

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