Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Jail's "God-Pod" Program Violates Establishment Clause

 In Young v. Newton, (ED VA, Oct. 16, 2020), a Virginia federal district court, while rejecting a number of claims by Muslim inmates, held that the Riverside Regional Jail Authority (along with its superintendent and the program chaplain) violated the Establishment Clause when they created the Christian-based Life Learning Program (known as the "God Pod"). Participating inmates lived in a separate pod and had access to a microwave and initially were able to single-bunk. The court said in part:

The LLP was unquestionably based on Christian principles and the Bible, which ... is a Christian book. The administration of that program demonstrated a preference for Christianity over other religions and extended benefits to those who subscribed to that preference. Any secular purpose of the LLP, such as to teach skills related to intellectual, emotional, spiritual, relational, occupational, and financial success, was pursued through religious, specifically Christian, teachings, which had the primary effect of advancing Christianity at the Riverside Regional Jail.

CAIR issued a press release announcing the decision.