Here’s a church/state separation problem waiting to explode.
A maximum-security prison in Texas will soon be the home of a religious seminary, “a first-of-its-kind program that authorities hope could eventually make the entire prison system less violent.”
They say the program wouldn’t be paid for with taxpayer money, but aren’t taxpayers paying for the prison costs as a whole, anyway? I don’t know how that works, but I’m sure some of you do.
Texas has religious programs at all of its 112 state prisons and has faith-based programs and initiatives involving more than 2,700 convicts at 24 of them — most for felons who are about to finish their sentences.
The largest is the InnerChange Freedom Initiative at the Vance Unit southwest of Houston, which has 378 participants and opened in March 1997, prison officials said.
The issue here doesn’t even have to be about the funding. It’s about a particular religious belief being taught to prisoners. More importantly, what if a prisoner doesn’t want to participate? What’s the punishment for not wanting to do this? Or for speaking out against it? There may not be a formal punishment, but I’m sure there are ways around that.
Joe Zamecki, the Texas State Director of American Atheists tells me in an email that he’s very concerned:
… Prisoners don’t need to be lied to. Our government should never be the source of clergymen, and this prison seminary idea seems like a cheap attempt to control a state prison’s inmates for religion, for the purpose of spreading religion. Something the Texas state government shouldn’t be trying to do.
I’m with Joe.
The sad thing is I think the prisoners could probably use the guidance and positive role models, which I think this program could provide them.
But you don’t need religion or the Bible and all the falsehoods that come with them in order to provide those benefits.
If the people at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary sponsoring this program cared about the prisoners, they could find a way to help these people without bringing religion into it. But they seem to be more concerned about spreading their religious agenda via government-run prisons.
I don’t know how that’s legal…