Regular Christian Post readers know that a federal judge has ordered a highly successful program for prisoners called the InnerChange Freedom Initiative®, or IFI, to shut down because the judge felt it violated the separation of church and state.
Prison Fellowship strongly disagrees. So do the Justice Department, nine state attorneys general, and numerous faith-based organizations. Thats why Prison Fellowship is appealing the case and why the others I just mentioned have filed friend-of-the-court briefs with the appeals court on IFIs behalf.
Not surprisingly, however, the New York Times agrees with the judge. On its front page last Sunday, the Times ran the following headline above the fold: Religion for a Captive Audience, Paid for by Taxes. The headline alone tells you the kind of picture the Times intended toand, in fact, didpaint: inmates coerced into participating in a government-funded religious program.
But what did the Times not tell us in that article? First, the Times failed to mention that prisoners who participate in the program do so voluntarily. Every potential participant is told about the religious aspects of the program. Participants may leave it at any time without penalty. And they do not need to accept or profess Christianity to graduate. Thats why every prisoner who testified at trial said that he was not coerced into enrolling in the program.
Neither did the New York Times tell you about what the judge considered to be coercion: offering inmates a quality program and the tools they need to succeed on the outside, such as drug treatment, job preparedness, and general education. These are what he regarded as bait to lure unsuspecting prisoners into a Christian program where they can be converted!
The Times did tell you that one Catholic inmate left the program because he felt IFI was hostile to his faith. And while the Times granted that the program does not condone anti-Catholicismwhich, of course, it doesntit didnt tell you that the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights filed an amicus brief on IFIs behalf.
In its zeal to make it look like the taxpayers are picking up the tab for jailhouse evangelism and indoctrinationtheir words, not minethe Times didnt tell readers that Prison Fellowship pays 60 percent of IFIs costs in Iowa. The other 40 percent paid by the state of Iowa, pursuant to a competitive bid contract, is used for the non-sectarian or non-religious aspects of the program.
While the Times did note that attorneys general in nine states fiercely protested the judges decision, and that IFI has been widely praised by correctional officials and politicians, it didnt tell you why.
The reason is that IFI has been proven to help states reduce recidivism, as shown by a study by the University of Pennsylvania. And it helps states to manage corrections costs. In short, state officials like IFI because it works.
The Times article has been picked up by other newspapers across the country. On one hand, Im glad that IFI is receiving front-page coverage. On the other hand, Im left feeling that the Times has chosen not to report all the news thats fit to print.
From BreakPoint®, December 12, 2006, Copyright 2006, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. BreakPoint® and Prison Fellowship Ministries® are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship Ministries.