Iowa officials will end a Bible-based treatment program at a state prison that has been the focus of a five-year federal court battle over the role of religion in government services. The Iowa Department of Corrections has notified Prison Fellowship Ministries in Virginia that the program, called the InnerChange Freedom Initiative, will be terminated in mid-March, reports the Des Moines Register. Prison Fellowship, which sponsored the Christian-oriented values program for inmates, had a three-year state contract that ended in June. Prison officials granted the organization a one-year extension.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State in Washington, D.C., has waged a court fight since 2003 against the program. The group contends the program represents an unconstitutional merger of church and state. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis ruled in December that the program advanced religion at government expense and that taxpayer money could not be used to finance the program. The court case has received national attention as test of President Bush’s push for faith-based initiatives. Similar treatment programs are sponsored by Prison Fellowship at prisons in Arkansas, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Texas.