Yesterday a federal appeals court ruled that an Iowa prison program that gave some inmates special privileges unconstitutionally violated the separation of church and state, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Prison Fellowship Ministries Inc. and InnerChange Freedom Initiative received almost $1.5 million in Iowa state funds from 1999 to 2007 to run a program in the prison in Newton, aimed at reducing repeat criminal behavior.
On Monday a three-judge panel of the St. Louis-based appeals court said the program promoted religion by the government and allocated benefits to prisoners based on their religion. The newspaper said correctional officials believe that a similar program in Missouri will not be affected by the ruling. Said Brian Hauswirth, a Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman, “We’ll review the ruling, but we’re confident our program will pass constitutional muster.”