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Christianists force conversion on the powerless using your tax dollars

Reminds me of Nazi prison camps, where you get better treatment as a kapo. No doubt that's the next step:

The cells in Unit E had real wooden doors and doorknobs, with locks. More books and computers were available, and inmates were kept busy with classes, chores, music practice and discussions. There were occasional movies and events with live bands and real-world food, like pizza or sandwiches from Subway. Best of all, there were opportunities to see loved ones in an environment quieter and more intimate than the typical visiting rooms.

But the only way an inmate could qualify for this kinder mutation of prison life was to enter an intensely religious rehabilitation program and satisfy the evangelical Christians running it that he was making acceptable spiritual progress.

That would make this program theocratic, right? Since the Christianists have taken on governmental functions?

And guess who started the program:

The program — which grew from a project started in 1997 at a Texas prison with the support of George W. Bush, who was governor at the time — says on its Web site that it seeks “to ‘cure’ prisoners by identifying sin as the root of their problems” and showing inmates “how God can heal them permanently, if they turn from their sinful past.”

Actually, the program reaches farther back into the dank recesses of Republican theocracy-building than Bush; the corporation (InnerChange, 2006 revenues $56 million) that runs the Iowa program is Prison Ministries, run by Nixon hatchetman and Watergate felon Chuck Colson. The past isn't dead. It isn't even past.

Fortunately, a courageous Judge ruled against the program:

For Robert W. Pratt, chief judge of the federal courts in the Southern District of Iowa, this all added up to an unconstitutional use of taxpayer money for religious indoctrination, as he ruled in June in a lawsuit challenging the arrangement.

Why? Because the program was theocratic:

Judge Pratt noted that the born-again [SIC] Christian staff was the sole judge of an inmate’s spiritual transformation. If an inmate did not join in the religious activities that were part of his “treatment,” the staff could write up disciplinary reports, generating demerits the inmate’s parole board might see. Or they could expel the inmate.

So, the prisoner's parole record depends on satisfying a Christianist. There's an incentive for a gen-u-wine religious conversion experience, eh?

These programs are part of the prison-industrial complex and they're metastatizing:

Since 2000, courts have cited more than a dozen programs for having unconstitutionally used taxpayer money to pay for religious activities or evangelism aimed at prisoners, recovering addicts, job seekers, teenagers and children.

Nevertheless, the programs are proliferating. For example, the Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest prison management company, with 65 facilities and 71,000 inmates under its control, is substantially expanding its religion-based curriculum and now has 22 institutions offering residential programs similar to the one in Iowa. And the federal Bureau of Prisons, which runs at least five multifaith programs at its facilities, is preparing to seek bids for a single-faith prison program as well.

"Single faith" meaning Christianist (supposing Christianism to be a faith, as opposed to a political apparatus and financing vehicle for "pastors"):

And while the program was supposedly open to all, in practice its content was “a substantial disincentive” for inmates of other faiths to join, the judge noted. Although the ministry itself does not condone hostility toward Catholics, Roman Catholic inmates heard their faith criticized by staff members and volunteers from local evangelical churches, the judge found. And Jews and Muslims in the program would have been required to participate in Christian worship services even if that deeply offended their own religious beliefs.

Naturally, the Christianists are going after children, too:

In another case, more than $1 million in federal funds went to the Alaska Christian College in Soldotna, Alaska, which says it provides “a theologically based post-secondary education” to teenage Native Americans from isolated villages. But an investigator from the Education Department who visited the school last year found a first-year curriculum “that is almost entirely religious in nature.” ... One Catholic diocese sent monthly reports showing that it had used federal money “to support prayer at abortion clinics, pro-life marches and pro-life rallies.”

Children or prisoners, remote locations... It's almost like an equation, isn't it:

Captive audience + Federal money + little oversight = Christianist infestation

The White House reaction to Judge Pratt's ruling?

Jay Hein, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, said the Iowa decision was unfair to the ministry and reflects an “overreaching” at odds with legal developments that increasingly “show favor to religion in the public square.”

Yeah, what's wrong with using public money to finance conversions to Christianity? My goodness, I can't imagine!

Yet another Bush program that should not be compromised with, in some Moderate, Centrist, Bipartisan way, but repudiated and eradicated. Not only does this crap finance our enemies, it finances enemies of the constitutions, and it's evil to use your power over others to force your beliefs on them.

Or do the Christianists really think that tempting someone with a better cell is the way to make spiritual progress? (And what a great metaphor for consumerism...)

And can't somebody put a stake in the undead heart of this "public square" meme? What winger think tank tank did it crawl out of, anyhow?

NOTE Kudos to the Times for writing this story. Brickbats to the Times for not writing this story years ago. When, oh when, will the Times learn to cover stories as they happen

UPDATE Welcome, C&L readers. Here's the latest: Iin video, Christianists use uniform to proselytize, admit putting loyalty to country third on the list.

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