Stay Away From ‘Christians-Only’ Prison Scheme, Americans United Tells Officials In Three States

For Immediate Release

Stay Away From ‘Christians-Only’ Prison Scheme, Americans United Tells Officials In Three States

WASHINGTON - Americans United for Separation of Church and State today warned
corrections officials in three states not to use public funds to send
inmates to a proposed “Christians-only” prison in Oklahoma.

Corrections Concepts, Inc., has proposed building a private prison in
Wakita, Okla., that will indoctrinate prisoners in fundamentalist
Christianity and will be staffed solely with “born-again” Christians.

The Dallas, Texas-based firm recently announced that discussions are
under way with corrections officials in Oklahoma, Kansas and California
about signing contracts to house prisoners. In response, attorneys with
Americans United wrote to officials in the three states, advising them
that using public funds to send inmates to the sectarian facility would
likely spark legal action.

Americans United asserts it would be unconstitutional for government
to support a prison that indoctrinates inmates in one faith and limits
hiring based on religion.

“Taxpayers should never be forced to support religious
indoctrination,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of
Americans United. “This scheme is fraught with constitutional problems,
and no state should subsidize it.”

In letters to corrections officials, AU attorneys pointed out that a
federal appeals court in 2007 struck down public funding of an
evangelical Christian program at an Iowa prison. The Christian prison in
Oklahoma, they say, would likely meet the same fate.

“If the Department were to provide funding to Corrections Concepts’
prison, indoctrination would be the inevitable result…,” Americans
United asserted. “And, just as inevitably, the funding of such
indoctrination would violate the Constitution.”

The AU letters to Oklahoma,
Kansas
and California
were signed by Americans United Legal Director Ayesha N. Khan and AU
Staff Attorney Ian Smith.

Corrections Concepts founder Bill Robinson told the Tulsa World
recently that the bonding company that has expressed interest in
financing the project will not provide funds until states agree to send
285 prisoners to the facility, which is expected to have more than 600
beds.

Robinson first proposed the facility last year. At that time,
Americans United wrote to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections and
advised it not to back the scheme. Officials there replied that they had
no interest in the project. But Robinson now says he has an expression
of interest from the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs.

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Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

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