Former Supreme Court Justice Leads 8th Circuit in Overturning Federal Judge's Ruling to Shut Down Ef

The faith-based community was given a bit of good news yesterday when the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals announced its decision in a landmark case challenging the constitutionality of an effective faith-based in-prison rehabilitation program in Iowa known as the InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI).

The original lawsuit, brought against IFI, Prison Fellowship and the State of Iowa by the group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, claimed that -- surprise -- the program violated the separation of church and state. In response, Federal District Court Judge Robert Pratt declared the program unconstitutional in 2006 and demanded that it be shut down. In addition, Judge Pratt ordered a monetary recoupment of $1.5 million be returned to the state of Iowa by IFI for contracted services from 2000-2006. This shocking and unprecedented ruling had huge implications for the faith-based community, especially at a time when the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives was likewise being challenged.

But, thankfully, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, joined by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, not only overturned the order that IFI be shut down, but affirmed that faith-based organizations are not barred from partnering with the government. Although the ruling declared that states cannot fund religious prison programs with tax-payer money, faith-based groups providing privately funded services are free to continue in their work. This is great news! And just as vital was the Eighth Circuit’s reversal of the District Court’s unprecedented recoupment order. This means that faith-based groups everywhere can partner in good faith with the government without fearing the potentially crippling effects that a recoupment order could bring.

For more information on the Eighth Circuit’s decision, click here. Also available is Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley's BreakPoint Commentary on the decision.


Here's another account which sounds like a different case than the one reported by PFM: "religious right watch: Religion can't be mixed into state-financed prisoner rehab programs"
Yup. Which, I think is just fine. Private faith-based organizations should not be affected. Faith-based organizations with public funds, I think, should be allowed so long as public funds are also made available to non-faith and interfaith organizations: if they're not, I understand how that would qualify as promoting one faith. And as I understand it, the ministries affected are now completely privately funded! Which is great.
I read about the decision and thought that there must have been two prison ministry court cases recently because my recollection of the facts of the case did not mesh with this account. It wasn't until today, when I found this Washington Post article: that I realized the case I read about recently and the case you posted about here are one in the same. From my understanding, the reason that the court found the prison system in violation of the Constitution was not because it was faith-based, but because of public funding with no non-faith-based alternative available. Additionally, the Appeals court, joined by former Supreme Court Justice O'Connor *upheld* that finding. They overruled the recoupment order. Thoughts?
Why can my tax dollars be used for anti-"faith-based" programs such as funding abortions? Isn't it just a little ironic that pro-lifers are forced to pay for abortions and the pro-abortionists don't see a problem. But when Christ is offered to volunteer prisoners the secularists freak out for getting religion pushed on them?
Jon, you're right. It is ironic in some regards. _____ Brian, thanks for your comment. You bring up a couple of good observations. You're right in stating that the 8th Circuit did not find the IFI program in violation of the Constitution just because it was faith-based. In fact, the decision actually rejected District Court Judge Pratt's pervasively sectarian standard: faith-based organizations aren't automatically suspect just because they are faith-based. With that, the faith-based community breathes a collective sigh of relief. :-) The 8th Circuit did hold that the IFI program, as it was from 2000-2004, violated the Constitution because the receipt of state funds had the effect of advancing a particular religious view. However, privately funded faith-based programs are not affected.

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