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BOP Cancels Solicitation of Proposal for Single-Faith Program

On October 26, 2006, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) announced that it was canceling its solicitation of proposals for single-faith, faith-based residential re-entry programs. The move came after a lawsuit was filed by the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), which is ?a national association of freethinkers, atheists and agnostics? founded in 1978 that works to keep church and state separate. The BOP already operates multi-faith re-entry programs and had planned to expand to include single-faith programs.

According to BOP spokeswoman Traci Billingsley, the single-faith program requirements will undergo major revisions and be re-announced. This came as a shock to Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of FFRF, who had been celebrating the cancellation of the single-faith program initiative.

?They are slow learners,? said Gaylor. ?Setting up single-faith programs is certainly not in the best interests of our secular government or of the prisoners. They were taking solicitations from vendors to go into five or six federal prisons with taxpayer funding. They said one might be Roman Catholic and one a Southern Baptist, for instance.?

?We apparently averted the denominational kind of thing, but we know what is going on will be Christian to the hilt,? Gaylor stated. ?Secular, practical education is the answer in our prisons, not proselytizing a captive audience of prisoners.?

FFRF filed the civil rights lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in May 2006. It challenged the constitutionality of both the single-faith and multi-faith programs. The lawsuit alleged that the federal Office of Management and Budget had created an atmosphere among the federal agencies to increase faith-based programming simply because they are faith-based. This allegedly extended to the BOP?s Life Connections Program (LCP), which was initiated by the Department of Justice?s Task Force for Faith-based and Community Initiatives.

LCP, which has existed since at least 2003, has contracted with faith-based organizations for multi-faith re-entry programs in at least five BOP prisons, including the Federal Correctional Institution at Milan, Michigan; the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas; the Federal Medical Center in Carswell, Texas; the Federal Correctional Institution at Petersburg, Virginia; and the Federal Correctional Institution in Victorville, California.

The FFRF lawsuit sought to prevent funding for LCP and to remove religion as a substantial component of all federally-funded future programs. The parties agreed to a stipulated dismissal on November 7, 2006 after the BOP halted its solicitation for single-faith re-entry programs. See: Freedom of Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Gonzales, USDC WD WI, Case No. 06-C-0244-S.

Previously, in 2005, the FFRF filed suit challenging a Bible-based ?faith pod? program at the CCA-operated New Mexico Women?s Correctional Facility in Grants, New Mexico. That case is still pending.

Additional Sources:, Capital Times, FFRF press release

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Related legal case

Freedom of Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Gonzales