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Americans United for Separation of Church and State Letter Re California Christian Private Prison 2010

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May 25,2010



for Separation of
Church and State

518 C Street, N.E.

Via Us. Mail and Facsimile
Matthew Cate, Secretary
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
1515 S Street
Sacramento, CA 95811
Fax: (916) 322-2877

RE: Oklahoma Christian Private Prison

Washington, D.C. 20002
(202) 466-3234 phone
(202) 466-2587 fax

Dear Mr. Cate:
As you know, the prison ministry Corrections Concepts, Inc is pursuing a
faith-based prison proj ect in Oklahoma, for which it is currently recruiting inmates.
See Bill Sherman, A faith-based prison is pushed, TULSA WORLD, Nov. 2, 2009, at
AI. The proposed prison would require inmates to participate in a Christ-centered
curriculum and would employ only Christian staff. Id. We have received assurances
that the Oklahoma Department of Corrections will not be sending prisoners to the
proposed institution, but recent news reports indicate that your agency is engaging
in talks with Corrections Concepts to house inrI1ates at the facility. See Bill Sherman,
J\1inistry 's prison plan still on hold, TULSA WORLD, May 17,2010, at AI. We write
to inform you that housing inmates at the faith-based prison would likely violate the
Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution's Establishment Clause prohibits the provision of public aid for religious
activity, such as religious worship or instruction. See Mitchell v. Helms, 530 U.S. 793, 840-41, 857,
861 (2000) (O'Connor, 1., concurring)l; Bowen v. Kendrick, 487 U.S. 589,621 (1988); Roemer v.
Bd. ofPub. Works, 426 U.S. 736,754-55 (1976); Hunt v. McNair, 413 U.S. 734, 743 (1973). The
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit relied on this principle to strike down a program very
similar to this one in Americans United for Separation ofChurch and State v. Prison Fellowship
Ministries, 509 F.3d 406 (8th Cir. 2007). There, the state of Iowa provided funding to a private
company for the operation of a faith-based program (the "InnerChange Freedom Initiative") housed
in one wing of a state prison. That program, as here, was voluntary and featured a Christ-centered
curriculum. Id. at 415. The court held that the provision of financial and material aid for
violated the
InnerChange - including both direct payments and per dielTI payments
Establishment Clause because the religious elements of the program were so pervasive that the
government's aid supported the indoctrination of inmates. Id. at 423- 26. If the Department were
to provide funding to Corrections Concepts' prison, indoctrination would be the inevitable result,
1 Federal appellate courts have agreed that Justice O'Connor's concurrence, and not the
plurality opinion, represents the holdings of Mitchell. See Cmty. House, Inc. v. City ofBoise, 490
F.3d 1041,1058 (9th Cir. 2007); Columbia Union ColI. v. Oliver, 254 F.3d 496,504 n.l (4th Cir.
2001); DeStefano v. Emergency Hous. Group, Inc., 247 F.3d 397, 418 (2d Cir. 2001); Johnson v.
Econ. Dev. Corp., 241 F.3d 501,510 n.2 (6th Cir. 2001).

Your voice in the battle to preserve religious liberty

just as it was in Prison Fellowship Ministries.
indoctrination would violate the Constitution.

And, just as inevitably, the funding of such

Accordingly, we ask that you decline to send prisoners to Corrections Concepts, Inc.' s
proposed faith-based institution. We would appreciate a response to this letter within thirty days to
advise us ofyour plans. You may contact Ian Smith at (202) 466-3234 or ismith@au.orgifyouhave
any further questions about this request.
Very truly yours,


Ayesha N. Khan, Legal Director
Ian Smith, Staff Attorney