Bush Admin. Revamps Prison Plan After AU Protest

Responding to concerns raised by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Bush administration has revamped a proposed “faith-based” plan for federal prisons.

Last year, the Federal Bureau of Prisons issued a solicitation for groups to apply for public funding for a “single-faith” in­mate rehabilitation program. Americans United sent a letter to the Bureau and the U.S. Justice Department warning that such a project would violate the First Amendment principle of church-state separation.

The federal proposal seemed tailored specifically for the Charles Colson-founded Prison Fellowship, an evangelical Christian ministry.

In fall 2006, the Justice Department announced that it was cancelling the solicitation.

Recently the department again advertised for a contractor to run rehabilitation programs for inmates. The new solicitation, as the Rockefeller Institute of Government’s Roundtable E-Newsletter pointed out, is dramatically different from the original. It now requires groups offering faith-based programs to also provide a secular alternative.

Americans United Senior Litigation Counsel Alex Luchenit­ser told the Roundtable that the government’s latest effort to recruit faith-based providers is an improvement. He added, however, “It still seems to contemplate the use of federal funding for religious instruction, which is plainly unconstitutional” and that Americans United would monitor the situation.