Supreme Court To Hear Challenge To Federal Religious Freedom Law

Americans United Urges Court To Uphold Legislation

The Supreme Court should uphold a federal law that requires prisons to respect the religious freedom rights of inmates, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The high court announced today that it will hear a challenge to the 2000 law, known as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The measure requires prisons to accommodate prisoners' religious needs unless corrections officials can show a compelling reason not to, such as security concerns.

"This is a reasonable law that requires prisons to meet the religious needs of inmates while still respecting the security concerns of correctional institutions," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "We hope the Supreme Court upholds the law."

Lynn said that in recent years, the Supreme Court has adopted a view of religious freedom that is too restrictive. He said the high court should use the Cutter v. Wilkinson case to make it clear that the government may infringe on a citizen's religious liberty only in cases where no other option is available.

The case comes from Ohio, where prisoners who belong to minority religions say they have been denied access to religious literature and ceremonial items. A federal appeals court struck down the law, saying it promoted religion at government expense.

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.

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.