A Christian Ministry that housed inmates in improved conditions if they were Christians was told to stop immediately. A judge deemed that the action ignored the constitutional rights of inmates subscribing to other faiths, The Christian Post reports.
The ruling comes after a lawsuit from Muslim prisoners who felt they were being treated unfairly by not having access to the same improved conditions the "Christian pod" or "God's Pod", as it was dubbed, was given.
The lawsuit alleged that the jail sponsored the Christian pod and that it was exclusivist in nature, thereby depriving non-Christian prisoners of their rights under the Constitution.
Some of the features of the 'God Pod' include a microwave, better-bunking conditions, and the chance to stay in that pod where other prisoners could not enter.
The U.S. District Judge, Anthony Trenga, ruled “based on the undisputed facts, as a matter of law, Christianity was preferred at Riverside Regional Jail while the LLP was in effect in violation of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments and the Virginia constitution.”
The ruling was shared online by controversial Muslim rights advocacy and legal defense group the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
In a statement from CAIR, the group's national litigation director Lena Masri wrote, “We welcome the Virginia federal court's ruling and hope that it will serve as a reminder to correctional facilities nationwide that are operating God Pods of their own that it is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause to officially endorse Christianity over all other religious faiths."
The news brief further mentioned that the jail had disbanded the God Pod after the lawsuit was filed in 2018.
Ultimately, Judge Trenga ruled that the jail "demonstrated a preference for Christianity over other religions and extended benefits to those who subscribed to that preference. Moreover, these teachings were sponsored by the jail, and the jail provided tangible benefits to inmates who participated — they received their own pod, where they had access to a microwave that other non-program pods did not have, and they, at least initially, were able to single-bunk."
Photo courtesy: Emiliano Bar/Unsplash
John Paluska has been a contributor for Christian Headlines since 2016 and is the founder of The Washington Gazette, a news outlet he relaunched in 2019 as a response to the constant distribution of fake news.