Liberty Institute Files Supreme Court Brief To Protect Religious Exercise And Ministries In Prisons

Liberty Institute Files a Friend-of-the-Court Brief in Holt v. Hobbs on Behalf of Several Leading Sociologists Explaining the Key Role that Religious Participation in Prison Can Have on Reducing an Inmate's Likelihood of Being Rearrested Following Release

May 30, 2014, 11:03 ET from Liberty Institute

DALLAS, May 30, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Yesterday, Liberty Institute, on behalf of leading academic sociologists Dr. Ronald Akers, Dr. Byron Johnson, and Dr. Sung Joon Jang, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the United States Supreme Court urging the High Court to reverse a ruling of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit that limited an inmate's religious exercise rights under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The case involves Gregory Holt, an inmate who was prohibited from having a beard for religious purposes, though such beards are permitted for non-religious purposes. The case could potentially have a large effect on the extent to which prison ministries such as Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship may minister to inmates.

To view the brief online, follow this link:

"Congress enacted RLUIPA because it was convinced that religious involvement among prisoners is good for both the prisoners and the safety of the community," said Justin Butterfield, Liberty Institute's Senior Counsel and Director of Research and Education. "In this case, a narrow reading of RLUIPA has erected exactly the sort of obstacle to faith that Congress sought to prevent: prisoners may have a beard for medical reasons, but may not have a beard for religious reasons. This decision violates the plain text and purpose of RLUIPA, and if the Eighth Circuit's decision is allowed to stand, the decision could potentially have a severe impact on prison ministries such as Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship."

Liberty Institute's brief presents the findings of a series of studies showing that even modest religious involvement in prison is one of the most significant factors in reducing the likelihood that a released prison will be rearrested within three years of release. Religious activities in prisons make communities safer and, because prison ministries are volunteer-driven at no cost to the state, are an extremely economical form of rehabilitation.  In summary, the available research confirms that in-prison religious programs are attractive, efficacious, and cost effective.

The three sociologists that Liberty Institute represents are leading authorities on the effects of religious involvement on behavior and recidivism. Dr. Akers, Professor Emeritus of Criminology and Sociology at the University of Florida, is a former President of the American Society of Criminology and is the author of one of the leading criminological theories. Dr. Johnson, Baylor University's Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences, is a leading authority on the efficacy of religion on behavior and recidivism in prison populations and is a Presidential appointment to the Coordinating Council for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Dr. Jang, Associate Professor of Sociology at Baylor University, does significant research into crime and deviance, juvenile delinquency, drug use, religiosity and spiritualism, and mental health.

About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to restoring and defending religious liberty across America – in our schools, for our churches, and throughout the public arena. Liberty Institute's vision is to reestablish liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation's founders. Visit for more information.

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SOURCE Liberty Institute