A Muslim woman is suing officials in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, claiming she was forced to attend Christian services while incarcerated in the county jail.

Sakeena Majeed, 24, served two months at the Cuyahoga County Correctional Center earlier this year after she was convicted of assaulting two police officers. She claims that while there, she was threatened with solitary confinement if she did not attend weekly Christian prayer services led by a Baptist minister.

Majeed had been assigned to an area of the jail designed for low-level offenders. The area, known as a “trustee pod,” is an open part of the jail where cell doors aren’t locked and inmates have a good bit of freedom to move about. Going from this open atmosphere to solitary confinement can only be described as a severe form of punishment.

Although she attended the services rather than face time in solitary, Majeed refused to participate. In her lawsuit, she claims that correctional officers prodded her to take part and mocked her when she refused.

County officials have refused to comment on the lawsuit other than to insist that the religious beliefs of all inmates are accommodated.

So what really went on? It’s hard to say. The pressure could have come from a handful of rogue correctional officers acting without authority from their superiors. Or it could have been county policy to compel inmates to attend Christian services. It’s also possible that Majeed has exaggerated the incident.

There’s one thing that makes me believe she may have a case: We’ve seen this sort of thing before in prisons and jails. Some people working in the law enforcement and correctional communities have a belief that the best way to rehabilitate offenders is to convert them to fundamentalist Christianity. I think this view is naïve, but there’s no denying that it’s out there. We’ve faced it on many occasions.

Americans United fought successfully in court to block taxpayer funding of InnerChange, a fundamentalist program run by the late Charles Colson’s Prison Fellowship, in an Iowa prison. Colson claimed that the program dramatically cut rates of recidivism among ex-inmates, but an objective study failed to back that up.

There are other examples. A program in Chesapeake, Va., purports to rehabilitate offenders through Bible study. In Phoenix, officials are offering women accused of prostitution the option of going to jail or attending a religious program. At one South Carolina jail, the only reading material made available to inmates was the Bible. An Alabama community offered certain offenders a choice between jail and church, and a woman convicted of a drug offense in Idaho was given a similar choice.

These are just a few examples. A few months ago, Church & State reported on the growing nexus between law enforcement and fundamentalist Christianity. It is a growing – and troubling – trend.

Working in a correctional institution is a tough job, and I understand that some officers and officials must get frustrated over the behavior of inmates. But compelling someone to attend religious services against his or her will isn’t the answer.

If that is indeed what happened to Majeed, then she deserves to win her case. Men and women who are locked up in correctional facilities do by necessity give up many of their rights. But their right to be free from forced religion isn’t one of them.