January 2019 Church & State | AU Bulletin

A national Muslim group has gone to federal court to challenge a Virginia jail’s program that allows Christian inmates to live separately in a special unit dubbed a “God Pod.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is suing Riverside Regional Jail in Prince George County, asserting that the program offers preferential treatment to Christian inmates.

The Associated Press (AP) reported that about 30-40 inmates are living in the special wing. The program is sponsored by the Good News Jail & Prison Ministry, a group that claims to offer “Bible-based” programs for inmates in 22 states.

CAIR asserts in the Young v. Newton lawsuit that not only are Muslim inmates not given their own program, they’re often discriminated against in part because their dietary needs are not being met.

“You have a state entity that is endorsing and promoting Christianity over other religions, so Riverside has unlawfully sent a message of favoring Christianity over other religions, while at the same time actively preventing other faith groups – including Muslims – from practicing their own faith,” Lena Masri, CAIR’s national litigation director, told the AP.

Americans United won a similar lawsuit against a “Christians-only” program at an Iowa prison in 2007.