Shari Webber-Dunn is an inmate at the Topeka Correctional Facility in Kansas, where she’s been serving a 40-year sentence for “helping her boyfriend murder her husband”. She’s also a practicing Thelemite, which makes her part of a century-old theistic religion that stresses individualism. Those details are irrelevant, however, for the problem she witnessed at the prison.
According to a lawsuit filed by the American Humanist Association’s (AHA) Appignani Legal Center, Webber-Dunn has been subject to all kinds of religious proselytizing at the women’s prison:
Even the movies shown on weekends are Christian propaganda films.
… the lawsuit objects to displaying religious messages, images, and symbols on public bulletin boards and elsewhere on prison grounds; encouraging and facilitating prayer requests; displaying a large wooden cross in a multi-purpose room that is used for various purposes; and otherwise imposing strong Christian values on inmates.
Despite asking politely, and through the proper channels, for the religious items to be removed, she heard nothing from prison officials. That’s why she approached the AHA.
“Prisons are not exempt from the Constitution,” said AHA legal director David Niose,”and prisoners do not lose the shield from state-sponsored religion provided by the Establishment Clause.”
Why she’s in prison has nothing to do with the rights she’s guaranteed while she’s in there. And forcing Christianity upon prisoners is illegal. Prison officials should never have let this happen in the first place. They should’ve stopped it when she asked about it. And now, they’ll have to stop it while paying a hefty penalty for it. Too damn bad. They deserve it.
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