A little over a month ago, the Laurel County Correctional Center in Kentucky was in the news for sponsoring an event in response to drug abuse problem in the community.
Their proposed solution? Forming a prayer chain inside and outside the jail as prisoners watched.
That is why Laurel County Jailer Jamie Mosley and other concerned community members are hosting a “Night of Prayer” at the jail on Tuesday night, Aug. 29, at 7 p.m.
“We are asking every citizen and church in Laurel County to come join us in prayer for our inmates, their families, the victims of their crimes, and our staff,” Mosley said. “We all are affected by this villain in Laurel County called ‘drugs.’ We hope to form a prayer chain around each floor and around the entire jail.”
The event brought out approximately 600 people — and inmates were brought out by jail staff to witness it all.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation says in a letter sent to Mosley on Friday that this is all illegal:
The government cannot legally host a religious event in its facility, promote it in its official capacity, and involve its officials and employees in the event itself. Nor can it use a county jail, in which it literally has a captive audience, to proselytize.
The letter also points out that it was a problem to include uniformed staffers in the event since it suggests government endorsement of Christianity. Having the prisoners watch it all, the letter continues, was a coercive action as well. And then attorney Andrew Seidel notes that this is only the latest in a long line of constitutional violations for Mosley:
… We have learned that you have sought to reduce prison violence by increasing church services for inmates. You have also implemented Celebrate Recovery, an explicitly Christian twelve-step program. Finally, you claim that over 500 inmates have been baptized in your facility since you took over as jailer in 2011.
In addition to the letter, FFRF filed an open records request for contracts, emails, policies, and more concerning all of these religious events. It could prove to be useful information in case a lawsuit has to be filed.