Atheists Sue KY Jail for Not Complying with “Night of Prayer” Records Request January 30, 2018

Atheists Sue KY Jail for Not Complying with “Night of Prayer” Records Request

Back in September, 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.

LaurelJailPrayer

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.

At the time, the Freedom From Religion Foundation said in a letter to Mosley that this was 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 pointed out that it was a problem to include uniformed staffers in the event since it suggested government endorsement of Christianity. Having the prisoners watch it all, the letter continued, was a coercive action as well. Attorney Andrew Seidel also noted that this was 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’s been several months since that request. But rather than respond to all the requests, Mosley has only responded to a handful of them — and avoided handing over the most potentially damning pieces of evidence. In fact, last October, Mosley told FFRF that he would not hand over details about employee staffing during the “Night of Prayer” because doing so would “have a reasonable likelihood of threatening the public safety by exposing a vulnerability in preventing, protecting against, mitigating, or responding to a terrorist act.”

I repeat: Telling FFRF whether employees were forced to attend the “Night of Prayer” would allow the terrorists to win.

FFRF also noted a contradiction in his other denials:

He also cited two mutually exclusive exemptions: asserting that producing these records would be overly burdensome and that he is not in possession of the records at all.

After that, the Kentucky attorney general chimed in to say the jail had to respond to FFRF. They had no good reason for rejecting the requests. But Mosley didn’t follow through with that. (Correction: The attorney general’s opinion simply said Mosley’s response violated the Kentucky Open Records Act, not that he had to do anything. It’s now up to a judge to determine if Mosley willfully violated the open records request, in which case FFRF would be entitled to attorneys’ fees and other costs.)

That’s why FFRF is now filing a lawsuit to get those records.

FFRF is asking for an award of incurred costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees. Additionally, it is requesting statutory penalties of up to $25 per day from the date of the request to the date of production for each document that the Laurel County Correctional Center is required to produce in this action.

There’s no reason for the jail to withhold information from FFRF when it pertains to their potentially illegal actions. If anything, they look even more guilty now.

Good on the FFRF for not letting this case slide into oblivion like Mosley clearly hoped they would. The longer he waits to fulfill their open records request, the more money the taxpayers of Kentucky will owe atheists.

(Large portions of this article were published earlier)

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