Mat Staver can be a prison inmate’s fiercest advocate for religious liberties, so long as the inmate chooses Staver’s religion. If not, your religious freedoms are more likely to be called “security threats” by the Liberty Counsel’s founder.
In a suit recently filed by the Indiana chapter of the ACLU, Muslim inmates have asked that they be able to practice their faith dutifully, which in turn, means small group prayer five times a day.
Louay Safi, director of leadership development with the Plainfield-based Islamic Society of North American, said Muslims try to pray in groups whenever possible.
“Muhammad said there is a much greater reward for people who pray in congregation than those who pray individually,” he said.
As of now, the prison only allows the Muslim inmates to worship as a group one hour per week, though inmates are allowed to congregate for card games or to watch television multiple times a day.
To Staver, however, there is no reason the inmates should be allowed to worship in small groups, especially since a group of Muslim inmates congregating is an obvious security threat:
The lawsuit, however, in this particular case says that they are allowed to pray as a group only just one hour a week. The fact is that there is no constitutional right to assembly as a group five times a day.
But I think in the situation with regards to the Muslims, there is clearly a security issue at risk here.
While there may not be an explicit constitutional right to prayer five times a day, there isn’t an explicit constitutional right to monthly baptisms at a prison either; that is because they both fall under laws protecting an inmate’s right to worship. Staver must be getting forgetful, because not too long ago his Liberty Counsel threatened a New Mexico jail with a lawsuit unless monthly baptisms were allowed for inmates wishing to convert to Christianity.
Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter to the warden and the county explaining that failure to allow the baptisms violated the inmates’ constitutional right to free exercise of religion.
Mathew D. Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented, “With the high rate of recidivism, prisons are in desperate need of better ways to rehabilitate inmates and make them productive citizens. Christian conversion and faith play a key role in transforming broken lives into new beginnings. Rather than throwing up roadblocks to Christian faith and worship, prisons should welcome the positive changes that the Christian conversion brings and the role that baptism plays in the inmates making a public confession of burying the old life and being resurrected to a new life in Jesus Christ.”
So, in other words, Staver believes firmly in an inmate’s right to religious freedom; the religion just has to be Christianity.