A version of the following post originally appeared on the Justice Fellowship weblog
Justice Fellowship applauds today’s unanimous Supreme Court’s decision in Holt v. Hobbs, which upheld the right of a Muslim prisoner to grow a ½ inch beard in accordance with his religious beliefs. This is a clear endorsement and victory for the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which sets a high standard for protecting religious liberty. This legislation, which our late founder, Chuck Colson, worked diligently with Congress to pass, properly prohibits the government from restricting a person’s religious liberty unless there is a compelling government interest and the government is using the least restrictive means in restricting that liberty.
According to Justice Fellowship Policy Director Jesse Wiese, “The history of America’s penology is deeply rooted in providing the opportunity for prisoners to make amends on both a religious and societal basis—to remove the ability to do so diminishes the value of the individual and has negative effects on public safety. In fact, allowing men and women to exercise their religious beliefs while incarcerated has been shown to increase public safety.”
Wiese, who was himself incarcerated during the early 2000s, stated that, “During my incarceration, I was allowed to practice my faith in ways that would directly contribute to my success upon release. Unfortunately, prison seldom teaches men and women how to be good citizens and rarely affords the opportunities to practice the norms that society demands upon release. Having the freedom to exercise, or practice, my Christian faith—and having that activity constitutionally protected—afforded invaluable opportunities to practice good citizenship. “
Justice Fellowship maintains that today’s Supreme Court ruling protects this freedom and sends a strong message of dignity and hope—both of which are desperately needed for the men and women in our nation’s prisons and jails.
Read the Holt v. Hobbs decision here.