Lino Lakes Correctional Facility: the other body of Christ

class=img_thumbleft>A federal trial taking place in Iowa this week could determine the future of faith-based initiatives, or at the very least, the future of the

InnerChange Freedom Initiative

, a Bible-based prison reform program offered at prisons in Iowa, Texas, Kansas, and Minnesota. The IFI program has been offered at

Lino Lakes Correctional Facility

, just north of the Twin Cities, since July 2002.

The lawsuit filed against Iowa's Newton Correctional Facility by the D.C.-based organization Americans United for the Separation of Church and State contends that IFI is unconstitutional because it uses state and local tax dollars to promote Christianity. The Iowa Legislature has appropriated $310,000 from the Healthy Iowans Tobacco Trust for a value-based program at Newton. In Minnesota, 22 percent of IFI's funding comes from the state.

The lawyer for Americans United told the AP that the program has turned an entire unit of a state prison into an evangelical church. The lawsuit also claims that prisoners who sign up for the program get preferential treatment such as separate living quarters, special visits from family members, and access to computers. And according to prisoners who have testified, in order to be adopted into the program they must sign an agreement that they will subscribe to the teachings of InnerChange, which only promotes Christianity. In other words, Jews, Muslims, and anyone else who isn't Christian must convert in order to be a part of the reform program. The trial is expected to continue through next week.

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