After a Wiccan inmate filed a civil lawsuit over perceived discrimination, the sheriff’s office in Bartholomew County, Indiana, stopped allowing a Christian ministry to hold weekend retreats inside the jail.
New Day Residents Encounter Christ (REC) has organized retreats at the Bartholomew County Jail for several years, but those events will be no more after inmates reportedly filed “several complaints” alleging jail officials favored Christianity over other religions, according to The Republic.
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Bartholomew County Sheriff Chris Lane told the local news outlet that — although cancelling the program was a “tough call” — the ongoing retreats have exposed the county to civil lawsuits, placing an undue burden on employees. As a result, a retreat planned for November has been scrapped.
“Every time we do those weekends, we’ll have an inmate file a civil complaint or something along those lines that we’re just promoting Christianity,” said Lane. “Over the years, there have been some [lawsuits]. They’ve always come out in our favor, but there’s an expense to that. Those get filed, and we have to litigate those through our attorneys and the county’s insurance carrier and so forth.”
In September of last year, a Wiccan inmate claimed in a civil lawsuit the county jail only allows religious events that are Christian in nature. He further alleged in his filing with the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis that pizza, sodas, and snacks from last year’s retreat were only given to Christian prisoners.
The inmate also attempted unsuccessfully to get an injunction blocking all faith-based events at the Bartholomew County Jail until the sheriff “provides a plan of action, assuring that all religions are treated fairly and represented at the jail.”
Previous REC retreats were held under the purview of former Sheriff Matt Myers, who was in office for two terms. He noted in a court filing of his own that he purchased the pizzas with his money and that REC provided the drinks and snacks at no cost to the county.
The work the Columbus-based REC does is certainly making a positive impact. Over the summer, 41 inmates at the Floyd County Jail gave their lives to Jesus and were baptized, WDRB-TV reported.
It should be noted, officials with the Bartholomew County Jail stated in a filing they have not shown favoritism toward Christianity, pointing out no inmate is required to participate in the retreats and those who do participate are not required to have any particular beliefs.
Bartholomew County staffers went on to claim in legal filings that only Christian events have been held on the property because no other religious groups have reached out to organize such programs.
CBN Digital has reached out to REC. If the ministry responds to our request for comment, this story will be updated.
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