Center for Inquiry v. Jones (2007-present)

Meet Prisoners of Christ and Lamb of God Ministries

Addiction is a major problem and a huge cause of criminal recidivism. To help break the vicious cycle of addiction and recidivism, the State of Florida studied the issue and found that innovative private groups are excellent at helping prisoners turn their lives around. So Florida works with private partners to help those recently released from prison. Private groups receive $14-20 per day from Florida to help house, feed, and help former prisoners transition back into society. Those groups also provide, at no cost to the State, substance abuse treatment modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous. The program has been successful—offenders who complete the program have half the recidivism rate of those who do not. In fact, their recidivism rate is one-third of the national average.

Two of the many providers are Prisoners of Christ and Lamb of God Ministries.  These groups, run by Christians whose faith motivates them to serve, have been serving former prisoners in Florida for more than a decade. When a man is released from prison, they meet him at the bus stop, bring him to one of their halfway houses, and make sure he has a roof over his head, food to eat, and clothes to wear. They help him find transportation, medical services, job training and whatever basic services he needs to find work, stay sober, and make a successful transition back into society. The whole program is voluntary—offenders can choose to participate, choose which provider best fits their needs, and also choose to join in optional religious discussions if they find then helpful.

Since 1990, Prisoners of Christ alone has helped over 2,300 people get back on their feet. Although the state only covers a fraction of their costs, they serve at a financial loss because their faith leads them to do so.

Meet the atheists who want them gone

Enter the Center for Inquiry (formerly, the Council for Secular Humanism).  This atheist group has sued the state of Florida, Prisoners of Christ, and Lamb of God to try and shut down the program.  The group claims that state funds should never go to “pervasively sectarian” groups—even when those groups provide valuable services like room, board, and job training assistance.  Even though the services are provided at a bargain price. Even though no state money goes to religious activities. Even though the program works.

Legal help arrives

The Becket Fund represents Prisoners of Christ and Lamb of God, together with prominent Florida firm Ausley McMullen. The State of Florida is also defending the program.

Stay tuned for more updates in this important religious liberty case.