Howard Bashman provides a link to the opinion and some news coverage about the Iowa Prison Fellowship Ministry case, about which I blogged here, here, and here. The bad news is that the appellate panel (which included Sandra Day O’Connor) found against Iowa and PFM in many respects. The good news is that it did not uphold the district court’s very punitive requirement that PFM reimburse the state $1.5 million or require that the current privately-funded version of the program be shut down.
The folks at the Becket Fund are putting a happy face on a ruling with which they must be generally displeased, as do the PFM people. It’s true that nothing in the decision prevents states from permitting privately-funded faith-based programs in prisons, but all three judges still affirm that, as it operated for most of its term, the program violated constitutional strictures. The other piece of good news coming from the decision was the panel’s repudiation of the district court’s talk about "pervasive sectarianism."
The folks at Americans United regard this as a big victory, though I think they overreach at least a little when they claim that "[t]his ruling is a major setback for the White House’s ‘Faith-Based Initiative.’" Liberal Baptists are also pleased.
Once again, my own view is that, in general, opponents of programs like this ought to spend their efforts creating secular alternatives, guaranteeing inmates more choices, rather than working hard actually to reduce the rehabilitative options they have.