Status: Open (8th Circuit Court of Appeals)
Overview: The Iowa InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI) is a comprehensive, faith-based pre-release program for prisoners with an exemplary record of successfully rehabilitating hardened criminals into successful members of society. The program presents viable, cost-saving solutions to challenges with which state and local governments struggle. However, on June 2, 2006, after a lawsuit was brought by the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Judge Robert Pratt ordered that the program be shut down, and that IFI and its affiliate, Prison Fellowship Ministries, repay the state of Iowa the $1.5 million which IFI received for services over the last six years. In his ruling, Judge Pratt labeled IFI "pervasively sectarian," and therefore a violation of the separation of church and state. On September 13, 2006, with the aid of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Prison Fellowship filed an appeal with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. After an appellee's brief was filed, Prison Fellowship, on Dec. 4, 2006, again with the aid of the Becket Fund, filed a reply brief.
On February 13, 2007, Becket Fund Vice President and General Counsel argued before an 8th Circuit panel that included former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Audio of the oral arguments can be heard here. A decision is expected this summer.