I was in prison and you came to me

These are the words of Jesus Christ from Matthew (25:36). They are simple words whose meaning is clear in the context of Matthew 25. Jesus tells us to visit and care for “the least of these my brothers.” From this simple instruction comes necessary ministries to prisoners.

One effective ministry in my area is the Good News Jail & Prison Ministry, whose purposes are

visitation program for the benefit of inmates of institutions in the State; witnessing to inmates and their families; aiding in a physical and spiritual rehabilitation of men and women upon their release from an institution; and provision of an educational program within the institutions to encourage continuance of formal education among the inmates, as permitted by said institutions.

You’d think even atheists would appreciate this kind of love to sinners in prison. You would be mistaken. The ACLU, ever vigilant to ensure that their comfort in secular humanism is not disturbed, objects to this ministry.

And, they do what they do best: stop people from helping people. In this instance, as related by this story in the Washington Post, the claim is made that ministering to prisoners “threatens the constitutional separation of church and state.” Nevermind that Good News’ contract with the Alexandria (Virginia) jail includes arranging “services for everything from Christmas to Ramadan and Rosh Hashanah.” From Chaplain John Poffenberger of Good News:

In jail, you don’t have to convince inmates that they have to get help from something bigger than themselves. It’s that God sense that comes when they get into trouble. They need help, and they need it from someone more powerful than themselves.

Some folks can’t abide the thought that there is a greater Power than themselves. Among such, the ever-vigilant ACLU. ACLU hasn’t filed suit (yet); they’re just bullying Virginia jailers to stop allowing Good News to provide comfort and hope. As for such assistance from Good News being “unconstitutional,” this is nonsense. The First Amendment reads, on this subject:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

Good News is a Christian ministry, that is certain. But inmates are not required to attend services organized by Good News. Inmates are not required to convert if they are not already Christian. Inmates are, merely, being provided with a greater opportunity for their “free exercise” of religion. Which is one civil liberty that the ACLU does not support.

The ACLU isn’t simply against God, although they are surely that. They are high-minded, self-righteous elitists who don’t care about the welfare of “the least of these.”

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