DES MOINES — An advocacy group filed suit Wednesday against Iowa and its top prison officials over a rehabilitation program for inmates that is centered in fundamentalist Christianity.
The Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State claims that state funding for the faith-based program is unconstitutional.
The InnerChange Freedom Initiative, offered at Iowa's Newton Correctional Facility since 1999, aims to reduce recidivism among inmates.
The program, operated by Prison Fellowship Ministries, also is run in prisons in Texas, Kansas and Minnesota.
The ministry, based in Reston, Va., was founded by Chuck Colson, a former aide to President Nixon and a Watergate defendant.
The lawsuit says the program is funded almost entirely with government money but is in essence a religious program.
But Mark Earley, president of Prison Fellowship Ministries, said InnerChange uses state money solely for nonsectarian expenses while private funds are used for religious programming.