The San Francisco Gate reports that late last week, the Honorable Jane Magnus-Stinson (S.D.-Ind.) ordered John Walker Lindh, an inmate at the FCI Terre Haute CMU, “must be allowed to pray daily in a group with other Muslim inmates.” According to the paper, the Court found that “[b]arring John Walker Lindh and his fellow Muslims from engaging in daily group ritual prayer violates a 1993 law [a.k.a., the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] that bans the government from curtailing religious speech without showing a compelling interest.”
Ken Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which represented Lindh, noted Friday that witnesses testified that prisoners were allowed for many years to pray daily outside their cells, “and it never caused any problem.”
Group prayers had been allowed once a week and on high holy days such as Ramadan or Christmas in the prison unit where Lindh was housed, the Communications Management Unit in Terre Haute, Ind. But at other times, inmates had to pray alone in their cells.
Lindh said that didn’t meet the Quran’s requirements, and that the Hanbali school of Islam to which he adheres requires him to pray daily with other Muslims.
“I think he was ready to just abide by the outcome, but I think in John’s mind he felt he had an obligation to stand up for the right to pray,” Lindh’s father, Frank Lindh, during a phone interview from his office in San Francisco.
“We’re proud to live in a country where even someone in John’s position, an inmate in a prison, could get heard in court on the right to pray,” he said. “Today I feel proud to be an American.”
The station added: “The judge blocked the prison from enforcing its ban on daily group prayer, but she noted that her ruling does not prohibit the prison from taking less restrictive security measures.”