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ICC Note: An inmate at Kansas’ Topeka Correctional Facility, Shari Webber-Dunn, is taking legal action over alleged “Christian propaganda” in the facility. According to the lawsuit, there are several religious displays in the prison, including a library of spiritual books and a wooden cross in the basement. She, along with the American Humanist Association, have suggested that the prison has violated the constitution by coercing inmates to partake in Christian activities by creating this religious environment. It is not yet clear if and how the correctional facility intends to respond.

By Linley Sanders

09/20/2017 United States (Newsweek) – Shari Webber-Dunn, an inmate serving a murder charge in Kansas, said her First Amendment rights were violated by “Christian propaganda” imposed by the all-female prison. Now, she’s suing department administrators to have it removed.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, alleged that the Topeka Correctional Facility in Kansas unconstitutionally embraces Christianity by displaying an eight-foot-tall wooden cross in its basement, publically posting prison-related prayers, soliciting book donations for a spiritual library and offering prayer request submission on a Christian bulletin board. Christian movies are also broadcasted on facility televisions and spiritual quotes are posted at the laundry room workplace, the lawsuit alleges.

Webber-Dunn believed that the correctional center was “imposing strong Christian values on inmates” and creating “a coercive atmosphere where inmates are pressured to spend their time in a highly religious atmosphere and to participate in religious activities and prayers.”

Inmates are prohibited from removing anything from the public bulletin boards, which Webber-Dunn said violates the establishment clause prohibiting government agencies from establishing a religion.

“There is no valid reason why Christian materials should be displayed there in a state-owned and operated correctional facility,” the lawsuit said, referring to the prison laundry room, where inmates are required to drop off and pick up clothes three times a week.


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