Saturday, March 31, 2007

Time: The Case for Teaching The Bible

Time: The Case for Teaching The Bible
"... TOWARD THE BEGINNING OF THE COURT'S string of school-secularization cases, the most eloquent language preserving the neutral study of religion was probably Justice Robert Jackson's concurring opinion in the 1948 case McCollum v. Board of Education: "One can hardly respect the system of education that would leave the student wholly ignorant of the currents of religious thought that move the world society for ... which he is being prepared," Jackson wrote, and warned that putting all references to God off limits would leave public education "in shreds." In the 1963 Schempp decision, the exemption for secular study of Scripture was explicit and in the majority opinion: "Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment," wrote Justice Tom C. Clark. Justice Arthur Goldberg contributed a helpful distinction between "the teaching of religion" (bad) and "teaching about religion" (good). Citing these and subsequent cases, Marc Stern, general counsel for the American Jewish Congress, says, "It is beyond question that it is possible to teach a course about the Bible that is constitutional." For over a decade, he says, any legal challenges to school Bible courses have focused not on the general principle but on whether the course in question was sufficiently neutral in its approach. ..."

This is an excerpt from the interior of a fairly lengthy article from the online version of Time Magazine. The author, David van Biema, has presented a balanced exposition of the issues involved as well as the worries from the right and the left about how the secular teaching of the Bible as literature would be implemented.

I suspect that many people have never read the 1963 opinion of the Supreme Court that is mentioned here, and I would have to admit that I have not read it fully myself. If you are interested, Wikipedia has a summary of Abington School District v. Schempp and if you interested in the full (and lengthy) decision you can go to Findlaw and read 374 U.S. 203 (1963).

What may be surprising is that the 1963 Supreme Court decision did NOT ban the study of the Bible in public schools. It banned school-sponsored devotional readings and prayer. I remember this personally -- it was customary to read a passage from Scripture and to recite the Lord's Prayer at the beginning of the the school day, along with the Pledge of Allegiance. I remember it from third grade, and I seem to recall it in fourth grade as well. I know that by fifth grade it was no longer a part of my school day.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States makes it clear:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The government cannot legally support one religion over another, but neither can the government prohibit people from the free exercise of their religion (or no religion, for that matter).

The problem was not that the Supreme Court said that schools could not sponsor prayer or devotional Bible reading; it was that subsequent practice in many areas tended to purge any whiff of religion from the public schools. My opinion is that much of this was due to more to an unwillingness to deal with controversy rather than with anti-religious ideology. Subsequent court decisions made it clear that "prohibiting the free exercise thereof" included specific rules and practices that prevented religious expression on school grounds. In other words, if you let secular groups use the property, you have to allow religious groups as well.

As for the teaching of the Bible as literature -- that was never banned by either the Constitution or the courts -- and Justice Jackson's words quoted above provide as good a reason as any I have heard for ensuring that our youth are religiously literate.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Atheists Split Over Message -

Atheists Split Over Message -
[free registration may be needed to read this article]
"BOSTON -- Atheists are under attack these days for being too militant, for not just disbelieving in religious faith but for trying to eradicate it. And who's leveling these accusations? Other atheists, it turns out.

Among the millions of Americans who don't believe God exists, there's a split between people such as Greg Epstein, who holds the partially endowed post of humanist chaplain at Harvard University, and so-called "New Atheists."
Epstein calls them "atheist fundamentalists." He sees them as rigid in their dogma, and as intolerant as some of the faith leaders with whom atheists share the most obvious differences. ..."

It's not surprising to read of this; much of today's theistic and atheistic debate centers on what most people would call "faith". God cannot be put under a microscope and quantified using the methods of science, but neither can the scientific method be employed to prove a negative.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

NASA: Cassini Images Bizarre Hexagon on Saturn

NASA: Cassini Images Bizarre Hexagon on Saturn
Pasadena, Calif. -- An odd, six-sided, honeycomb-shaped feature circling the entire north pole of Saturn has captured the interest of scientists with NASA's Cassini mission.

NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft imaged the feature over two decades ago. The fact that it has appeared in Cassini images indicates that it is a long-lived feature. A second hexagon, significantly darker than the brighter historical feature, is also visible in the Cassini pictures. The spacecraft's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer is the first instrument to capture the entire hexagon feature in one image.

"This is a very strange feature, lying in a precise geometric fashion with six nearly equally straight sides," said Kevin Baines, atmospheric expert and member of Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We've never seen anything like this on any other planet. Indeed, Saturn's thick atmosphere where circularly-shaped waves and convective cells dominate is perhaps the last place you'd expect to see such a six-sided geometric figure, yet there it is."

The word "bizarre" is not inappropriate here.

To me, this is one of those "Psalm 8" moments -- even if a clear explanation is forthcoming, the shape and sheer scale of this object leave me in awe. Hexagons, by the way, are not uncommon in nature; honeycombs and basalt columns come to mind.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Powered by ScribeFire.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Reuters: Monster cane toad found in Australia

Reuters:  Monster cane toad found in Australia

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A huge cane toad the size of a small dog has been captured in the Australian tropical city of Darwin, startling environmentalists who are fighting to stop the poisonous amphibians spread across the country.

"It's a monster toad," said Paul Cowdy from FrogWatch which captured the cane toad on Monday night.

"We've never seen a cane toad this big," he said on Tuesday. "It's a male and normally females are bigger."

The cane toad, regarded as a major pest in Australia, was one of 39 caught by a group from FrogWatch near Lee Point in Darwin. It measures 20.5 cm (8 inches) in length and weighs 840 grams (1.8 pounds) -- twice the normal weight.


This isn't even the largest cane toad on record -- A specimen 15 inches from snout to vent weighing nearly 6 pounds holds the record. The photo, unlike the one accompanying the Reuters article, is licensed by Wikipedia for free use.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Tolkien Jr completes Lord of Rings

Tolkien Jr completes Lord of Rings:

"The first new Tolkien novel for 30 years is to be published next month. In a move eagerly anticipated by millions of fans across the world, The Children of Húrin will be released worldwide on 17 April, 89 years after the author started the work and four years after the final cinematic instalment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, one of biggest box office successes in history.

The book, whose contents are being jealously guarded by publisher HarperCollins - is described as "an epic story of adventure, tragedy, fellowship and heroism."

It is likely to be a publishing sensation, particularly as it is illustrated by veteran Middle Earth artist Alan Lee, who won an Oscar for art direction on Peter Jackson's third film The Return of The King. Lee provided 25 pencil sketches and eight paintings for the first edition of the book, one of which is reproduced here for the first time in a national newspaper. ..."

For all you hard-core Tolkien fans out there, this will be published April 17th. The pre-order price of The Children of Hurin at Amazon was $15.60 as of a few moments ago.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Catholic Worker altruism isn't deductible - Los Angeles Times

Catholic Worker altruism isn't deductible - Los Angeles Times:
"Ted Von der Ahe walks past clusters of shopping carts to reach the well-scrubbed building where he works with food, the commodity that made the Vons grocery heir rich.

But these shopping carts are heaped with the ragged belongings of the homeless, and the food is free. Von der Ahe dishes it up as a part-time volunteer for the Los Angeles Catholic Worker soup kitchen on skid row.

"There is a beautiful focus here on helping the poor," said Von der Ahe, 57, who was cleaning the kitchen's ancient stove after a lunch for hundreds of street people.

The former priest's labors carry on a family tradition of charity, although with an organization that does not qualify for donations from the Von der Ahe Foundation.

That's because the Catholic Worker is the rare charity that refuses, on philosophical grounds, to register with the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt nonprofit. The stance dates back seven decades to founder Dorothy Day's admonition to keep the federal government at arm's length. ..."

This story hits close to home as my congregation donates a significant amount each year to three organizations that are operated by the local Catholic Worker community.

Not all of the 135 Catholic Worker Communities in the United States refuse to register with the IRS as a 501(c3) organization; many have done so to ease their working relationships with food banks as well as donors.

The thing that frustrates many people in my town seems to frustrate the people in Los Angeles as well -- It's not so much the inability to make direct donations to the organizations as it is the fact that there is little or no accountability in how the donations are applied.

Our local Catholic Worker organization does work that no one else is doing. And they have chosen not to do it according to the rules that govern charitable organizations. At this point I don't see any churches stepping forward to do the things the Catholic Worker community does, so we have to accept it on faith that the donations are being expended properly.

It would be fair to note that donations to churches are tax-deductible, and that churches, in turn, can make donations to organizations that perform a ministry of compassion.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

McCartney is 1st to sign with Starbucks label -

McCartney is 1st to sign with Starbucks label -
"SEATTLE, Washington (AP) -- Paul McCartney was introduced Wednesday as the first artist signed to Starbucks Corp.'s new record label.

The former Beatle made an appearance via a video feed from London at the company's annual meeting.

The world's largest specialty coffee retailer announced earlier this month that it was partnering with Concord Music Group to launch the Los Angeles-based Hear Music label. ..."

Don't get me wrong -- I like Starbucks. One would hope, though, that the music being purveyed isn't as overpriced as the coffee....

[UPDATE - 4/22/2007] -- The CNN link above is broken, but I found a Business Week article that still is available regarding the Starbucks music label.

Monday, March 19, 2007

LA TImes: We live in the land of biblical idiots,1,3102398.story
(The LA Times requires free registration to read the full article)
"...Biblical illiteracy is not just a religious problem. It is a civic problem with political consequences. How can citizens participate in biblically inflected debates on abortion, capital punishment or the environment without knowing something about the Bible? Because they lack biblical literacy, Americans are easily swayed by demagogues on the left or the right who claim — often incorrectly — that the Bible says this about war or that about homosexuality.

One solution to this civic problem is to teach Bible classes in public schools. By Bible classes I do not mean classes in which teachers tell students that Jesus loves them or that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, but academic courses that study the Bible's characters and stories as well as the afterlife of the Bible in literature and history. Last week, the Georgia Board of Education gave preliminary approval to two elective Bible courses designed to teach religion rather than preach religion. As long as teachers stick to the curriculum, this is a big step in the right direction. ..."

It's good to read well-reasoned arguments like this from prominent newspapers. I don't agree with all Prothero's assertions in the rest of the article, but I do concur that religious literacy is necessary to understand the forces that drive much of what is happening in the world today -- the good, as well as the bad.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Great Smoky Mountains National Park -- ca. 1970

Here are some additional scans of B&W negatives. All these were taken with a 35mm Argus C3 camera using Kodak infrared B&W film, ASA 10. Infrared film, in addition to requiring heavy filtration to keep out most of the visible light (I used a red filter here), is notoriously grainy.

Looking upstream in a deciduous forest.
Note the white-looking foliage and ghostly appearance.

An old rail fence and pasture in Cades Cove

An old cabin and outbuilding in Cades Cove

I'm not sure where this photo was taken,
but it is likely near Clingman's Dome

Scanning old photos

Photograph of my brother and a turtle taken with
Kodak Verichrome Pan film (size 120, ASA 125). Circa 1965.

I have, in boxes, albums, and notebooks, thousands of photographs, B&W negatives, color slides, and color negatives that I have taken over the years since about 1964 -- not to mention many old photos that have come down from both sides of our family. I have been at my wits end trying to decide how to deal with them, and most of the solutions I looked at had a hefty price tag.

One solution I had not considered was a scanner. The last time I used one, it was a 300 dpi model that did a fair job of scanning photographs, but a poor job of scanning slides. Negatives were not even feasible, especially color negatives with the orange mask.

A few weeks ago we found an Epson 4490 for under $200 that handled all the types of photographic media I had. Its resolution is 4800 x 9600 dpi, and it does the job slowly, but well. I still need to experiment to determine the best resolution to employ, but the ones I have already done are more than satisfactory, if a bit large.

Scanners are generally quite unforgiving of dust, scratches, and such on negatives, but with the magic of Photoshop, I can fix them nicely.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Evangelicals Condemn Torture -

Evangelicals Condemn Torture -
"The National Association of Evangelicals has endorsed an anti-torture statement saying the United States has crossed "boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible" in its treatment of detainees and war prisoners in the fight against terror.

Human rights violations committed in the name of preventing terrorist attacks have made the country look hypocritical to the Muslim world, the document states. Christians have an obligation rooted in Scripture to help Americans "regain our moral clarity."

As I pointed out in an earlier posting, evangelical Christians have historically taken the lead in issues of justice and compassion. And yet, while their giving patterns have exceeded many other groups in their generosity toward those in need, their public image has been one of withdrawal from the secular world and a strict focus on spiritual matters. Personally I feel this is incorrect, but stereotypes, wrong though they may be, often have a grain of truth buried in all the chaff. The NAE is to be commended for their courage in taking on such issues as part of their Christian witness.

Issues of justice, human rights and compassion are not issues that belong to one side or another in our "sectarian" political debates. These are issues in which Christians are required to speak boldly (as well as truthfully) to power:
1Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,

2to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.

-- Isaiah 10:1-2
And Micah 6:8 should always be before us. We are "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God".

Withdrawing from the world and ignoring the problems around us is not an option that God has offered us.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Amazing Grace

My family and I went to see Amazing Grace in the theater Friday evening. As luck would have it, 300 was dominating the ticket lines, and we barely made it in time for the opening credits.

The story is told in a combination of the present (early 1800's, not today) and flashbacks, as we see how William Wilberforce changed from a young, reasonably well-off young man just starting out in Parliament, to an ardent abolitionist. Ioan Gruffudd plays Wilberforce sensitively, and we get a glimpse of the toll extracted on his mental and physical constitution as he brings his bill before Parliament year after year, only to have it voted down. Albert Finney appears as John Newton and presents a powerful image of a man who is haunted by "20,000 ghosts". His hymn, Amazing Grace, is a theme that runs through the film.

There is a bit of an anachronism with regard to the hymn -- The tune used in the film, New Britain, while familiar to most Christians today, was not written until 1831 -- well after the events depicted in the film.

Most reviews on Christian blogs have been pretty favorable, but some have criticized the film for giving short shrift to the evangelical faith that impelled Wilberforce to take on the slavery issue. This criticism also appeared in an article I linked to a few days ago, written from a Jewish perspective. After having seen the film, I have to respectfully disagree. The theme of Wilberforce's faith runs through the film, and while it is not a constant drumbeat, it is clearly portrayed.

Amazing Grace is a powerful film and I recommend it highly.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Evangelical Body Stays Course on Warming -

Evangelical Body Stays Course on Warming -
By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 11, 2007; Page A05

"Rebuffing Christian radio commentator James C. Dobson, the board of directors of the National Association of Evangelicals reaffirmed its position that environmental protection, which it calls "creation care," is an important moral issue.
The Rev. Leith Anderson, the association's president, said yesterday that the board did not respond to the letter during a two-day meeting that ended Friday in Minneapolis. But, he said, the board reaffirmed a 2004 position paper, "For the Health of the Nations," that outlined seven areas of civic responsibility for evangelicals, including creation care along with religious freedom, nurturing the family, sanctity of life, compassion for the poor, human rights and restraining violence. ..."

Historically evangelicals have taken the lead in issues of justice and compassion. The recent film, Amazing Grace, has underscored the role that Christian faith played in the abolition of slavery in Great Britain.

Christian witness in the world needs to be one of compassion as well as telling the Good News. We can ill-afford to be seen as the religious wing of either of the two main political parties -- and this goes as much for the PC(USA) as it does for fringe groups on the right and left.

The National Association of Evangelicals has done well to reaffirm its core values across a spectrum that includes more than just abortion and sexuality issues.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Revisiting the Power of Faith | The Jewish Exponent

Revisiting the Power of Faith | The Jewish Exponent:

The above-linked article is written from a Jewish perspective, and has some surprising things to say. Jonathan S. Tobin of the Jewish Exponent begins with a review of the issues that cause many Jews to view evangelical Christianity with suspicion -- in spite of the common goals that the people of these two faiths share. Tobin begins the heart of his article with the following:
"...Given the persistence of this debate, perhaps this is an apt moment to re-examine the role of faith in democratic politics with a recently released film as the starting point.

The movie is "Amazing Grace," which depicts the long struggle by English parliamentarian William Wilberforce to end the British slave trade.

Arriving on the 200th anniversary of the House of Commons' vote to outlaw the slave trade in 1807, the film tells of the triumph of Wilberforce and the abolitionists. For 20 years, they persisted despite repeated defeats at the hands of a large and wealthy pro-slavery camp. This faction was funded by West Indies sugar planters whose money enriched the British Empire, as well as corrupt members of Parliament. But this film is not merely the history of a good cause. It is primarily the tale of how religion can improve, rather than pervert, politics.

Any telling of Wilberforce's story must come to grips with the fact that his primary motivation wasn't an abstract vision of the injustice of slavery, but one based almost entirely on his evangelical Christian faith. ..."

His opinion of the film was that while it set out to portray the forces that drove Wilberforce, it failed to follow through, perhaps to avoid offending secularists. Tobin summarizes a portion of his thesis by saying:
"...But its shortcomings as art should not divert us from Wilberforce's heroic example and its influence on Christians and Jews today. The truth is, modern Jewry has long embraced Wilberforce's faith-based activism on issues from civil rights to freedom for Soviet Jewry. Those non-Orthodox Jews who regularly speak of tikkun olam or a Divinely ordained mandate to "repair the world" are, ironically, most likely to fear evangelicals who revere the same tradition. ..."

Food for thought...

I am beginning to think that Amazing Grace will not get to Columbia, so I expect I will have to await its release on DVD.

[UPDATE] -- It just hit Columbia today, so I know what I'll be doing this evening.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Wired News: Adobe Tackles Photo Forgeries

Wired News: Adobe Tackles Photo Forgeries:
"A suite of photo-authentication tools under development by Adobe Systems could make it possible to match a digital photo to the camera that shot it, and to detect some improper manipulation of images, Wired News has learned.

Adobe plans to start rolling out the technology in a number of photo-authentication plug-ins for its Photoshop product beginning as early as 2008. The company is working with a leading digital forgery specialist at Dartmouth College, who met with the Associated Press last month. ..."

This should have a clear effect on the use of images, which are powerful adjuncts to news stories (and propaganda). Photoshop has been a highly useful tool in dealing with digital photos, but it can be turned to dishonest ends just as easily.

This work is based on the research of Dr Hany Farid who has written a short (5 page) explanation of how forgeries can be detected, using as examples several recent manipulated images, including one particularly blatant one from Lebanon that was reported first on a blog, and then by the Washington Post.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

So much data, relatively little space

So much data, relatively little space:
"A new study that estimates how much digital information the world is generating (hint: a lot) finds that for the first time, there's not enough storage space to hold it all. Good thing we delete some stuff.

The report, assembled by the technology research firm IDC, sought to account for all the ones and zeros that make up photos, videos, e-mails, Web pages, instant messages, phone calls and other digital content zipping around. The researchers also assumed that on average, each digital file gets replicated three times.

Add it all up and IDC determined that the world generated 161 billion gigabytes -- 161 exabytes -- of digital information last year. ..."

In 2003 the estimate was 5 exabytes (5 followed by 18 zeroes)-- and various groups are pushing for a law requiring ISPs to retain nearly everything that users do online.

Just to put things into perspective, in my job we are working with storage arrays of up to 50 terabytes, and the need continues to rise. And that is just in our group (support for scientific research). The email group has their own storage needs, in addition to the thousands of desktop computers and laptops with their internal and external drives. I just did a quick mental calulation of my internal and external drives, and they add up to about a terabyte of storage.

So what does this mean?

Each increment of 1000 bytes gets its own prefix:

Kilo 1000
Mega 1,000,000
Giga 1,000,000,000
Tera 1,000,000,000,000
Peta 1,000,000,000,000,000
Exa 1,000,000,000,000,000,000
Zetta 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
Yotta 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

Exa-, zetta-, and yottabyte storage on a single system is not feasible at this time, but that may change in the next few years (months? days?). According to the Wikipedia entry on "Exabyte", 64-bit computer architecture has an address space of 16 exabytes.

As chilling as the thought of everyone's web browsing history being open to subpoena, more data are being generated than can be feasibly stored. Much of it goes into the bit bucket and is lost.

Now it's time to go to work and deal with storage issues, albeit more on a gigabyte scale.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Presbyterian News Service: Ministry tries making fishers of men

Presbyterian News Service: Ministry tries making fishers of men
"HUNTSVILLE, AL — Jesus called his first disciples away from their fishing nets, but a new group in Madison County is calling Christians and seekers down by the riverside.

Flyfishers of Men, a fairly informal school of new and experienced flyfishers, both men and women, believe that the practice of wading into beautiful streams, fly rod in hand, can help a person catch more than fish. ..."

I get altogether too few opportunities to get out into clear streams, but I treasure it every time. Kay Campbell of Religion News Service has captured much of the allure of fly fishing in this article picked up by Presbyterian News Service.

Fishing with artificial flies slows you down. You see things you might not ordinarily see. Herons, kingfishers, beavers, minks, even otters are regular denizens of my favorite spring-fed creek. There is plenty of time for contemplation, and the natural beauty of the creek and its watershed provide an atmosphere that leads me inexorably to a sense of God's presence.

I know that God is present in all the activities and locations of life, but I have to say that getting away from the day-to-day distractions, even if it is only for a day, is a spiritually rejuvenating experience for me.

One of my favorite books is "A River Runs Through It" by Norman Maclean (1902-1990. It was made into a pretty good movie in 1992, but the book (as is often the case) is far better. It starts off like this:
"In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ's disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman. ..."

Maclean, who was an English professor at the University of Chicago, wrote with great sensitivity about his family, Montana, his experiences working for the US Forest Service and various other topics.

I gotta get out there and fish......

Friday, March 02, 2007

NASA - Blinding Saturn

NASA - Blinding Saturn:

"Surely one of the most gorgeous sights the solar system has to offer, Saturn sits enveloped by the full splendor of its stately rings. ..."

What can I say?

St Louis Post Dispatch: Faith behind bars

St Louis Post Dispatch: Faith behind bars
"RICHMOND, Texas — The circle of 12 men joined hands and closed their eyes. Latino, black, white, some baby-faced, some marked with blurry neck tattoos — all bowed their heads in prayer.

They had gathered Tuesday at the town's minimum-security prison for Leon Johnson, who was finishing a 10-year stint. It was the 55-year-old's third time in prison, this one for a trio of drug charges.

Johnson's fellow inmate, Jeff Smith, began. "God, guide him as he leaves here. We pray he will be mindful that you're just a prayer away, and that he seeks your strength when he needs to. We thank you for giving us all a second chance."

Second chances are the specialty of the InnerChange Freedom Initiative, a prisoner re-entry program where Johnson spent the last two years. The controversial program, based on fundamentalist evangelical Christianity, aims to reduce the rate at which freed inmates wind up back in prison. The program gives prisoners practical life-skills — how to write a résumé, what to wear to an interview, how to pass a driving test — and a Christian-values-based foundation upon which they can rebuild their lives.

On Thursday, Missouri launched InnerChange at the men's Algoa Correctional Center in Jefferson City, becoming the sixth state to adopt the program. This summer, it will begin the initiative at the Women's Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Vandalia. ..."

It's good to see something like this come to Missouri. The article goes on to point out that the Missouri program differs in one significant way from other programs in other states that are under legal attack -- InnerChange does not receive state funding. In addition, the sidebar to this article lists ten religions, eight of which are not Christian, which are fully accommodated in Missouri prisons, as well as 8 other "solitary practice" religions (including Wicca and Satanism) which are accommodated in a limited way.

As far as prison, rehabilitation, and the eventual release of most prisoners, we have a lot of experience and data to tell us what DOESN'T work. As long as such programs do not coerce prisoners to participate and as long as state or federal funding is not an issue, I really can't see that any harm is done. The "establishment clause" is not to be interpreted as "freedom FROM religion". Rather it means that the state shall not foster a state religion. Beyond that the purpose of the First Amendment is to preserve the right of citizens to practice their religion, or no religion, without interference by the State, along with other rights such as peaceable assembly, freedom of the speech and the press, and the right to petition the government:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

We know what doesn't work; why not provide a little hope to those who have little hope left?