In Jan. 2011, The Blaze first brought you the story of American-born Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh, 31, and other prisoners who had been fighting to secure the right to hold a daily prayer group. The men, who live in a highly-restricted cell block, have claimed that restrictions on their prayer at the federal prison in Terre Haute (Indiana) violate their religious rights.
The government, of course, has argued that these regulations are necessary to ensure safety and that the inmates can, at the least, hear one another as they pray in their individual cells. Now, with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on his side, Lindh — who continues to fight for more regular group prayer — is going to have his day in court. The Taliban fighter, who will have his trial in August, may end up receiving the permission he has sought so diligently.
The lawsuit was originally filed back in 2009 by two inmates who live in the prison’s Communications Management Unit (CMU). This unit holds mostly Muslim inmates who have limited communications with the outside world. While the other prisoners have since bowed out of the lawsuit, having been released or transferred to other locations, Lindh, who joined the legal effort in 2010, continues the fight.
Currently, CMU residents are only allowed to participate in group prayer one time per week. However, Muslims, like Lindh, are required, as per their faith, to pray five times per day. The ACLU is arguing that the U.S. government cannot restrict religious activities unless there is a compelling need. Thus, officials will need to prove that such a situation exists in court.
The Associated Press continues:
U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson found in February that daily group prayers were part of Lindh’s sincere religious beliefs, but that there were still questions regarding whether the prayer ban is necessary for prison security.
She will hear the case beginning Aug. 27. The site for the trial hasn’t been determined.
ACLU legal director Ken Falk and the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on the case Tuesday. The Bureau of Prisons did not return phone calls and emails seeking comment.
Lindh has modified his request since joining the lawsuit and now seeks permission only to pray in a group three times a day.
The former terror participant, who pleaded guilty to providing services to the former Taliban government and carrying explosives for them, was also charged with conspiring to kill Americans and supporting terror. In a plea agreement, those latter charges were dropped and he is now serving a 20-year sentence.
Last month, The Blaze reported about another development related to Lindh: His former defense attorney has been promoted to the third-highest position within the Department of Justice:
The lawyer who in 2002 represented John Walker Lindh, an American who pleaded guilty to working with the Taliban in Afghanistan, has been named new acting associate attorney general, the third highest ranking position in the Department of Justice. The Washington Post reports that Tony West, who has donated thousands to Democratic Party candidates and helped raise a record $65 million as California co-chairman for the 2008 Obama campaign, will take over the new role in two weeks where he will oversee a broad range of issues including civil rights, the environment and natural resources, tax and civil litigation.
It will be interesting to see which side the court falls on.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.