An atheist group has issued a formal complaint to a Texas sheriff after he allowed Christian rapper Kanye West to hold a worship service in a county jail last week.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation requested in a letter to Sheriff Ed Gonzalez Monday that a religious gathering like the "church service" West held in the Harris County Jail never happen again, arguing it violated the Constitution.
"It is our understanding that Harris County Sheriff officials organized two concerts for inmates and staff on Friday, November 15," the letter recalls. "Kanye West and his choir performed songs from West's recent religious album, 'Jesus Is King,' and the performances were 'really more like a church service,' a sentiment you explicitly and publicly admitted. Photos suggest this is true, too."
The "photos" in reference show one tweet by Sheriff Gonzalez saying, "[Kanye West] and his choir brought some light and #churchservice to people who needed it today at the Harris County Jail," and another recalling West's words to inmates that "this is a mission, not a show."
Did the inmates have Christianity forced on them?
"In short, this was unconstitutional," the atheist group's letter said, arguing that the inmates didn't really have a choice — "nobody believes there is a genuine choice between sitting in a cramped, locked cell, and listening to a two-hour long concert."
"This constitutional violation is particularly egregious because it imposed religion on inmates — literally a captive audience — who have a deep and immediate interest in being seen favorably by [Sheriff Gonzalez] and [his] staff."
"It is no excuse that Kayne West is famous," the letter adds.
Kanye West performs at Harris County Jail youtu.be
'It was a very powerful moment'
"Say what you want about the man. But [Kanye West] and his choir brought some light to people who needed it today at the Harris County Jail," Jason Spencer, spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff's Office, tweeted.
West performed for more than 200 male inmates before traveling through an underground tunnel to perform for a crowd of women inmates.
Several inmates got down on their knees to pray while officers, and even members of West's team, were moved to tears.
"It was a very powerful moment," Sheriff Gonzalez said.
Following the event, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted that it would be "great if other artists followed Kanye's lead."
"What Kanye West does to inspire the incarcerated is transformative," Abbott said. "Saving one soul at a time. Inmates who turn to God may get released earlier [because] of good behavior & may be less likely to commit future crimes."