John Walker Lindh, American Terrorist, Sues Federal Bureau of Prisons for Right to Pray

John Walker Lindh, an American terrorist held in a non-traditional prison facility in Indiana, is currently suing the Federal Bureau of Prisons for not allowing him to pray in a group. He argues that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, he has the legal right to pray with other Muslim inmates in a group setting. However, his past actions and the Quran itself illustrate the shaky nature of the claim. 

In a blatant attempt at exploiting current legislation and constitutional rights to freedom of religion, Lindh is creating a desperate ploy to attack the American government that he has long despised. While his claims demonstrate his strong devotion to Islam, they are not ones that the Bureau is legally required to award. The Quran does not mandate that followers pray in groups; it is recommended, but not required. Consequently, the Bureau is under no obligation to grant Lindh’s request. While in prison for committing crimes against their nation, people must adapt and fashion different lifestyles than those they are used to. Prisoners of all faiths have to make religious and social sacrifices, more so with those who have committed serious crimes.

In cases such as these, security trumps everything (except common decency and human rights). High-profile prisoners that have many times committed heinous crimes against America must be dealt with carefully. If able to contact others with similar interests, the possibility of escape becomes increasingly likely, and allowing Lindh to convene in this prayer group would be a dangerous allowance for the Bureau to make.

The difference between minimum security prisons and those housing more dangerous criminals is tremendous. Allowances for inmates in minimum security prisons is far greater than high security facilities, and rightly so. Everything depends on the threat a criminal poses to the country. With the case of Lindh and other terrorists, where the threat is significant, America cannot afford to give substantial privileges. Lindh committed a severe crime; now, just as other criminals, he must make sacrifices.  

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Neha Nigam

I am currently studying Political Science and History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and am extremely interested in the mind of the American voter. After graduating, I hope to attend law school to study international law.

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