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Lawyers Reach Agreement On Native American Inmates’ Lawsuit

The Department of Corrections is agreeing to allow a chaplain to oversee Native American religious ceremonies after the ACLU says they were banned in June.

MiamiCorrectional

Photo: Indiana Department of Corrections

A prison employee walks into the Miami Correctional Facility.

Attorneys have reached an preliminary agreement to bring a lawsuit between a prison and a Native American inmate to an end.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is representing Daniel Littlepage and 40 other Native Americans in the lawsuit–arguing the Miami Correctional Facility infringed on their freedom of religion when it banned their religious ceremonies in June.

Prison officials explain in court documents that the ceremonies threaten security and provide inmates an opportunity to gather without supervision.

All religious groups at the prison are required to have an approved volunteer, something the Native American group lacks.

An approved volunteer must pass background checks and have a certification in that religion, but because of the nature of Native American religion, there is no formal accreditation process of spiritual leaders.

After meeting with representatives from the ACLU and the Department of Corrections Wednesday, a federal judge urged the two parties to come to an independent solution.

A court clerk says the Department of Correction has agreed to allow a chaplain to come into the correctional facility to oversee the Native American religious ceremonies.

Within 14 days, the Department of Correction then plans to decide whether to make the chaplain’s position permanent or find an outside volunteer who specializes in Native American practices.

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