A federal judge has ruled in favor of American-born Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh after he brought suit seeking permission to pray with a group of inmates every day.
Lindh and other Muslim inmates at a Terre Haute federal prison had been allowed to pray daily in a group up to 2009, when the warden ended the practice, citing security concerns. Since then, the inmates were only allowed to participate in group prayer once a week, except during Ramadan, when they prayed together every evening.
In her ruling, Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson said she could not find the warden’s security concerns substantial enough to deny Lindh his right to daily group prayer. She also found that the warden did not adequately seek alternatives. Lindh attorney Ken Falk says he has always been puzzled by the government’s denial of Lindh’s right to daily prayer. He argued it infringed on his religious freedoms.
“This is not a prison where people are being let out of their cells to engage in this one activity,” he says. “This is a prison where, as you saw, the doors open up around 6, 6:30 in the morning and, except for a count period during the day, they don’t close again until 9:15 at night.”
The U.S. Attorney’s office has not indicated whether it will appeal the ruling.