The Herald Bulletin

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July 22, 2013

Indiana prison inmate seeks group prayer rights

INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana prison inmate who belongs to a religious organization whose members believe they are a lost tribe of Israel asked a federal judge Monday to force the prison to drop restrictions on his faith's group prayers.

African Hebrew Israelite Paul Veal filed a request for an injunction against the Indiana Department of Correction. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is representing Veal in federal court in Indianapolis.

Veal settled a 2008 lawsuit against the agency when it agreed to allow group prayer in the Pendleton Correctional Facility northeast of Indianapolis, but the new complaint said since November, a prison chaplain suspended group worship and study. The prison then required group religious activities to be supervised by an outsider— which reduces the times available for group prayers.

The lawsuit said other religious groups in the prison are allowed to meet for self-led worship.

The lawsuit seeks relief under federal laws regarding religion and prisons.

The African Hebrew Israelites believe they are the lost tribe of Judah, exiled from the Holy Land by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago.

Hebrew Israeilites follow a lifestyle they say is based on the commandments of God in the Old Testament, but without traditional Judaism's rabbinical interpretations. They are not considered and do not consider themselves Jews.

The lawsuit filed Monday said the Department of Correction's handbook of religious practices recognizes the Hebrew Israelites and says that group worship and weekly study sessions may be held.

A spokesman for the prison agency had no immediate comment.

ACLU of Indiana legal director Ken Falk said Veal's legal action was not influenced by the success of a similar lawsuit that was recently won by American Taliban John Walker Lindh, who is being held at a federal prison in Terre Haute.

 

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