On Friday, U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson said that Muslim inmates in Indiana prisons, including John Walker Lindh, aka the “American Taliban,” had the right to congregate daily in group prayer sessions. The federal judge held that the decision by prison authorities in Terre Haute, Indiana, banning daily group prayers for Muslim inmates violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.
The ruling was in response of a complaint filed by the ACLU of Indiana on behalf of Lindh and two other Muslim inmates. Lindh was captured by U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks and imprisoned in the United States.
Prison officials argued that the same group of prison inmates gathering five times a day for unsupervised ritual prayers raised security concerns. However, the court noted that the prisoners were not otherwise confined to their cells during the times when the prayer sessions occurred, and were permitted to engage in group activities like playing games or watching videos, or generally talking with each other.
The judge also pointed out that physical supervision was not as essential as made out, since the prison also had sophisticated audio and video surveillance equipment installed within its precincts that were sufficient for monitoring prisoner activities.
The court gave the prison warden 60 days to come up with a new policy for allowing Muslim inmates to hold their daily prayers.
Lindh, who is a U.S. citizen by birth, was convicted after admitting to carrying explosives during a felony, and also of supplying services to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Currently Lindh, who has been in prison from 2002, is considered a low-security risk among prison inmates and allowed to watch Muslim videos in Arabic.