Inmates Sue to View Eclipse | God's World News

Inmates Sue to View Eclipse

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    The International Space Station appears against the Sun during a solar eclipse on August 21, 2017, as seen from Northern Cascades National Park in Washington state. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
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    This map shows cities in the path of April 8’s total solar eclipse. (AP)
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Inmates in New York are suing the state corrections department. The lawsuit argues that the April 8 total solar eclipse is important to many religions. Six prisoners at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility say a decision to lock down prisons during the event violates their constitutional rights to practice their faiths.

Daniel Martuscello III is the New York Corrections Department acting commissioner. He issued a memo. It announced that all state correctional facilities will operate on a holiday schedule on April 8.

The memo means that incarcerated individuals will remain in their housing units that day from 2 o’clock p.m. to 5 o’clock p.m. Those hours normally serve as outdoor recreation time.

There will also be no visitation at nearly two dozen prisons in the path of totality that day. Visitation at other correctional facilities will end at 2 o’clock p.m.

Martuscello says the department will supply safety glasses for people at prisons in the path of totality. This will allow them to view the eclipse—but only from their work or housing units.

The plaintiffs include a Baptist, a Seventh-Day Adventist, a Muslim, two followers of Santeria (a religion from Cuba), and an atheist. “A solar eclipse is a rare, natural phenomenon with great religious significance to many,” the inmates’ complaint reads. It claims that Bible passages describe an eclipse-like spectacle during Jesus’ crucifixion. (Luke 23:44-45) However, many Bible scholars note that a solar eclipse would not have taken place at that time of year and that three hours of darkness is too long for a solar eclipse. They believe the event was unique and God-given.

The suit also claims that Islamic works describe an eclipse when the son of the prophet Muhammad died.

According to the complaint, the event “warrant[s] gathering, celebration, worship, and prayer.” Some of those actions aren’t possible during a lockdown.

The lawsuit states that one of the plaintiffs, an atheist, received special permission to view the eclipse. However, that was before the system-wide lockdown announcement.

Four of the other plaintiffs then sought permission too. Officials denied those requests. They ruled the solar eclipse is not listed as a holy day for their religions. The sixth inmate says he never received a response.

Spokesperson Thomas Mailey says the agency doesn’t comment on pending lawsuits. But he says the department gives attention to all religious exemption requests.

The total solar eclipse on April 8 will first be visible over Mexico’s Pacific coast. It will dash up through Texas and Oklahoma and cross the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and New England. Then it will pass over eastern Canada into the Atlantic. Totality will last just three-and-a-half to four minutes. At that time, the Moon will pass between the Earth and the Sun, briefly blocking the Sun.

A total solar eclipse was last visible in the United States in 2017—and won’t happen again until 2044.