Webber-Dunn alleges violation of the First Amendment
Shari Webber-Dunn, an inmate in Topeka Correctional Facility in Kansas, alleged the prison authorities violated her constitutional rights provided to her by the imposition of Christian beliefs. She identifies herself as Thelema practitioner. She was joined in her lawsuit by the American Humanist Association (AHA) working out of Washington DC.
The list of complaints entered by Webber-Dunn includes the eight-foot wooden cross. She also mentioned the Christian themed television broadcasts and radio, along with a number of housing units being flooded with proselytizing messages. The AHA, in its documents, assert that the constitutional rights of inmates were violated by the coercive religious atmosphere fostered by state government. There was also extreme pressure on the inmates to participate in the Christian activities. The AHA, in a separate filing, requested for a United States District Court trial to be held in Kansas City, Kansas. The organization speaks up for atheists and also others, including attempts to control the government from violating First Amendment separation standard of state and the church.
As per the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, Congress must not create any law that favors one particular single religion. Webber-Dunn claims that the “coercive atmosphere” in the correctional facility violates the rights provided to her by the constitution. David Niose, the legal director of the AHA, said prisons are within the U.S. Constitution. The Establishment Clause gets protection from any state sponsored religion.
The list of defendants in this particular case are Secretary Joseph Norwood of Kansas Department of Corrections, Kevin Keith, the facility administrator of TCF, Shannon Meyer, the TCF Warden, and an employee of state corrections entrusted with the protection of the First Amendment rights of the inmates. When asked, a KDOC representative did not comment on the lawsuit filed by Webber-Dunn. Samir Arif, the spokesperson, cited a particular department policy which forbids commenting on any pending litigation.
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Webber-Dunn is currently 49 years old. She has been incarcerated since 1995, and will be eligible for parole only after 2034. When it comes to her Thelema beliefs, “Most Thelemites hold that every person possesses a true will, a single overall motivation for their existence. The law of Thelema mandates that each person follow their true will to attain fulfillment in life and freedom from restriction of their nature. Because no two true wills can be in real conflict, this law also prohibits one from interfering with the true will of any other person.”