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New York Prisoners Are Suing The Prison Because They Won't Let Them Watch The Solar Eclipse

NY Post - Inmates in New York are suing the state corrections department over the decision to lock down prisons during next Monday’s total solar eclipse.

The suit filed Friday in federal court in upstate New York argues that the April 8 lockdown violates inmates’ constitutional rights practice their faiths by preventing them from taking part in a religiously significant event.

The plaintiffs are six men with varying religious backgrounds who are incarcerated at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Woodbourne.

They include a Baptist, a Muslim, a Seventh-Day Adventist and two practitioners of Santeria, as well as an atheist.

Personally, I'm outraged. Prisoners deal with a lot of fucked up shit in their everyday prison lives. Disgusting bathrooms, cold showers, maggots in their food, prison guards forcing inmates to play against their semi-professional football team, etc. But this one is especially disturbing. Prisoners are people too. Once you start locking down prisons in the midst of a total solar eclipse, you've officially gone too far. 

Freedom of religion is important in this country. Everyone knows that eclipses are associated with some major religious events, including the darkness that accompanied Jesus' crucifixion in Christianity and, in Islam, the passing of the Prophet Muhammad's son, Ibrahim. You wouldn't take Catholics bible. You wouldn't prevent a Muslim from reading the Qur'an. You wouldn't tell an atheist he can't shove his atheism down everyone's throats. And you can't deny a prisoner his moon privileges. No matter how many customer service agents he buried in his backyard, or many pipe bombs he's planted around NYC. 

To be in the path of a true solar eclipse can be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and the Woodbourne Correctional Facility is....... well it's actually not in the path at all.

But pretty close! To not appreciate it would still be criminal. Any astronomical event that has the ability to fry your eyes out of your skull is a must watch. Take it from international pop sensation and former Russian astronaut Lance Bass 

Space.com - Bass, who was a member of the pop group NSYNC, had spent months in training with Russia in 2002 for a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). His $20 million seat aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft was purchased through Dutch-based space tourism company MirCorp and bankrolled by a documentary. But the documentary's insurance company backed out just weeks before launch, and Bass lost his seat aboard the Soyuz, he told Space.com.

"I was so very highly disappointed, but it was still amazing to be able to finish that training," said Bass, who was 23 back then and would have been the youngest person ever to fly to space. (Getting to the ISS required him to be fluent in Russian space terms and to be able to conduct himself well in an emergency, among other requirements.)

Did everybody know that Russia was once planning to send Lance Bass to space? That was news to me. When I saw @NASA tweet their Lance Bass eclipse video, I thought they just picked him for the NSYNC puns. But apparently he's an astronaut. Or almost an astronaut. Or at least a man who really loves space.

The prison doesn't seem to give a reason as to why they can't just their inmates look at the moon for 5 minutes. Are Lance Bass' safety glasses too expensive to acquire? Are they afraid the prisoners will find a way to use the glasses as a weapon and overthrow the guards? Are they scared of werewolves? No clue. The prison's spokesperson (fun job) won't comment on pending litigation.

However, if I were a prisoner, I'd be making a stink about this too. Prison has gotta be boring as hell. When any sort of fun or interesting activity pops up, and you think you can spin it as a "religious right", you gotta take advantage of it. Honestly, if I were stuck in prison for life I'd be suing the prison left and right. I didn't even know prisoners had the right to do that.

I'd especially like to hear the atheist's pitch. Maybe I don't understand the point of atheism, but I feel like if you're an atheist and you're complaining about your religious rights being infringed upon... that seems like a contradiction? If you don't believe in any sort of god, then what the hell does the moon mean to you? Either way, the prisoners aren't going down without a fight. 

NY Post - The lawsuit states that one of the named plaintiffs, an atheist, received special permission last month to view the eclipse using glasses that would be provided by the state, but that was before the system-wide lockdown was issued.

Four of the other plaintiffs subsequently sought permission but were denied by officials who ruled the solar eclipse is not listed as a holy day for their religions, the lawsuit states.

The sixth inmate said he never received a response.

Thomas Mailey, a corrections department spokesperson, said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but takes all requests for religious accommodations under consideration.

He said those related to viewing the eclipse are currently under review.

I love to tell you I'll follow up on this story with the end result of this lawsuit, but I'm not suer that's going to happen. I'll most likely never consider this story again. At least not until the afternoon of April 8th when I go outside to almost certainly be underwhelmed by the moon. Then I'll think to myself, "This is what the prisoners are mad about? Is this an eclipse for ants?"

Anyways, good luck out there to the people of the Woodbourne Correctional Facility, and prisoners all across the state of New York who are hoping to get their moon on next Monday. I'm pulling for ya (sort of).