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Faith Groups Urge Prisons to Protect Religious Needs During COVID-19 and Ramadan

Coronavirus is no Excuse to Deprive Prisoners of Constitutional Rights

WASHINGTON, DC — On Thursday, Muslim Advocates and a diverse coalition of 20 faith groups sent a letter to federal and state prison systems urging them to accommodate the religious needs of all prisoners and avoid using the coronavirus crisis to restrict their constitutional right to worship. With Ramadan projected to begin on April 24, it is critical that federal and state prisons do everything possible to provide all prisoners access to:

  • Accommodations for the Ramadan holiday
  • Religious diets such as halal, kosher and vegetarian meals
  • Religious articles such as holy books, prayer oil and other items needed for worship
  • Spiritual leaders, counselors and worship services

With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approaching, it is especially important that correctional facilities allow incarcerated Muslims to fast by giving them food and medicine outside of daylight hours and also accommodate evening prayers. Numerous prisons have repeatedly served practicing Muslims pork products and failed to accommodate their other religious needs as required by law and the current crisis makes these failures even more likely.  And as a 2019 investigation by Muslim Advocates found, Muslims are significantly overrepresented in the state prison population and are more likely to file complaints about religious issues.

“We remain deeply concerned that prisons will use this crisis as an excuse to deny basic religious accommodations to prisoners in their care,” stated the letter. “This obligation is not only a moral and ethical one; it is enshrined in law under both the U.S. Constitution and many federal and state statutes.”


Signers of the letter include:

Muslim Advocates

Alliance of Baptists

American Baptist Churches, USA

Bend the Arc: Jewish Action

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Faith in Public Life

Franciscan Action Network

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Interfaith Alliance

Islam in Prison

Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC)

Muslim Wellness Foundation

National Black Muslim COVID Coalition

National Council of Churches

National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Reconstructing Judaism

Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

Unitarian Universalist Association

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee


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Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination.