Canada cuts all non-Christian prison chaplains

TORONTO — The Canadian government is canceling the contracts of all non-Christian chaplains at federal prisons. By next spring, Muslim, … Continued

TORONTO — The Canadian government is canceling the contracts of all non-Christian chaplains at federal prisons.

By next spring, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and other non-Christian inmates will be expected to turn to Christian prison chaplains for religious counsel and guidance.

In an email to reporters on Thursday (Oct. 4), the office of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who is responsible for Canada’s federal penitentiaries, said the government “strongly supports the freedom of religion for all Canadians, including prisoners.”

“However, (it) is not in the business of picking and choosing which religions will be given preferential status through government funding. The Minister has concluded … that chaplains employed by (the Correctional Service of Canada) must provide services to inmates of all faiths,” the email said.

Toews had already shelved a plan to hire a Wiccan priest for federal prisons in British Columbia, saying he wasn’t convinced part-time chaplains from minority faiths were an appropriate use of taxpayer money.

Currently, there about 80 full-time chaplains serving the federal prison system; all are Christian except for one Muslim. There are about 100 part-time chaplains, 20 of them non-Christian, according to CBC News.

The total cost of the chaplaincy program is about $6.4 million a year. It’s not clear how much will be saved by the cancellations, which take effect by the end of March 2013.

According to corrections data, in the last fiscal year, 36 percent of Canada’s nearly 15,000 federal prison inmates identified themselves as Catholic; 18 percent as Protestant; 5 percent as Muslim; 4 percent as following aboriginal spirituality; and 2 percent as Buddhist. Sikhs and Jews registered less than 1 percent each. Twenty percent said they were nonreligious.

Monique Marchand, president of the Interfaith Committee on Chaplaincy, which advises the correctional service on the spiritual care of inmates, said Ottawa’s announcement has been misunderstood.

“It’s misleading to say a Muslim (inmate) will have to go to a Catholic chaplain for counseling,” she said.

Rather, full-time chaplains will be “coordinating” the pastoral care of minority faith inmates, meaning they will request local clergy to volunteer their services.

Canadian rabbis asked Ottawa to reconsider the cuts. The Canadian Rabbinic Caucus said it is “deeply concerned that non-Christian inmates will be deprived of religiously specific spiritual nourishment at a time in their lives when they most clearly need it.”

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

  • SODDI

    Why not cut ALL prison chaplains? Using only christian chaplains is a tacit endorsement of the christian religion over all others.

    Besides, “spiritual” counseling is the last thing any convict needs. “Religion” is the first resort of scoundrels in that situation. “Yes, I cooked and ate that whole family, but now I got jesus in my heart so I deserve a parole.”

  • slowe111

    I agree. the government shoiuld not be spending ANY money on chaplins. period. Psychiatric counseling – as medical treatment or to maintain civility and reduce violence inside the prison is the only justification for such expense.

    Prefering and ONLY hiring Christian chaplins is a government endorsement and wrong.

  • Kingofkings1

    Every day, the news seems to be getting more shocking than the previous day in regards to Canadian “new” policies

Read More Articles

shutterstock_186364295
This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

shutterstock_186566975
Hey Bart Ehrman, I’m Obsessed with Jesus, Too — But You’ve Got Him All Wrong

Why the debate over Jesus’ divinity matters.

SONY DSC
Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.

shutterstock_186090179
How Passover Makes the Impossible Possible

When we place ourselves within the story, we can imagine new realities.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

shutterstock_185995553
How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

HIFR
Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

This Passover, We’re Standing at an Unparted Red Sea

We need to ask ourselves: What will be the future of the State of Israel — and what will it require of us?

pews
Just As I Am

My childhood conversion to Christianity was only the first of many.

shutterstock_127731035 (1)
Are Single People the Lepers of Today’s Church?

In an age of rising singlehood, many churches are still focused on being family ministry centers.

2337221655_c1671d2e5e_b
Mysterious Tremors

People like me who have mystical experiences may be encountering some unknown Other. What can we learn about what that Other is?

bible
Five Bible Verses You Need to Stop Misusing

That verse you keep quoting? It may not mean what you think it means.

csl_wall_paper
What C.S. Lewis’ Marriage Can Tell Us About the Gay Marriage Controversy

Why “welcome and wanted” is a biblical response to gay and lesbian couples in evangelical churches.