Indiana prison resuming Native American services

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PERU, Ind. (AP) - Native American inmates are being allowed to resume religious ceremonies at a northern Indiana prison after a federal lawsuit was filed over the issue.

The Miami Correctional Facility banned Native American services last year because the group lacked the required outside volunteers to lead the services, officials said.

The Department of Correction agreed after a court hearing on the lawsuit last week to reinstate worship ceremonies at the prison, the Kokomo Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/PQSCFY ).

Officials at the prison near the city of Peru said it will have a chaplain who assists with Native American worship and study at the Pendelton Correctional Facility help resume the ceremonies.

The ACLU of Indiana filed the lawsuit on behalf of inmate Daniel Littlepage, arguing the prison was violating his constitutional religious rights.

“We’re happy that it turned out this way,” said Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana. “Mr. Littlepage is obviously very happy, too, to see that services will be starting again.”

About 40 inmates have participated in Native American worship and study at the prison, according to the lawsuit.

The state attorney general’s office argued in court documents that the Native American ceremonies gave inmates from different prison sections an opportunity to gather without supervision, threatening security.

The ceremonies that are being reinstated include those such as the sacred circle, where prayers are offered by the community, and smudging, which incorporates burning herbs. The prison has agreed to seek a long-term facilitator or volunteer to meet with prisoners and assist with services.

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Information from: Kokomo Tribune, http://www.ktonline.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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