Prisoners fight for right to watch solar eclipse claiming it’s a ‘religious event’

Prisoners fight for right to watch solar eclipse claiming it’s a ‘religious event’

Six New York state prisoners filed a lawsuit arguing their constitutional right to witness the April 8 solar eclipse (Picture: Getty Images)

Prisoners who were offered solar eclipse viewing glasses to watch the rare phenomenon – only for the state prison to change its mind – are fighting for their right on the grounds that it is a ‘religious event’.

Six men incarcerated in New York state facilities are arguing that they have a constitutional right to witness the April 8 ‘religiously significant’ eclipse, which last happened in the US in 2017 and won’t again until 2044.

In the afternoon on the coming Monday, those in the path of totality including some viewers in New York state will experience a period of darkness as the Moon blocks the face of the Sun from the Earth.

The six prisoners of XX different religions filed a lawsuit in federal court against the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) on Friday.

‘A solar eclipse is a rare, natural phenomenon with great religious significance to many,’ states the complaint.

The inmates at Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Sullivan County ‘have each expressed a sincerely held religious belief that April’s solar eclipse is a religious event that they must witness and reflect on to observe their faiths,’ it reads.

Jeremy Zielinski, who is an atheist, first requested that the solar eclipse be recognized as a religious event in late January, more than two months in advance.

On March 5, ‘he was ‘informed that the facility would buy and provide him with solar eclipse viewing glasses for use to watch the eclipse’, states the suit.

But six days later, the DOCCS acting commissioner issued a statewide memorandum saying that the facilities would operate on a holiday schedule on April 8 and that inmates ‘will remain in housing units’ from 2pm to 5pm, which is usually their outdoor recreation window.

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