After State Mandated Lockdowns, New York Inmates Sue To Observe the Solar Eclipse

( – A solar eclipse is coming. Parts of the country will experience 90% darkness. Inmates in one jail are suing officials over the event.

In March, the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision announced that prisons in the state would put their facilities on lockdown during the solar eclipse on April 8. The department cited safety concerns. On March 29, six men responded by filing a lawsuit against the state.

According to reports, the lawsuit claims the state is violating the inmates’ religious rights by not allowing them to view the eclipse. The plaintiffs are incarcerated in Sullivan County at Woodbourne Correctional Facility. They claim that the eclipse “is a religious event that they must witness and reflect on to observe” their various faiths. Of the six men, there’s a Baptist, a Muslim, an atheist, a Seventh-day Adventist, and two who practice Santeria.

The complaint cites Bible passages that describe an eclipse during the crucifixion of Jesus. Muslims believe a similar event took place when the Prophet Muhammad’s son died.

The atheist involved in the lawsuit, Jeremy Zielinski, asked for permission in January to view the eclipse from the front yard of the prison. Prison officials initially approved his request and told him they would provide him with glasses so he could view the event. When he learned others in the prison also viewed the event as significant, he renewed his request and asked if they could also watch.

Then, on March 11, the lockdown order was announced. Daniel F. Martuscello III, the acting director of the Department of Corrections, informed officials that the lockdown would last from the hours of 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and that visitation would be canceled for the day at the 23 facilities that were in the path of totality.

In the lawsuit, Zielinski said the eclipse is an important time to “celebrate science, reason, and all things Atheism.” Chris McArdle, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said the prison deals with the day turning dark every day and knows how to handle it. He also pointed out that there was no lockdown during the partial eclipse in 2017.

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