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USA. Inmates sue the prison for permission to watch a solar eclipse

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Six inmates at New York's Woodbourne Prison are so eager to see next week's solar eclipse that they're suing the prison over it. The inmates argue that preventing them from doing so would constitute a violation of their religious rights, ABC News reported on Tuesday.

A group of New York prisoners from Woodbourne Correctional Facility have filed a lawsuit demanding that they be allowed to watch next week's solar eclipse, ABC reported on Tuesday. The moon will cover the sun next Monday.

The eclectic group of plaintiffs includes a Muslim, a Baptist, a Seventh-day Adventist, two followers of the African-Caribbean syncretic Santeria cult, and one an atheist. Each of them sincerely believes that the April solar eclipse is a religious event, the lawsuit says.

The prisoners want to see a solar eclipse

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The prisoners took legal action in response to the decision of the state Department of Corrections, which announced a lockdown of inmates on April 8: there will be no visits, and during the eclipse, inmates will not be allowed to stay in the yard.

One of the complainants, Jeremy Zielinski, initially obtained permission to view the solar eclipse – which the lawsuit says was of great importance to him as an atheist because of its celebration of “science and reason.” However, after the lockdown was announced, the permission was withdrawn.

Annular solar eclipseShutterstock | illustrative photo

“Mr. Zielinski strongly believes that observing a solar eclipse with people of different faiths is crucial to the practice of faith because a central aspect of atheism is the celebration of a common humanity and bringing people together to encourage them to find common ground,” the lawsuit reads.

Seventh-day Adventist David Haigh told reporters that “it will be 20 years before another opportunity like this presents itself. … I don't think that just because I'm in prison I should be denied this opportunity, especially since the eclipse is going to happen during times when outdoor recreation normally takes place.

Prisoners who will be able to watch the eclipse from the windows of their cells or workplaces will be provided with protective glasses, the spokesman said. “We are currently reviewing religious requests to view the eclipse,” he added.

Main photo source: Shutterstock | illustrative photo

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