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Home High profile Prisoners will be allowed to watch a solar eclipse outside as part of their religious beliefs after reaching a settlement victory

Prisoners will be allowed to watch a solar eclipse outside as part of their religious beliefs after reaching a settlement victory

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A group of inmates in upstate New York who sued for the right to view the solar eclipse on April 8 based on their sincere religious beliefs are victorious after a settlement agreement was reached on Thursday.

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The moon eclipses the sun over Escalante, Utah, during the annular eclipse on Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023. (Photo by Bryon Houlgrave/NurPhoto via AP)

The photo shows the moon covering the sun during the annular eclipse in Escalante, Utah on October 14, 2023.

A group of inmates in upstate New York New York who sued for the right to view the solar eclipse on April 8 based on their sincere religious beliefs are celebrating a win after agreeing to a settlement on Thursday.

As Law&Crime previously reported, the half dozen inmates, Jeremy Zielinski, Travis Hudson, Bruce Moses, Oscar Nunez, Jean Marc Desmarat, and David Haigh at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Sullivan County filed a lawsuit against the New York Department of Corrections arguing that the natural phenomenon was part of their ways to honor their gods, or, in the case of the lead plaintiff, Jeremy Zelinski, an atheist, to observe the eclipse in the company of all who “gather to celebrate science and reason.”

An attorney for the plaintiffs, Chris McArdle, issued a statement after the agreement was reached late Thursday.

“We are pleased that, in response to our lawsuit alleging religious discrimination, New York State has entered into a binding settlement agreement that will allow our six clients to view the solar eclipse in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs,” the statement says.

The inmates had alleged that multiple requests submitted to officials at the facility in Sullivan County, including one starting as early as Jan. 28, were processed slowly and, at times, confusingly.

Zielinski alleged that his request was initially approved but then effectively rescinded when the acting commissioner, David Martuscello III, issued a ban on any movement on prison grounds during the time of the eclipse, 2 to 5 p.m. ET.

Typically, exercise outdoors would be allowed during the hours that the eclipse is expected to sweep over Woodbourne.

While the six inmates who sued will not be forced into their housing units during the eclipse, the lockdown still applies to others for now, though according to The Washington Post, officials for the New York Department of Corrections have said they have received other requests though it unclear how many others will be approved or denied.

A spokesperson for the department said Thursday that the settlement was the “appropriate resolution.”

 
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