Prisoners demand rights to watch the solar eclipse

Prisoners in the US state of New York have filed a lawsuit against the State Department of Corrections over the decision to close prisons during the total solar eclipse, which will take place next April 8.

The prisoners demand to observe the solar eclipse on April 8. The photo was generated by Gencraft AI

The fact is that the solar eclipse falls on Monday. On this day, the prison does not provide a weekend schedule, when prisoners are given the opportunity to stay on a fenced walking area for longer, where they could observe an astronomical phenomenon. The lawsuit has become a matter of conflict between the religious freedoms of prisoners and the activities of the New York State correctional system during extreme natural phenomena.

In a lawsuit to the federal court, the prisoners claim that the prison’s operating regime on April 8 violates the constitutional rights of convicts to freely express their religious faith, depriving them of the opportunity to participate in religiously significant events.

The participants in the lawsuit were six people with different religious beliefs: a Baptist, a Muslim, a Seventh-day Adventist, two followers of Santeria and one atheist. The lawsuit notes that the solar eclipse has great religious significance for many believers, similar to the events described in the sacred texts of Christians and Muslims. Biblical passages describe an eclipse-like phenomenon during the crucifixion of Jesus, whereas sacred Islamic works describe a similar event when the son of the Prophet Muhammad died.

Solar eclipse. Photo: Unsplash

The lawsuit was partially satisfied by only one atheist claimant, who received permission to observe the eclipse. Others tried to get permission, but they were refused, because the court did not include the solar eclipse in the list of sacred or religious events. A representative for the Department of Corrections declined to comment on the lawsuit.

However, in some states, correctional facilities have softened conditions for one day next Monday and will work according to the weekend schedule. In correctional facilities where the solar eclipse will be observed, prison staff and prisoners will be given protective glasses to observe the astronomical phenomenon. 

The total solar eclipse on April 8 over New York City is expected to occur at 3:15 p.m. local time and last only a few minutes. The next total solar eclipse over the United States will occur in 2044.

Earlier, we reported on how fake safety glasses could damage your eyesight.

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