2009 Press Releases

7.1.2009: ACLU Secures Prisoner's Right To Practice Catholic Faith

Today the ACLU Foundation of Louisiana and the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections filed a settlement securing the right of prisoner Donald Lee Leger to practice his Catholic faith by participating in Catholic Mass and Confession. Leger, a Catholic death row inmate at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, sued prison officials after being unable to regularly participate in Catholic Mass, although Baptist religious services were routinely held on death row. Leger also was made to watch and listen to predominately Baptist programming on a television directly placed outside his cell.

Since the ACLU filed suit on his behalf, officials at Angola have given Mr. Leger the ability to regularly view Catholic Mass. ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie R. Esman said: "We are glad that since we filed suit, Angola now regularly includes Catholic and Muslim services." Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the Catholic Church will have the same opportunity to hold Mass that other denominations enjoy on death row and Mr. Leger will be allowed fully private Confessional visits with a priest. The agreement also ensures that prisoners on death row will not be compelled to listen to religious programming.

Esman continued: "The ACLU has long stood for the religious rights of everyone. Donald Leger simply wanted to practice his Catholic faith. Those on death row, like anyone else, should have the opportunity to practice their religion by participating in religious ceremonies of their choice. We're very happy that the warden at Angola recognizes that he can't force prisoners to practice a religion that they don't share."

A copy of the settlement agreement is available at:  http://www.laaclu.org/PDF_documents/Leger_Settlement_Agreement_07012009.pdf