Chuck Colson: David or Goliath?

Nicole Greenfield: Former Nixon “hatchet man” and current Bush ally, Chuck Colson, is in the news again after an Iowa judge ruled that his InnerChange Freedom Initiative, a state-funded evangelical Christian prison program, violated the separation of church and state. The controversy began over three years ago when the relatively small non-profit organization, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, filed a lawsuit against Colson’s multi-million dollar, international non-profit for using taxpayer’s money to fund a religious program. AU’s victory over InnerChange–or InnerChange’s defeat by AU–is a true David and Goliath story.

Although Colson himself doesn’t officially respond, the president of the larger Prison Fellowship ministry organization that created InnerChange, Mark Earley, reacts in a BreakPoint commentary. Earley not only sees “religious freedom” at risk, but believes the decision jeopardizes the fate—both immediate and ultimate—of prisoners as well. He applies the persecuted church rhetoric laced throughout evangelical narrative, but here it’s flipped–the perscutor isn’t the large and powerful state, but rather a small non-profit group.

Explaining their decision to appeal, Earley does all but declare: this means war. And the next battle is not one that he and Colson are willing to lose. Lucky for them, they’ve got Alito, Roberts, and Bush in their arsenal. But despite the overwhelming combined power of these men, Colson and Earley are sure to employ the persecution narrative once again, only this time presenting themselves as poor, weak, and caring Christian Davids against a unjust, all-powerful, and anti-Christian Goliath of a state.