Atheists Implode Over Kanye West’s Surprise Christian Service in Jail
Atheist group argues the service violated the Constitution
A formal complaint has been issued by an atheist group who have taken issue with Christian rapper Kanye West giving a surprise worship service in a county jail last week.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who allowed the service to take place, requesting that such a religious gathering like the "church service" West held in the Harris County Jail never take place again.
The group also argued the service violated the Constitution.
The letter recalls:
"It is our understanding that Harris County Sheriff officials organized two concerts for inmates and staff on Friday, November 15."
"Kanye West and his choir performed songs from West's recent religious album, 'Jesus Is King,' and the performances were 'really more like a church service,' a sentiment you explicitly and publicly admitted. Photos suggest this is true, too."
The "photos" referenced show Sheriff Gonzalez tweet saying:
"[Kanye West] and his choir brought some light and #churchservice to people who needed it today at the Harris County Jail."
Another recalling West's words to inmates that "this is a mission, not a show."
The atheist group's letter said, "in short, this was unconstitutional," arguing that inmates didn't really have a choice.
"Nobody believes there is a genuine choice between sitting in a cramped, locked cell, and listening to a two-hour long concert."
"This constitutional violation is particularly egregious because it imposed religion on inmates — literally a captive audience — who have a deep and immediate interest in being seen favorably by [Sheriff Gonzalez] and [his] staff."
Say what you want about the man. But @kanyewest and his choir brought some light to people who needed it today at the Harris County Jail. pic.twitter.com/ornRlEldNP— Jason Spencer (@JSpencer_HCSO) November 15, 2019
On #KHOU11 at 6, we go beyond the celebrity & the viral social posts to look at the people moved by Kanye’s words. 500 inmates listened to his message Friday. They’re still talking about it. @HCSOTexas chaplains are doing everything they can to seize a life-changing opportunity. pic.twitter.com/2Q6OP2ZKvQ— Melissa Correa (@KHOUmelissa) November 18, 2019
"It is no excuse that Kayne West is famous," the letter continues.
Jason Spencer, a spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff's Office, tweeted.
"Say what you want about the man. But [Kanye West] and his choir brought some light to people who needed it today at the Harris County Jail."
West performed for over 200 male inmates before traveling through an underground tunnel to do the same for women inmates.
Officers and even members of West's team were moved to tears as several inmates got down on their knees to pray.
"It was a very powerful moment," Sheriff Gonzalez said.
Following the event, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted that it would be "great if other artists followed Kanye's lead."
"What Kanye West does to inspire the incarcerated is transformative," Abbott said.
"Saving one soul at a time. Inmates who turn to God may get released earlier [because] of good behavior & may be less likely to commit future crimes."
Earlier this month, West's latest album “Jesus Is King” debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 Chart, making it only the fourth Christian-style album to enter the chart.
According to a report published by Billboard, it is West's ninth-consecutive album to have debuted at the number one spot on the chart.