Here's a story I nearly missed, about how one of the Bushes spent Christmas Eve:
LAWTEY, Fla. -- Gov. Jeb Bush dedicated what he called the nation's first faith-based prison Wednesday, telling its nearly 800 inmates that religion can help keep them from landing in jail again.
In addition to regular prayer sessions, the Lawtey Correctional Institution will offer religious studies, choir practice, religious counseling and other spiritual activities seven days a week. Participation is voluntary and inmates are free to transfer out.
Bush lauded the inmates from 26 faiths for committing themselves ''to a higher authority.''
''This is not just fluffy policy, this is serious policy,'' he told the crowd. ''For the people who are skeptical about this initiative, I am proud that Florida is the home to the first faith-based prison in the United States.''...
--AP story, December 27, 2003
Carl Hiaasen has his doubts about all this:
Let us pray.
Yea, though we hustle through the valley of death, we offer thanks for the bounty of faith to be found here at the Lawtey Correctional Facility....
Lord, we cannot blame you for being rather skeptical of our newfound faith, for so many brothers and sisters in the prison system have claimed to embrace you before.
It's true that, in the past, some of us did not turn to you until late in the plea-bargaining process, and only then in a laughably transparent attempt to convince prosecutors that we'd found spiritual redemption.
Others of us waited until our final request for a new trial was rejected by the appellate courts, and we were hence abandoned by our lawyers.
Still others of us welcomed you only in the days approaching our first parole hearing, during which we memorized numerous verses of the Scriptures and extolled your virtues to all within earshot.
Sadly, after our request for an early release was denied, we somehow mislaid our faith and returned to the blaspheming, gambling, fighting and occasional drug use that is endemic to the penal life.
However, we now humbly beseech you to set aside your doubts and suspicions about our sudden piety. This time, it's different. This time we're going to stick with the program!...
(Thanks to the good folks at Americans United for Separation of Church and State for the tip.)