Update: Lawyers for the inmates said in a statement:

We are pleased that, in response to our lawsuit alleging religious discrimination, New York State has entered into a binding settlement agreement that will allow our six clients to view the solar eclipse in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs.

The Alston & Bird team working on the matter included partner Christopher L. McArdle, senior associate Madeline E. Byrd, and senior associate Sharon Steinerman.

A group of inmates in New York is taking legal action against the state corrections department for the decision to lock down prisons during the upcoming total solar eclipse.

The lawsuit, filed on Friday in federal court in upstate New York, argues that the lockdown scheduled for April 8th infringes upon the inmates' constitutional rights to practice their faiths by preventing them from participating in a religiously significant event.

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The plaintiffs, consisting of six incarcerated individuals with diverse religious backgrounds, are currently residing at the Woodbourne Correctional Facility in Woodbourne. Among them are a Baptist, a Muslim, a Seventh-Day Adventist, two practitioners of Santeria, and an atheist.

The complaint contends that a solar eclipse is a rare and natural phenomenon with substantial religious significance. They present references to biblical passages describing an eclipse-like phenomenon during Jesus' crucifixion, as well as similar descriptions in sacred Islamic texts, highlighting the importance of the event to their respective faiths.

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The solar eclipse, which was last visible in the United States in 2017 and won't be seen again until 2044, is seen by the plaintiffs as an occasion for gathering, celebration, worship, and prayer. The lawsuit reveals that an atheist inmate had previously been granted special permission to view the eclipse using state-provided glasses. However, this permission was granted before the imposition of the system-wide lockdown.

READ MORE: 2024 Solar Eclipse in Upstate New York: Safety Concerns Raised

According to the lawsuit, four other plaintiffs subsequently applied for permission. Still, they were denied by officials who deemed the solar eclipse as not being listed as a holy day within their religions. The sixth inmate claimed to have never received a response to their request. Thomas Mailey, spokesperson for the corrections department, declined to comment on the pending litigation but emphasized that all requests for religious accommodations are carefully reviewed, including those related to viewing the eclipse.

The acting commissioner of the department, Daniel Martuscello III, issued a memo on March 11th stating that all state correctional facilities would operate on a holiday schedule during the eclipse, effectively keeping the inmates in their housing units except for emergencies, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. These hours are typically designated for outdoor recreation in prisons. Additionally, visitation will be suspended at nearly two dozen prisons within the path of totality, while visitation at other correctional facilities will conclude at 2 p.m.

However, Martuscello assured that the department would distribute solar eclipse safety glasses to staff and incarcerated individuals at prisons within the path of totality, allowing them to view the eclipse from their assigned work location or housing units.

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