NY Prisoners Sue To Watch Solar Eclipse

Of all the strange prison requests in the last decade, the prisoners in Syracuse, New York have recently come up with one of the strangest. With the prison set to go on complete lockdown for the April 8th solar eclipse, six prisoners are arguing the prison is infringing on their constitutional rights to view the eclipse.

Comprised of a Baptist, Muslim, Seventh Day Adventist, and three other religions, all presented the same argument that this event warranted the “gathering, celebration, worship and prayer.” They contend that one of the plaintiffs was given permission to be outside to view the event through special sunglasses before they announced the lockdown. Permission that has since been revoked. Another plaintiff claims he never received a response to his religious accommodation request.

Denied on the condition that their religions did not recognize the eclipse as a holy day, the prison claims they aren’t being denied anything. While Thomas Mailey, a corrections department spokesperson claims they take all religious accommodation requests seriously, the evidence suggests they failed to. In the lawsuit, passes from both the Quran and the Bible reference eclipse-like events occurring at times that point towards ominous news.

While this is a strange request, the lawsuit over the denial makes sense on the surface, and they may just win it. Religious accommodations for diet, pillows, clothing, and in other areas are frequently granted. Allowing a prisoner to go into the rec yard to see the eclipse isn’t a major request. It’s not like they are demanding something to live in luxury, or to even have a happier life.

Instead, they are simply asking to take a moment to appreciate the religious and cultural significance of the moment. With the next total solar eclipse not occurring until 2026, and even then not touching North America, this is a special moment. One that they make a fair argument for watching.