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Billy HallowellNov 25, 2019 12:00:00 AM2 min read

Atheists Issue Warning to TX Sheriff Over Kanye West's Prison Concerts

Rapper Kanye West's recent visit to a Texas prison captivated millions, as the performer continues to take his newfound Christian faith on the road with his "Sunday Service" events.

But while many were inspired by the images and stories that emerged from West's event at the Harris County jail in Houston, Texas, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), an atheist activist group, was anything but elated.

READ ALSO: Kanye West Visits Joel Osteen's Church — Here Are 5 Powerful Moments

The FFRF released a statement proclaiming that "Houston jails shouldn’t have held Kanye West shows," calling any such performances unconstitutional in nature.

The organization sent a Nov. 18 letter to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, complaining that surprise concerts held by West on Nov. 15, showed an "unconstitutional preference for Christianity."

Plus, the FFRF argued that Christianity was imposed on inmates by Gonzales, considering that prisoners are essentially a captive audience.

"The Supreme Court has said time and again that the First Amendment ‘mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion," Andrew L. Seidel, FFRF's director of strategic response, wrote in the letter. “By organizing what you admit to be a worship service, you crossed this line.”

The organization also took aim at Gonzalez's tweets about West's performances as well as messages shared online by the sheriff's office.

Now, the FFRF wants the Harris County Sheriff's Office to pledge not to organize or give promotion to any similar performances.

READ ALSO: Kanye West's 'Sunday Service' Pastor Takes You Inside Rapper's Faith

Regardless of the complaint, West's decision to perform for inmates had a massively positive impact. The event brought incarcerated persons to tears, as West performed for more than 200 male inmates and a smaller group of females.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott even praised West's performance, sending a tweet encouraging others to follow the rapper's lead.

"What @kanyewest does to inspire the incarcerated is transformative. Saving one soul at a time," Abbott wrote. "Inmates who turn to God may get released earlier b/c of good behavior & may be less likely to commit future crimes. It would be great if other artists followed Kanye’s lead."

For more about West's newfound faith, check out our interview with Pastor Adam Tyson, a friend of West's who has been speaking at "Sunday Service" events:

Featured image credit: Harris County Sheriff's Office


Billy Hallowell

Billy Hallowell has been working in journalism and media for more than a decade. His writings have appeared in Deseret News, TheBlaze, Human Events, Mediaite and on, among other outlets. Hallowell has a B.A. in journalism and broadcasting from the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, New York and an M.S. in social research from Hunter College in Manhattan, New York.