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They argued that denying them the opportunity to witness the eclipse would violate their religious freedoms

Six inmates in the United States have filed a lawsuit against authorities, seeking permission to witness the year’s most significant astronomical event, a total solar eclipse scheduled for April 8.

Arguing on grounds of religious freedom, the prisoners contend that a planned lockdown in New York state prisons during the eclipse would infringe upon their rights.

In their court filing submitted on March 29, the inmates emphasized the religious significance of solar eclipses across various faiths, asserting their sincerely held beliefs that the upcoming event warrants gathering, celebration, worship, and prayer.

They argued that denying them the opportunity to witness the eclipse would violate their religious freedoms.

The New York Department of Corrections, in an advisory issued last week, announced the cancellation of visitation for facilities located in the path of totality, where the Moon will fully block out the Sun.

While the department did not provide specific reasons for the restrictions, it stated that prisoners would be returned to their housing units ahead of the eclipse and issued with safety glasses.

The lawsuit highlights the diverse religious backgrounds of the plaintiffs, including Christians, Seventh Day Adventists, Atheists, and Muslims, all of whom view the solar eclipse as a significant religious event. The inmates contend that their religious beliefs necessitate their participation in witnessing the eclipse.

With an estimated 32 million people residing within the path of totality and an additional 150 million living nearby, the economic impact of this year’s eclipse is expected to reach $6 billion, according to estimates by The Perryman Group.

The path of totality spans across western Mexico, several US cities, and eastern Canada, prompting closures and early dismissals in schools along the route, including in Cleveland and Montreal.

The New York Department of Corrections declined to comment on the lawsuit, which underscores the complexities surrounding religious accommodations within the prison system amid significant celestial events.

With inputs from AFP

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