6 US prisoners sue authorities for permission to view solar eclipse on April 8

The Department of Corrections declined to comment on the lawsuit. (Representative)

Six US prisoners are suing authorities over allowing them to witness the year’s biggest astronomical event, a total solar eclipse on April 8.

The inmates argued in a court filing that their right to religious freedom would be violated if the New York State Prison Service maintains the planned penitentiary lockdown during the eclipse.

“Like April 8, eclipses are recognized by various religions as special events that require gathering, celebration, worship and prayers,” the plea, filed on March 29, said.

“(Each of the prisoners has expressed a sincerely held religious belief that the April solar eclipse is a religious event.”)

The New York Department of Corrections said in an advisory issued last week that “for facilities on the path to completion, visitation will be canceled.”

The path of totality is the area within which the Moon will completely block the Sun.

The document did not specify the reason for the restrictions in the state, one of eleven that will be in the path of totality for the eclipse, according to officials.

Inmates in state custody “will be returned to their housing units” before the eclipse, the department said in a statement.

The statement said that “correctional facilities” in the state will operate only on holiday hours with programs required by law, yet inmates will be issued eclipse safety glasses.

“The solar eclipse is recognized as an event of great religious significance to Christians, including Baptists like Plaintiff Travis Hudson and Seventh-day Adventists like Plaintiff David Haigh,” the prisoners’ lawsuit states.

“Even for atheists like Plaintiff Jeremy Zielinski, a total solar eclipse is an event of great religious significance,” the lawsuit said.

Another complainant is arguing that the eclipse has religious significance for Muslims.

The Department of Corrections declined to comment on the lawsuit.

NASA says an estimated 32 million people live inside the path of totality, with an additional 150 million living less than 200 miles (320 kilometers) from the belt.

Texas-based research firm Perryman Group estimates that the direct and indirect economic impact of this year’s eclipse could reach $6 billion.

This year’s path of totality is about 115 miles wide, wider than 2017. It begins in western Mexico, passing through the US cities of Dallas, Indianapolis and Buffalo, before ending in eastern Canada.

Many schools along the way, including in Cleveland and Montreal, will be closed or dismiss students early.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)