The John Templeton Foundation mourns the death of Charles W. “Chuck” Colson, recipient of the 1993 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion and founder of Prison Fellowship, on April 21 at age 80.
Chuck Colson, former special counsel to President Richard Nixon, began Prison Fellowship in 1976 after serving a federal prison sentence for obstructing justice in the Pentagon Papers case. Prison Fellowship Ministries and Justice Fellowship are now the world’s largest prison outreach and criminal justice reform organizations in the world, operating a network of ministries in more than 110 nations.
Just as he used the royalties from his best-selling autobiography, Born Again, to create Prison Fellowship, Colson donated the entire proceeds of his 1993 Templeton Prize to the organization. On the occasion of the public ceremony for the 2003 Templeton Prize at the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago, Colson noted that the Prize recognized not himself, but rather the organization’s volunteers serving prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families through Prison Fellowship outreach:
“Christian conviction inspires public virtue, the moral impulse to do good. It has sent legions into battle against disease, oppression, and bigotry. It ended the slave trade, built hospitals and orphanages, tamed the brutality of mental wards and prisons. In every age it has given divine mercy a human face in the lives of those who follow Christ—from Francis of Assisi to the great social reformers Wilberforce and Shaftesbury to Mother Teresa to the tens of thousands of Prison Fellowship volunteers who take hope to the captives—and who are the true recipients of this award.”
The Foundation honors the work of Prison Fellowship in the transformation of prisoners and their reconciliation to God, family, and community, and remembers with deep respect Chuck Colson’s belief in religious liberty as the essence of human dignity.