Thursday, September 13, 2007

Prisons Purging Books on Faith From Libraries

Some interesting things happening in prisons.

Published: September 10, 2007

Behind the walls of federal prisons nationwide, chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries.

The chaplains were directed by the Bureau of Prisons to clear the shelves of any books, tapes, CDs and videos that are not on a list of approved resources. In some prisons, the chaplains have recently dismantled libraries that had thousands of texts collected over decades, bought by the prisons, or donated by churches and religious groups.

Some inmates are outraged. Two of them, a Christian and an Orthodox Jew, in a federal prison camp in upstate New York, filed a class-action lawsuit last month claiming the bureau’s actions violate their rights to the free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Traci Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons, said the agency was acting in response to a 2004 report by the Office of the Inspector General in the Justice Department. The report recommended steps that prisons should take, in light of the Sept. 11 attacks, to avoid becoming recruiting grounds for militant Islamic and other religious groups. The bureau, an agency of the Justice Department, defended its effort, which it calls the Standardized Chapel Library Project, as a way of barring access to materials that could, in its words, “discriminate, disparage, advocate violence or radicalize.”


This seems to be a rather slippery slope to be taking. First it is taking books from prisoners, on the slim chance they will help prisons become a recruiting ground for terrorist group; how long till books are banned from the general public for the same reasons. Then, if you really want to take it to extremes, a purging of all religions that don't fit a specific criteria.
This is not so much a religious issue, as an issue of all freedoms.

Let us know what you think, hit the comments.