According to a New York Times report today by LAURIE GOODSTEIN, in a perplexing move that prison officials claim is based on efforts to prevent the recruitment of inmates to violent religious sects [READ: Islamist groups], the Federal Bureau of Prisons has recently ordered its chaplains to remove any books and other materials of a religious nature that are not included on their list of approved literature and materials -- a list that is heavily weighted in favor of evangelical popularism and Calvinism.
We think this is an outrage -- yet another reminder of how close this nation has come to kowtowing to Dominionist and Reconstructionist Evangelical Christians who made a partially successful bid for national political power with the ultimate goal of establishing a theocracy [cf. Clerical Fascism]. Unfortunately, given the nature of the business they are in, BOP is filled with those of the authoritarian mindset and has apparently fallen before the right wing juggernaut and the obsession with control that has pervaded the conservative evangelical right wing and influenced people with positions of power in government.
The order to purge is under suit by two federal inmates, who have staked a claim to the First Amendment and are seeking relief in federal courts. Their suit will force BOP to demonstrate a compelling interest in this oppression of religious literature.
The article goes on to confirm:
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.Ms. Goodstein further reports:
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.”Have these fools read the Old Testament?
Timothy Larsen, who holds the Carolyn and Fred McManis Chair of Christian Thought at Wheaton College, an evangelical school, looked over lists for “Other Christian” and “General Spirituality.”B.O.P. has managed to drop a bomb only one year before these faux-born-agains -- who they are trying to please and impress -- are baptized in the Potomac on their way out of Washington. Federal incarcerees do not lose their constitutional rights because they are serving time. This is established constitutional law. It remains to be seen how quickly these control freaks can clean up their act or go down trying; but we can expect no help from the Bush Administration who sometimes allows or creates issues such as this one for the political millage they gain among their electoral base -- right-wing, undereducated authoritarian followers who righteously see their bigotry as "God's Will."
“There are some well-chosen things in here,” Professor Larsen said. “I’m particularly glad that Dietrich Bonhoeffer is there. If I was in prison I would want to read Dietrich Bonhoeffer.” But he continued, “There’s a lot about it that’s weird.” The lists “show a bias toward evangelical popularism and Calvinism,” he said, and lacked materials from early church fathers, liberal theologians and major Protestant denominations.
[Since our original posting here, we have "Eddie Did It" this blog-entry and posted it to our diary at The Daily Kos, where we hope it will see more traffic in readership and stimulate some Progressive action. This is an extremely important development in lieu of the special populations we serve as a community at the Reeves County Detention Center Complex, especially given that our federal court system has evolved a conservative tail under the Bushites. We will keep you posted.]