September 13 – September 20, 2007 Edition

Inmates File Lawsuit

Against Prison Bureau

for Religious Books Ban

NEW YORK, NY/9/10/2007–Two federal prison inmates in upstate New York have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons, challenging the Bureau’s purging of numerous religious books and materials from chapel libraries, according to a report in The New York Times September 10. The inmates charge that the bureau’s actions violate their freedom of religion under the First Amendment and Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Prison 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, The Times said.

According to the newspaper, the Bureau is following Justice Department guidelines in light of the September 11 terrorist attacks to avoid having prisons become recruiting grounds for militant Islamic and other violent or radicalized religious groups.

The Bureau of Prisons said it relied on experts to produce lists of banned titles, including up to 150 book titles and 150 multimedia resources for each of 20 religions or religious categories ­ everything from Bahaism to Yoruba. The lists will be expanded in October, and there will be occasional updates. Prayer books and other worship materials are not affected by the process.

The Times article pointed out that the Government does have a legitimate interest to screen out things that tend to incite violence in prisons, but it also quoted several chaplains and clergy who objected. The lists have not been made public by the Bureau, but were made available to The Times by a critic of the Bureau’s project. Read the full story at The New York Times.