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September 28, 2007

Bureau of Prisons reverses course on religious books

Good news!

LANSDOWNE, Va., Sept. 26, 2007—Today the Federal Bureau of Prisons issued a statement to NPR’s Talk of the Nation indicating that it will "alter its planned course of action with respect to the Chapel Library Project." In order to rid chapel libraries of violent materials, the Bureau of Prisons had recently removed all religious materials from prison chapel libraries except a very limited number of resources. This effort elicited a vocal response from chaplains and a diverse group of faith-based and religious organizations that work with prisoners—including Prison Fellowship, the world's largest outreach to prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families—who believed the new policy impeded prisoners’ access to a variety of wholesome, faith-filled books.

Read more in Prison Fellowship's press release.

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There is still a fundamental legal problem here: The federal government has taken upon itself to determine what religious books are "wholesome" and which are "inappropriate." That power is expressly denied to the federal government in the 1st Amendment.

Perhaps, perhaps they could ban any books which advocate the violent overthrow of the government. But it is possible that even that might run afoul of the First Amendment.

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