Jump directly to the content

Virginia Jail Agrees to Stop Censoring Religious Mail

A Virginia jail will stop censoring religious mail after protests from civil rights organizations that clerks had turned Bible-quoting missives from an inmate's mother into tattered strips of paper signed "Love, Mom."

Rappahannock Regional Jail authorities agreed to change the policy after receiving a letter signed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Rutherford Institute, Prison Fellowship, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the Friends Committee on National Legislation and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Prisons may block writings that pose security threats, including hate speech and X-rated images, but must allow access to otherwise religious materials, according to several court rulings and federal law.

"They can't treat religious materials like a knife or drugs or pornography," said Eric Rassbach, national litigation director for the Becket Fund.

Jail officials said the censorship was not motivated by content, but rather due to a policy that prohibits inmates from receiving swaths of computer printouts, which had been used to clog toilets and otherwise harass the guards. The cut-up correspondence in question had included

Christian material printed out from the Internet, marked up by the inmate's mother.

The amended policy will allow such messages to remain unscathed, "subject to the condition that (inmates) can only retain mail in their cell that can be stored neatly within the storage bin of the bunk and is not a fire hazard," wrote Joseph Higgs Jr., jail superintendent, in a statement. The ACLU announced the new policy on Monday (Aug. 10).

Rassbach said religious content clearly played a role in the censorship, however, and added that he hoped the successful outcry over this case would prompt others to think twice about maintaining or initiating similar practices.

"Prison officials should be aware that the Bible should not be censored as a dangerous item," he said. "It's something that can actually help them do their jobs, in terms of rehabilitating prisoners and bringing them back into society."

Related Topics:Politics
Posted:August 12, 2009 at 9:48AM
Gleanings aggregates what others are reporting. Learn more.
Recent Posts
Prominent Advocate for Persecuted Christians Resigns After Sex Assault Conviction
Barnabas Aid defends its work as 'much bigger than one man' after jury rules Patrick Sookhdeo groped employee and intimidated witnesses.
One-Third of Audience for Christian Books, Radio, TV, and Movies Is Unchurched
LifeWay/NRB study examines whether Christian media is used for discipleship or evangelism.
ISIS Kidnaps 100 Christians in Syria: Prisoner Swap, or Libya-Style Propaganda?
(UPDATED) Christian leader: In light of 'barbaric record with the captured, the destiny of these families is a major concern to us.'
Died: Leanne Payne, 82, Prominent Leader in Pastoral Care, Healing Movement
Author of seven books, she supported orientation change for gays and lesbians.
Christianity Today
Virginia Jail Agrees to Stop Censoring Religious Mail