Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


A systematic purge of religious books

The New York Times reports on "a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries." Inmate in a prison libraryPrison chaplains have been directed to remove all but 150 select books and 150 multimedia titles on Christianity and the same is true for other religions. The article reports the result as
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.
The purge is a post-911 move to throw out any materials which could lead to the prison system becoming a recruiting area for militant Islamic groups as wells as militant fundamentalist in any religion.

“It’s swatting a fly with a sledgehammer,” the article quotes Mark Earley, president of the Christian group Prison Fellowship as saying. He goes on to say
“There’s no need to get rid of literally hundreds of thousands of books that are fine simply because you have a problem with an isolated book or piece of literature that presents extremism.”
The Bible is, of course, on the allowed listThe article outlines the disparity in the selection of the permitted materials so that there is a lot of material by some authors and none by others even though none of the works in question could be viewed as advocating violence. The bias includes 80 of the Jewish books all coming from one orthodox publishing house.

You can see the process of thinking that went into this, so that the goal would have targeted one religion over and against others. Impartiality required by the separation of church and state demanded that all religions be treated equally in the decision, so lots of great Christian materials get dumped. But rather than dumping peaceful materials from Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism, they should have seen the need to do so as a sign that they were on to the wrong solution. Better to work on the actual problem of recruitment to militant groups than to remove vast sums of books which were there to help serve the legitimate religious needs of the prisoners, including those of Muslims.

The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor



  • At 9/12/2007 4:33 PM, Anonymous denise said…

    Isn't this censorship? The unAmerican in me has a hard time feeling "sorry for" the prisoners, had they not gotten themselves into prison they could go to any public library (or church's library) and check these books out...but still, this is one of the craziest things yet. I won't be surprised if the prisoners riot, and then the people who took the books out will only have themselves to blame.

  • At 9/12/2007 5:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't think it is considered cencorship because of the separation of church and state. I could be wrong. I do know that there are public schools that don't allow religious books in their libraries, other than factual, because of the separation of church and state.

    It is sad that extremists have us terrorized to this point.


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