Loading
Jail officials censored mother's letters over religious content
Jail officials censored mother's letters over religious content

.- Civil rights and religious freedom groups are criticizing the Rappahannock Regional Jail in northern Virginia, charging that the jail illegally censored the letters a Christian mother sent to her jailed son for being “too religious.” Jail authorities cut out so many Bible passages that her letters resembled “Swiss cheese,” the groups said.

The letters of inmate mother Anna Williams were stamped for censorship with the words “Religious Material from Home,” a press release from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty reports. On at least one occasion, all that was left of a three-page letter was its salutation, its first paragraph, and its signature “Love, Mom.”

A July 9 letter from civil and religious liberty groups to the jail’s superintendent, Joseph Higgs, Jr., protested the alleged censorship.

“Ms. Williams, a devout Christian, wanted to support her son spiritually during his confinement at the Jail by sending him religious language, including passages from the Bible,” the letter reports.

“Rather than delivering these letters to Ms. Williams’ son, the Jail expurgated the religious material, citing variously as the reason for censorship ‘Internet Pages’ and ‘Religious Material from Home.’

“Such censorship destroyed the religious messages Ms. Williams sought to convey to her son and reduced her letters to something resembling Swiss cheese. Using scissors or a hobby knife, Jail officials literally cut the religious portions out of Ms. Williams’ letters and delivered only the snippets that did not quote the Bible.”

Sources for the censored passages included the Book of Proverbs, the Book of James and the Book of Matthew. Jail officials also refused to deliver a Christian article titled “Coping with Loneliness.”

The censored portions of the letters were placed in the “personal property” of Williams’ son and were not given to him until he was transferred out of the jail.

“Even the novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky had ready access to Scripture while incarcerated in a Siberian prison camp in tsarist Russia,” the letter to jail officials said.

The letter to the superintendent was signed by officials from the Becket Fund, the Rutherford Institute, Prison Fellowship, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the Friends Committee on National Legislation and several local and national American Civil Liberties Union officials.

The letter, expressing hope that the issue could be resolved “without resort to litigation,” requested revisions to jail policy and written guarantees that Biblical passages in letters to detainees would not be censored.

Eric Rassbach, National Litigation Director at the Becket Fund, was a signatory to the letter.

“The citizens of Rappahannock County should be alarmed that their government has decided to join North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Iran in treating the Bible as dangerous contraband,” he said in a statement.

“Although the Bible says, ‘the truth shall set you free,’ prison authorities shouldn't treat the Bible as a security risk,” he added. “In censoring this mother's letters, the prison violated the First Amendment rights of both the prisoner and his mother.”

Kristina A. Arriaga, communications director with the Becket Fund, in a Friday e-mail told CNA that the jail superintendent has said he will start an investigation.

Prison authorities may legitimately censor writings that affect prison security, but U.S. courts have ruled that inmates may have access to religious materials.


Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

3D Church mapping
3D Church mapping
#PAUSEforPeace Initiative
Dedicating art to San Juan de la Cruz
A state without territory elects new government
The renewal of the Legionaries of Christ
Presentation of the book "The Pastor"
Synod on the Family October 2014
Preferential option for the poor
God is alive, even in sport
'A forbidden God' named Best Film at the International Catholic Film Festival
Vatican backs a 'Pause for Peace' during World Cup final
The effects of religious violence in Sarajevo 
The origin of Corpus Christi 
Corpus Christi at the Vatican 
Homage to an Indian Cardinal
Train of the Child's Light
New book explaining gestures of the Mass
Encounter between Pope Francis and the Charismatic Renewal in the Spirit Movement.
Religious tensions subside amid Balkan floods
John Paul II Center for Studies on Marriage and Family
Jul
31

Liturgical Calendar

July 31, 2014

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 13:47-53

Gospel
Date
07/31/14
07/30/14
07/29/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Jer 18: 1-6
Gospel:: Mt 13: 47-53

Saint of the Day

St. Ignatius of Loyola »

Saint
Date
07/28/14

Homily of the Day

Mt 13:47-53

Homily
Date
07/31/14
07/30/14
07/29/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: