This one is beyond puzzling. The Bureau of Prisons has assembled a list of “acceptable” religions books. That means that in prisons across America libraries are being stripped of religious texts not on the approved list. You couldn’t have sold this one in a bad novel.
The NYT reports:
The Bureau of Prisons said it relied on experts to produce lists of 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, Ms. Billingsley said. Prayer books and other worship materials are not affected by this process.
The lists are broad, but reveal eccentricities and omissions. There are nine titles by C. S. Lewis, for example, and none from the theologians Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth and Cardinal Avery Dulles, and the influential pastor Robert H. Schuller.
The identities of the bureau’s experts have not been made public, Ms. Billingsley said, but they include chaplains and scholars in seminaries and at the American Academy of Religion. Academy staff members said their organization had met with prison chaplains in the past but was not consulted on this effort, though it is possible that scholars who are academy members were involved.
The bureau has not provided additional money to prisons to buy the books on the lists, so in some prisons, after the shelves were cleared of books not on the lists, few remained.
I am trying to imagine the person who first suggested that the Bureau of Prisons come up with “approved” religious texts. Now I am trying to imagine the person who said, “Gee, that is a great idea.” And now I am trying to imagine any step in a process that seeks to limit the religious literature in a prison.
I struggle to imagine such utter and complete nonsense.
Yes there are some “religious” books in a prison that could create problems. And yes, the people in prisons are in a prison and not in a library. They lead highly regulated lives – to put it mildly.
But it seems to me that an abundance of religious literature is not a real problem. It is not, for instance, religion that landed them in jail.
Hopefully the Bureau of Prisons will wake up and realize the errors of their ways – here is hoping that they do a penance of sort.