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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Banning Religious Books in Prison

Have you ever heard those "scare stories" of how believers will one day have most of their books banned by overreaching zealots? Normally, Christians think "well, I can see that coming down the line, when Christianity is outlawed in this country and Christians have to hide underground. Today, in countries like China, such things go on all the time, but in most Western nations we believe that we're decades away from such actions. Well, that time has arrived.

The New York Times recently reported that earlier this year the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons have banned most religious texts from all its chapel libraries. According to the Times, the chaplains were instructed to "the shelves of any books, tapes, CDs and videos that are not on a list of approved resources." The goal, according to BOP spokesperson Traci Billingsley is to deny access to materials that may "discriminate, disparage, advocate violence or radicalize."

Immediately, my reaction is one of amazement. Limiting access to thousands of titles of religious literature in case a title may incite terrorism or violence? I understand that the Department of Justice needs to be careful and control some of the materials that prisoners have access to. I mean, I understand books promoting governmental overthrow or how to build a bomb wouldn't be made readily available to convicted felons.

However, it seems to me that we shouldn't ban everything then create a list of approved books for access. Instead, ban the problematic titles. Prison Fellowship president Mark Earley summed it up when he said "It's swatting a fly with a sledgehammer. 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."

As an apologist, I always encourage the examination of ideas. Truth has a way of holding up under scrutiny. Granted, sometimes you need a guide, but barring works that show the weaknesses within a belief system gives you a warped view of that system. Similarly, what about new titles? Why should prisoners have to wait to read the newest Lee Strobel book until some committee approves it?

Of course, the bigger issue is, if this type of screening exists today then what's down the road?

Photo courtesy and licensed by the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.


  1. Across the prisons in America Islamic extremism is on the rise. Islam gives prisoners an outlet for their aggression and bitterness that, because Islam is a religion, is protected by the Constitution. I think that prison officials recognize this and in an effort to not appear to single out Islam they are attempting to limit the access of all books and materials. Especially those that propagate the Qur'ans ideology to inmates who seek to turn their aggressions outward in a religious fashion.
    Anyone, who is not bound to muslim bias, that investigates the history and true teachings of Islam will no doubt realize how deeply Islam entrenches hatred into the souls of people. Islam is not a "religion of peace" even though many muslim apologists who are in damage control mode would say otherwise. A person needs not only to look at the history of Islam but also at the Islam of today and what it is doing in its own countries and even to its own people.
    Muslims are using the Political correctness in America and the fear of offending a persons beliefs to cause alot of people to be ignorant about Islam. Islams sole purpose is to infiltrate every nation on earth and institute Shariah Law. Study Shariah Law and the impact it has had on countries where it is the sole rule of law and you can easily see why the free world cannot allow this.
    I don't advocate fear-mongering and hatred towards Muslims but I do encourage people to become informed about the real teachings of Islam so that they will have the tools necessary to expose Islam and destroy the "religion of peace" rhetoric of Islams supporters.

  2. Shalom My brothers and sisters in Chrst Jesus; we are living in a very sad time and at the same time it is extidting time. Reason because time is short and Jesus is coming soon. wow just know that as we see this how close it is. And those who are left behind they will have to go through the choices you are talking about now worse then it is now.
    it is so vidle that we ralley start to pray for this country because it has put God out of our schools and bible out of schools and the Ten Commandments so now we have destoryed our children and the whole world is going to be plemished by the raft of God.and we need to keep praying for this country and for Israel
    May God Bless
    Rebekah Davenport


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