Under pressure from civil rights organizations, Rappahannock Regional Jail officials stated they would stop censoring religious material in letters to inmates. The change in policy comes after The Becket Fund and other civil rights organizations protested the censorship of correspondence from a Christian mother to her son. One 3- page letter she sent was censored down to nothing but the salutation, first paragraph, and “Love, Mom.”
“The Bible isn’t pornography and shouldn’t be treated like it,” said Eric Rassbach, National Litigation Director at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which signed the letter. “Wouldn’t it be great if every level of government – local, state, and federal – stopped acting as if the Bible and other religious books are dangerous contraband and instead acknowledged faith’s role in our society?”
Prison authorities can legitimately censor writings that affect prison security, but the courts have ruled that inmates must be given access to religious materials. The letter that prompted today’s change stated that officials at Rappahannock were violating the First Amendment and federal civil rights laws, in particular the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) of 2000. Section 3 of the Act provides that no government may arbitrarily prohibit a prisoner from engaging in religious worship or communication.
“Every prison official in the country should make themselves familiar with the First Amendment and the prisoner religious freedoms granted under RLUIPA,” added Rassbach.
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Click here for a copy of the letter to Rappahannock Regional Jail.
Click here for a copy of the response from Rappahannock Regional Jail.
Click here to watch a Christian Broadcast News TV interview with Eric Rassbach on this case.