“Rick Warren should be in jail”

“Rick Warren should be in jail.” So should Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth, Robert H. Schuller, and perhaps even…. Helena Cobban. :-}
I’m referring, if you haven’t guessed, to prison libraries and to the NYTimes report on new Federal Prison guidelines for libraries, specifically their sections on faith.
Kudos to Sojourners and “Sojo mail” for the catchy, if purposeful, headline about Mr. Warren. From their e-mail today:

Imagine walking into your local library, planning to read a theologian such as Reinhold Niebuhr or Karl Barth, or a popular inspirational work, such as Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life or Harold Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People.
But instead of finding such important and popular titles, you discover that the religion section has been decimated – stripped of any book that did not appear on a government-approved list.
That’s exactly what’s happening right now to inmates in federal prisons under a Bush Administration policy. As The New York Times put it, “chaplains have been quietly carrying out a systematic purge of religious books and materials that were once available to prisoners in chapel libraries.”

Imagine, the Federal Prisons have labored to compile lists of approved books on faith; those not on the list get pulled or blocked. The specific criteria and the actual approved lists are not open for public review; this is, after all, the Bush-Cheney Administration.
Here’s a Sojo link for a suggested protest letter to the Prisons’ Director.
So how did the Bush Administration, reputed for faith-based approaches to social problems, come up with this bizarre policy? Maybe it comes from the “Feith-based” neoconservative view of the world — as in, “it’s all about national security.” According then to the “Stardardized Chapel Library Project,” we prevent prisoners from accessing anything that would “discriminate, disparage, advocate violence or radicalize.” As claimed by the Federal Prisons spokesperson quoted in the Times,

“We really wanted consistently available information for all religious groups to assure reliable teachings as determined by reliable subject experts.”

Just who, we wonder, determines what religious materials are “reliable teachings?” What’s meant by “radicalize,” or “discrimination?” Should we prohibit a book that says there’s only one way to be accepted by God? Wouldn’t that be “discriminating” against others who pointed to another “path?” One would think, this is absurd. Or as the Mark Early of Prison Fellowship puts it,

“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.”

Meanwhile, back to the front lines in Iraq – and their religious freedoms – consider this allegation that some US soldiers are being compelled to participate in Christian services. Perhaps there’s a “devil” or two in the details here, as I find it hard to believe that the Pentagon, much less Secretary Gates, would knowingly mandate the practice of any religion by soldiers.
Yet as we’ve noted here before, some “dispensationalist” Christian-zionist groups still view Iraq as a “crusade” for the spread of Christianity. It’s advance will bring on the rapture, Armageddon, the return & reign of Christ, etc. etc. See, for example, Max Blumenthal’s report on “Operation Straight Up” a group that operates with the Pentagon’s “blessing” and proselytizes among active-duty members of the US military, including with inflammatory apocalyptic video games.
In the judgment of Mikey Weinstein, a former Reagan Administration White House,

“The constitution has been assaulted and brutalized,… Thanks to the influence of extreme Christian fundamentalism, the wall separating church and state is nothing but smoke and debris. And OSU is the IED that exploded the wall separating church and state in the Pentagon and throughout our military.”

Meanwhile, the US State Department recently issued its annual, heavily politicized report on religious freedom around the world.
No doubt the rest of the world wonders:

“What, pray tell, gives you the standing to show us the way?

6 thoughts on ““Rick Warren should be in jail”

  1. Scott

    And in that State Dept. survey, note especially the lame introductory remarks about Iraq. Inside, the report mildly notes the sectarian strife befalling Iraqi simply due to their particularly religious identity. But the introduction then excuses the Iraqi government for such hell. Worse, if not surprisingly, the report makes no mention of just who it was that is responsible for unleashing this Pandora’s Box on the Iraqi people.

  2. John

    Usually I see overwhelming examples of activists interested in the separation of church and state, defined as removing all religion (Christian, Jewish,… other) from the public domain. In relative terms are your reports of forced religious activities in the military being overblown (last year I believe Chaplains were being “encouraged”/ “Ordered” not use the word “Jesus” in public)? Again I think this can dilute our argument. I get it; any undue pressure in either direction should be immediately addressed, including “new religion” being forced upon all us. The new religion called “Atheism”.
    A belief system is a belief system; all that do not espouse violence can be accommodated and represented appropriately in the public square.

  3. Dominic

    This link having to do with the US prison industry, and resistence to it, got buried on the previous thread but I think it as relevant here as it is there. And maybe on the next one too.
    It is: http://www.counterpunch.org/modiano09202007.html
    The way that black US Americans have been able to build organisation using the Internet is a good example.
    But I would also like to say that the effect of one disruptive person in an Internet forum, if people are not able to cope with him, can be to reduce everything to practically zero and a waste of time for all concerned. This problem needs to be brought to the surface.

  4. martin KANE

    Seperaration of Church and State is a must. Our nation was founded by escapee’s from Europe’s religious rulers. I believe religion makes unthinking slaves of people masking Truth for Authority. The Old and New Testements were written by men who plagerized the mythologies of Egypt, Babalon, Greece and Hindu myths.
    The first virgin birth happened 6000 years before there was Judeo / Christian religions.

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