Group says Va. jail will stop censoring religious mail

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

STAFFORD, Va. — A civil liberties group says officials at a Virginia jail have agreed to stop censoring letters containing religious material sent to inmates.

The Rutherford Institute and several other groups challenged the Rappahannock Regional Jail's policy last month after Anna Williams complained that jail officials cut out sections of letters she sent to her son that contained Bible verses or religious material. She said the jail cited prohibitions on Internet material and religious material sent from home.

Officials with the Rutherford Institute said yesterday that jail officials had agreed to amend their policy.

“It is good that Rappahannock officials have come to their senses,” John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, said in a statement. “Sadly, however, prison officials across the nation routinely deny religious materials to prisoners. This is a gross violation of the First Amendment and should be resisted at every turn. If anything, spiritual nourishment is what many prisoners need and want, and it should be protected.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, Prison Fellowship, the Friends Committee on National Legislation and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty had joined with the Rutherford Institute to complain about the censorship.