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ICC Note: This is an update on a story we covered earlier under the could it happen here category.
Two Cheers for the Bush Administration and Religious Freedom
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By Marvin Olasky


United States (for the full story, go to Town Hall) Reasons to be sad about the Bush administration abound. But here’s a happy note: Team Bush has repaired its mistake on religious freedom that I and many others complained about last month.

The problem then was the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ “Standardized Chapel Library Program,” which created lists averaging 150 allowable items for each of 20 religions or religious categories. By my rough count, six authors had at least five books on the authorized Protestant list: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Calvin, Chuck Colson, C.S. Lewis, Max Lucado and Stormie Omartian.

The approved list included “Praying” by J.I. Packer, but if a library had Packer’s “Knowing God,” it would have to be purged. The list included “Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came To Die” by John Piper, but if a library had Piper’s “Desiring God,” it would have to go. Chaplains had to purge many great works, but authorized books included Elisabeth Schussler Florenza’s “In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins” and Elizabeth Johnson’s “She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse.”

Curiously, Tony Campolo and liberation theologians such as Gustavo Gutierrez made it in; Jonathan Edwards did not. Some of the specific choices seem curious, but the main concern was larger. It’s reasonable for officials to remove books that urge prisoners to murder their guards, but why was the government banning “Knowing God,” “Desiring God” and thousands of other books that could help prisoners?