That pesky First Amendment

The feds seek tight restrictions on religious readings in prison¬
By PHILLIPE AND JORGE  |  September 12, 2007

While we have no doubt that there are Republicans out there willing to give it a shot, it’s going to be really tough topping the Bush Administration’s efforts to trash the US Constitution.
The Bushies have been suspending and distorting civil liberties and disgusting the world with their “defining torture down” tactics and their total disdain for international law. It becomes tiresome even just to list the insults, but here’s a good one — from a front-page story in Monday’s New York Times — that is just one more brick in the wall.
The US Bureau of Prisons recently directed prison chaplains to remove tens of thousands of volumes, books, tapes, CDs, videos, etc., collected over the decades (many were bought or donated by churches or religious groups), which deal with religion or spirituality.
We’re sure you’ve already figured out the “justification.” Why, it’s 9/11, the justification for everything even (especially) when it doesn’t make sense. To keep prisons from being more likely recruiting grounds for militant religious fanatic-types, the Bureau of Prisons is removing all but approximately 150 books for each particular religion. Think about that for a minute.
Rather than removing texts with passages that could perhaps instigate or promote violence, the Bureau of Prisons has decided to impose a blanket fatwa against all but a few religious texts.
Like most matters having to do with civil liberties, it’s very difficult and tiresome to make a specific argument about a specific thing. Instead, the BOP is saying, “Let’s just ban everything.” How many tens of thousands of books of a religious nature do you think there are? The BOP wants to pick a few that “they” think are okay. And who, is “they”?
Who knows? The Bureau of Prisons says only that it “relied on experts” to supply the names of the acceptable books, but as the Times’ article helpfully pointed out, “the identities of the bureau’s experts [have] not been made public.”
This is yet another typical story from the Land of Bush — where up is down, wrong is right, torture is not torture, and the First Amendment is just another pesky obstacle to be swept under the rug.

A good man gone
Not everyone needs a wake-up call at the State House. P&J want to praise a man who is departing Smith Street after a distinguished career in Halitosis Hall.
We speak of Representative Peter Ginaitt of Warwick, the eight-term state representative, who is stepping down from his elected post mid-term to take a job as director of emergency preparedness for the Lifespan hospital network, which includes Rhode Island Hospital, Miriam Hospital, Newport Hospital, and Bradley Hospital.
Ginaitt had previously been an emergency response coordinator at Rhode Island Hospital, and he also served as a Warwick Fire Department captain. It was in the latter role that he dealt firsthand and on-scene with the Station nightclub fire, representing the state to some of the national media during that horrific event.
Despite the credentials and spotlight he earned as one of Warwick’s bravest, Ginaitt has also been a champion of the environment. As chair of the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee, he was a key player in almost all of the major environmental legislation that passed through the General Assembly in recent years.
The General Assembly cognoscenti were well aware of Peter’s quiet style and his desire to know and advocate about issues affecting Narragansett Bay and Little Rhody’s other incomparable natural resources. He was one of the few legislators to actually understand that what is good for the environment is good for the economy, a fact still dawning on far too many oblivious minds at the State House.
The state is losing someone who defined the term public servant, both in office and in everyday life. Thanks for the memories, Peter. Your achievements are well seen by those who most matter.

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  Topics: Phillipe And Jorge , U.S. Government, U.S. Congressional News, Politics,  More more >
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