The U.S. Justice Department has asked a federal judge to allow it to intervene in a lawsuit against a South Carolina sheriff who forbids prisoners in his jail from receiving books, magazines, or printed materials other than copies of the King James version of the Bible, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Berkeley County Sheriff H. Wayne DeWitt denies that restrictions imposed at the lockup in Moncks Corner, S.C., violate the Constitution.
The only book, magazine, newspaper, or religious publication that [jail officials] consistently permit prisoners to possess is the Bible,” the Justice Department says. “These practices discriminate against non-Christian prisoners in violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause.” The clause forbids the government from favoring one religion over any other. The amendment also bars the government from interfering in private acts of worship. A Jewish prisoner seeking a Torah said he was told by jail officials that the prison only provides Bibles. Two Muslim prisoners seeking copies of the Koran were told the same thing.