Justice department files lawsuit against Berkeley Co. jail

The U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office for its bible-only policy in the county's jail.

The lawsuit was filed to challenge the Berkeley County Jail's practice of banning all reading material for inmates except for the bible. Official say that practice violates the inmates' First Amendment rights and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which protects the religious freedom of people in prison, mental facilities and state-run nursing homes.

"The freedom to practice one's faith is among our most cherished rights, and the Justice Department is committed to defending that right. RLUIPA has proven to be a powerful tool in combating religious discrimination and ensuring religious freedom for all individuals," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.

The Justice Department is joining a recently filed lawsuit challenging the jail's restrictive mail policies. The policies prohibit inmates from receiving books, magazines, newspapers, religious texts or other expressive materials through the mail, which according to the complainant, is in violation of the speech clause of the First Amendment.

"The county's religious intolerance tramples our freedom of religion which is a cornerstone of the United States Constitution," said William N. Nettles, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina. "We look forward to the privilege of defending the religious freedom afforded to all people in the United States by the Constitution."

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