Sunday, November 04, 2007

Welcome back

Probably the last significant posts I made before going on hiatus were about Chaplain Teresa Darden Clapp of the Rockland County Jail in New York. She was suspended earlier this year for having distributed Jack Chick tracts that attacked Islam (not surprising if you are familiar with Chick's work). Over the summer arbitator Paul Bailey ruled that she should be suspended for 30 days without pay, which she had already done:

Bailey called for Clapp to be retrained and for the Rockland County jail where she works to set standards for distributing religious material.

Earlier this year, inmates complained Clapp was passing out anti-Islam booklets.

In the cartoon panel stories, a tract titled "Men of Peace?" said Islamic fundamentalists who commit terrorist acts are not "bad Muslims" but "very good Muslims" who act in accordance with their religion. Another tract, titled "Allah Has No Son," said Allah is not God, Muhammad was no prophet, and the Quran is not the word of God. Both stories end with people being convinced Islam is false. In one, a Muslim converts to Christianity.

In recent testimony before Bailey, Clapp said the materials were sometimes too voluminous for her to read before distributing them. She said she apologized and removed the cartoon panel booklets as soon as an inmate complained, and she acknowledged she had erred by bringing them in.
This both a good end to the incident, and a window into one part of detention chaplaincy. First, rarely do chaplains have enough time to get everything done, even all the really necessary stuff. Few facilities ever have the resources to hire and support enough chaplains. Also, in more and more cases you have a small group of (usually Evangelical) chaplains trying to supply pastoral care to prisoners with an ever widening array of beliefs and practices. Most chaplains work hard to be fair to all groups, and to support the religious freedom of all inmates. Sometimes just trying hard is not enough. At some time I will go on with what I think chaplains need in support from the rest of us. Until then, I'm glad that Ms. Clapp is back on the job, and wish her the best.

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