Urban Legends

Religion in Prison

The Legend

Found on the Internet in December 2003

Last month I attended our annual mandatory "Know your prisoners" day at the state correctional facility in which I work. As usual, there were presentations by various experts on how prisoners have special psychological needs that we must address, and how we need to concentrate on reforming instead of punishing, why physical violence and humiliation are counterproductive, blah blah blah blah blah. There was also an interesting training session in which inmate beliefs were discussed by a Roman Catholic Priest, a Jewish Rabbi, and a Muslim Imam. Now this sounded interesting!

The Imam started off with a great presentation of the basics of Islam, complete with a video and a PowerPoint presentation. After the presenation, there was time for questions and answers. When it was my turn, I asked the Imam, "I've heard that all of the followers of Islam have declared a 'jihad' or holy war against the infidels of the world, and that you all believe that by killing an infidel you get a place in heaven. If that's the case, can you tell me who you'd consider an infidel?"

Without hesitation, he replied, "Non-believers!"

I continued, "So it's true that all followers of 'Allah' have been commanded everyone who is not of your faith so that they can get to heaven, right? Even babies and puppies?"

He started to look a little embarrassed at this point, but still managed so squeak a sheepish, "Yes."

"And I suppose the story's true that Muslims drive around at night with their headlights off and if you flash your headlights at them they force your car off the road and kill you, isn't it?"

He looked confused at that one, but not wanting to lose my momentum I turned to the Roman Catholic Priest. "And what about Catholics? Isn't it true that you have a ceremony where you claim to magically turn bread into flesh and eat it?"

Without hesitation, he replied, "Certainly. Communion is one of the most important sacraments of the --"

"So you admit practicing ritualized cannibalism."

He flushed with embarrassment but, averting his eyes, said, "Yes."

"And we all know about the Vatican's vast secret collection of pornography." I turned to the Rabbi then. "And what about you?"

He looked at me with a "Who me?" expression that was so comical it was almost funny.

I didn't give him any quarter. "Do you deny that there is a secret Jewish tax on many products sold across the country, paid by large corporations on pain of boycott by Jewish groups, so that millions of non-Jewish American consumers are unknowingly supporting the Jewish faith?"

"I do," he said, without a hint of irony.

"So you admit it! And would you care to give us the graphic details of that whole horrible ceremony where a Rabbi cuts the end off of boy's penis?"

He looked a bit embarrassed about this. "I'd rather not at this time."

"I thought not! Fondling a young boy's privates -- what are you, Catholic?"

Wrapping up, I addressed the whole trinity of speakers, "How can any of you say that you are holy when you all hold such abhorrent beliefs? Count yourself lucky that I am here today to bring you the good news that it's not too late to turn your lives around." I then handed them each a copy of The Watchtower from my bag to set them on the road to salvation.

You could have heard a pin drop.

Behind the Legend

The above was an editorial by Brother Rick Mathes, Assistant Lead Corrections Officer at the Mission Gate Men's Colony and Intense Forced Labor Farm, published in a subsequent issue of the named publication. We contacted Brother Mathes and asked him for any additional details about the above incident that he would be willing to share. He said that he had much more to say on the subject, but would prefer to visit us in our home where we could have a more leisurely chat and he could give us some of his literature.

We respectfully declined.

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