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ARE OTHER FAITHS FAVORED OVER CATHOLICISM?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Oct. 11, 2014) — On Friday, The Post & Email received a letter from Bledsoe County Correctional Center (BCCX) inmate Jason Buckner with an article he wrote about his observations in the prison of his ability to practice his Catholic faith.
As with the areas of employment, room assignments, mail, and other aspects of prison life, the State of Tennessee Department of Corrections has a formal policy on religious practices. Page 4 of the religious policy manual states that “Outside clergy, volunteer chaplains, and religious volunteers should be recruited to assist in meeting the religious needs of all represented faith groups in the institution.”
Buckner learned of The Post & Email from Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III, who was imprisoned at Bledsoe following an August 19 sentencing hearing for convictions on “aggravated perjury” and “extortion” by a McMinn County jury.
Five years ago, Fitzpatrick discovered that all grand juries in the Tenth Judicial District, which includes McMinn County, are contaminated by means of long-standing, hand-selected grand jury foremen who control the outcome of grand jury deliberations. Defense attorneys, judges, court clerks and sheriffs are involved in indicting as many individuals as possible to fill jails and prisons in a prisoners-for-profit scheme which has operated for decades.
On Friday, The Post & Email held a conversation with an administrator from the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts (TAOC), whose director is appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court, in which the administrator claimed that she had no knowledge of the rigging of the grand juries in the Tenth District and elsewhere throughout the state.
Tennessee is located in what is termed “the Bible Belt” of the nation. An essay titled “History of the Catholic Church in Tennessee” acknowledges that Catholics in the state are smaller in number as compared to other states’ proportional populations, “it is due rather to the small foreign element than a lack of prosperity or wise management.”
On October 8, Knoxville Diocesan Bishop Richard Stika celebrated a “Red Mass” with Tennessee attorneys, judges, and members of the state Supreme Court in attendance. Stika was quoted as having said, “You know, the judges and the legal profession are very important people to society, and just like all of us we pray we are guided by the Holy Spirit. We pray in a very special way for them.”
In regard to communion, the policy states on page 6:
In Catholic worship services, the priest (but no inmates) may consume small amounts of consecrated wine, subject to the following restrictions: No more than one half ounce may be brought into the institution by the priest per service, provided the empty container and any unused wine shall be taken out by the priest after each visit. An accurate record of all wine which comes in and out shall be maintained at checkpoint. No staff member, chaplain, volunteer chaplain, or religious volunteer shall be permitted to bring wine into the institution.
BCCX is located near Pikeville, TN, and there is a Catholic church in Dayton 28 miles away.
On Saturday afternoon, The Post & Email contacted St. Bridget Catholic Church in Dayton and spoke with the priest who is temporarily serving for the permanent priest on sabbatical until December 22. He told us that he is not familiar with the area nor whether or not the church is involved in ministering to the needs of the BCCX Catholic population but advised us to call the church office on Tuesday morning after 9:30 a.m. CDT.
In his letter, Mr. Buckner expresses his perception that there is “bias against the Catholic Church” within the prison, citing a lack of access to “Catholic Bibles, Catechisms, Rosarys [sic], Missals, Magnificats,” and reading material. He also calls on the church to rectify what he alleges is a denial of “religious freedom.”
Mr. Buckner’s letter reads:
Letters can be sent to Mr. Buckner at:
Jason Buckner #394367
Bledsoe County Correctional Center (BCCX)
1045 Horsehead Road
Pikeville, Tennessee 37367