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Patrick McCollum Loses: California State denies Equal Religious Rites To Pagan/Wiccan Inmates...

"The 9th Circuit on Wednesday rejected a Wiccan chaplain's claims that the California prison system should add a celebrant of Wicca and other pagan or nature-based religions to its paid chaplaincy program.
Without reflecting on the merits of the Wiccan religion, the federal appeals court in San Francisco dashed Patrick McCollum's First Amendment, free-exercise and equal-protection claims against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Rather the court concluded that the volunteer chaplain lacked standing because he "attempts to transform his employment discrimination action into an effort to vindicate the inmates' First Amendment rights."
The paid-chaplaincy program has evolved in California's prison system since the 1930s, and today it employs clergy of the Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Native American faiths.
According to 2002 estimates, there are approximately 598 inmates in the system who identify themselves as Wiccan, a term that the ruling says includes "faith groups consisting of Wiccans, Goddess worshipers, Neo-Pagans, Pagans, Norse Pagans (and any other ethnic designation), Earth Religionists, Old Religionists, Druids, Shamans, Asatrus, and those practicing in the Faery, Celtics, Khemetic, Gardnerian, Church of All Worlds, Reclaiming, Dianic, Alexandrian, Iseum of Isis, Reconstructionist, Odinist or Yoruban Traditions, and other similar nature-based faiths." (Parenthesis in original.)
In 2006, McCollum and a group of seven inmates sued the CDCR, arguing that its failure to include a Wiccan chaplain in its paid-chaplaincy program was discriminatory in that it denied them access to worship spaces, sacred items and free worship. Finding that the inmates' claims were both time-barred and unexhausted, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer granted summary judgment to the agency. Breyer also ruled that McCollum lacked standing to bring such a third-party action in asserting, essentially, that the agency's failure to hire him violated the prisoners' rights.
The three-judge appeals panel agreed with the lower court on all points and ruled unanimously to affirm.
"McCollum challenges the deliberative process, or in his view the alleged lack of process, through which prison officials have thus far measured inmates' needs and accommodated inmates' free exercise rights," Judge M. Margaret McKeown wrote for the panel. "His claim, at bottom, asserts not his own rights, but those of third-party inmates."
Since inmates can file their own claims against the program's merits and the lack of a Wiccan minister, McCollum cannot do so for them. Thus, McCollum failed to show one of the essential requirements for third-party standing, the panel ruled.
"Like the district court, we note that prisoners have challenged the program in this very lawsuit and in at least one similar suit," McKeown wrote. "Although the inmates' claims here were dismissed primarily for failure to exhaust, presumably they would have the opportunity to bring similar claims in the future if they comply with procedural requirements. It is the inmates, not McCollum, who have standing to pursue the primary claim he articulated, namely, that the chaplaincy policy 'has the pernicious effect of depriving inmates of other religious accommodations . . . that are afforded to ... inmates [of the five faiths].'"
McCollum also failed to meet the criteria for taxpayer standing, the panel found, as he "does not challenge the expenditure of government funds to provide paid chaplaincies nor even the existence of denomination-specific paid chaplaincies-he challenges only the current allocation of chaplaincies among religious denominations and the procedure for determining such allocations."

Your thoughts?

Answer Question

Asked by SabrinaMBowen at 1:24 PM on Jun. 2, 2011 in Religion & Beliefs

Level 40 (122,988 Credits)
Answers (15)
  • I don't think every belief system can be covered under the paid-chaplaincy program. I don't know how it works in other states either I don't think it's up to the state to pay for any of the faith based chaplains, it might be a good idea if the state sees a benefit for it,  but it's not a right. The prisoners should still be allowed to worship how they want, but a chaplin isn't a requirement to this.


    Answer by RyansMom001 at 1:46 PM on Jun. 2, 2011

  • My thoughts are that these people are in prison. Prisoners don't have rights beyond being fed and not treated in a cruel manner. I really don't care.....They are human beings, yes. And should be treated with dignity, yes. But to provide for their worship? Nah, I don't care....

    Answer by Anna92464 at 2:55 PM on Jun. 2, 2011

  • But by that thinking Anna, no one should have them... And since some do, why shouldn't all?

    Comment by SabrinaMBowen (original poster) at 3:10 PM on Jun. 2, 2011

  • I think they may have backed themselves into a corner - the only true solution here is to fire the other chaplains if they can't justify spending for more.

    Answer by NotPanicking at 3:26 PM on Jun. 2, 2011

  • I could go for that OP! I don't LIKE the idea, but feel it should be all or nothing. THAT is equality...

    Comment by SabrinaMBowen (original poster) at 3:37 PM on Jun. 2, 2011

  • Ya Im kinda like Anna, I dont think any of their needs or wants apply except basic ones like food, clothing, and a roof over their heads.

    They forfeited anything more specific and special once they broke the law.

    Answer by Amaranth361 at 3:49 PM on Jun. 2, 2011

  • And I meant ALL of them not just one particular group of inmates so you could say the all or nothing thought applies to me as well.

    Answer by Amaranth361 at 3:50 PM on Jun. 2, 2011

  • then NO one gets clergy

    Answer by autodidact at 5:43 PM on Jun. 2, 2011

  • I was skimming not a lot of time to read in depth so correct me if I am wrong. From what I skimmed it seemed that it was a 3rd party suing and that at this time there are no inmates in that system named in the suit. If that is the case they decided right. They should not have to provide clergy that no one wants. They should however have a plan in place in case this becomes an issue. On a side note why do they need paid clergy for any faith in the jails? With the amount of time the various faiths donate to prisons and such I do not see the need to keep clergy on the pay role.


    Answer by Alanaplus3 at 7:38 PM on Jun. 2, 2011

  • well i beleive that they should have a chapliman just like everyone else.i mean we are talking about freedom of worship here,whether they are in prison or not,they still have a right ti serve their i said i respect everyones religion even if i don't completly agree with it.right is just right

    Answer by MADUKES402 at 3:24 AM on Jun. 3, 2011

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