SAN FRANCISCO—A federal appeals court has ruled that Wiccan prisoners may be entitled to the services of a salaried chaplain.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday overturned a lower court decision that tossed out a lawsuit filed by two prisoners at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla. The appeals court says the failure of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to hire a Wiccan chaplain may unconstitutionally show preference to five other religions represented by full-time chaplains.

The corrections department pays chaplains to minister to Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Protestant and Native American inmates.

It reported 183 Wiccan prisoners in 2007 after recording about twice that number in 2002. There are about 150,000 inmates in California prisons today.

The appeals court ordered the trial judge to reconsider the lawsuit.