Recent blog posts and news stories across the internet have highlighted Wiccan Chaplain Patrick McCollum‘s struggle with the State of California to overturn their “5 Faiths” Policy, which limits the recognition of religious faiths. Admittedly this is ostensibly only in the California Prison System but it establishes a precedent that could have some very negative implications for the many Pagan religions here in the United States.
The widely read and respected Pagan news blog The Wild Hunt has been covering this issue extensively, and the legal brief filed by the Wallbuilders organization that suggests that Judeo-Christian Religions have or were meant to have a special status above other faiths has been covered on The Wild Hunt and also in the The Washington Post and, via the Religion News Service, on Beliefnet. A number of prominent Pagan voices commenting on the ongoing case, including Gus diZerega and Starhawk, and Pagan podcastsers and media personalities have been interviewing Mr. McCollum, including Anne Hill and T. Thorn Coyle.
What is a Pagan to do?
In the face of this situation there have been a lot of responses. One of the most surprising to this commenter has been for Pagans to suggest we need to establish some organizations to help Pagans stand up for our Civil Rights. Surprising because there are already a number of organizations, some of them with a long history, that work for Pagan Civil Rights.
It may be a pleasant surprise for a lot of Pagans to know that there are a number of options available to us in supporting our Civil Rights, including Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech.
Alternative Religions Educational Network
Formerly the Witches Anti Defamation League, this is one of the oldest Pagan Rights organizations in the U.S. and is still active in education and outreach.
An online legal resources directory.
A religious freedom organization associated with Circle Sanctuary, one of the oldest Wiccan and Pagan church organizations in the United States, providing information and networking assistance to individuals and organizations concerned with religious freedom especially as it relates to Wicca, Paganism, and other Nature Religions.
UPDATE March 16th 2010: Ravencast-The Asatru Podcast has featured an interesting and detailed interview with Patric McCollum regarding this issue as it relates to the Asatruar/Heathen communities.
What is a Pagan to do?
Get involved! Study these groups, if they are membership based consider joining, if you are active in your local community consider doing a fund-raiser for one of these groups to help provide them with the resources to protect our rights!
You might also consider looking into some of the larger Interfaith Organizations here in the U.S. that are active in Interfaith work and activism in the realm of Separation of Church and State and Freedom of Religion.
This 501c3 group celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. They are also one of the supporters of McCollum’s case as I understand it.
You can network with other Pagan groups in your area, and other Interfaith positive and Pagan positive groups in your area to see what efforts others in your community might already be doing in regards to this situation.
You can also write a politely worded and concerned letter to the relevant officials,
It is only if one is willing to exercise, and invoke, one’s rights that one will hold onto and maintain them.