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Want to keep your 1st Amendment rights? Read this!

This post was written by Elysia
on January 29, 2010 | Comments (18)

I am shocked almost speechless today at a brazen attack on the religious liberties of Pagans, Wiccans, and all other followers of minority religions. Some of you may have heard of Rev. Patrick McCollum, a man who became the first government-recognized Wiccan chaplain in the United States in 1997. He has been doing outstanding work in raising visibility on legal issues involving discrimination against minority faiths in prison and elsewhere; he appeared before the US Commission on Civil Rights in Washington, DC, to speak at a briefing focused on prisoners’ religious rights; he spoke at the Parliament of World Religions in Australia in December; and he’s been invited to be part of the current administration’s discussion on how to limit discrimination and promote Interfaith education. To put it briefly, he is out there fighting for us.

Patrick McCollum, Wiccan chaplain and activist

Patrick McCollum, Wiccan chaplain and activist

His latest battle has been an ongoing fight of several years against California’s “five faiths policy,” which restricts paid prison chaplains to being only of the Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Native American faiths. He rightfully argued that this constitutes religious discrimination in hiring practices, not to mention the fact that incarcerated members of other faiths would be well-served by having more minority faith chaplains. The response, up to now, has been to argue on the technicality that McCollum has no legal standing, as he’s not a prisoner, nor is he a taxpayer trying to curb government spending (he’s suggesting government money instead could be spent more fairly). But now the conversation has taken a turn for the worse. Much worse. Patrick’s latest statement reads:

In one of their first arguments to the court, the defendants said that certain “traditional” faiths are first tier faiths and that those faiths were meant to have equal rights and protections under the United States Constitution, but that all of the other faiths, for example, Hindus, Pagans, Buddhists, Sikhs, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jains, are second tier faiths deserving of lesser rights, and therefore are not meant to have the same equal rights and protections under the United States Constitution as the first tier faiths.

Now, in an amicus brief filed in the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in support of the CDCR and the other defendants, an organization called WallBuilders,Inc, which is represented by the National Legal Foundation, has argued that Christianity is the only religion that should be protected under the Constitution or at the very most other monotheistic religions might also be included.  They also argue that the term religion only applies to Christianity or monotheistic faiths, and that anyone else, including the Pagans, are not really a religion for the purpose of Constitutional protections.

Does that send shivers down your spine? Creep you out entirely? It should. Wicca has been a protected religion in the eyes of the Federal Court since 1986, and now these cretins want to say “not really.”

The WallBuilder’s brief claims that the definition of “religion” when used by the founding fathers was synonymous with “Christianity” or “monotheism” because they spoke of “the Creator” as a singular noun, and therefore McCollum can’t invoke the protection of the founding fathers. Inexplicably, they also argue at the same time that since the definition of religion has changed since then (yes, the definition has changed, but if anything I would argue that it’s broader now than it was back then), whatever definition of “religion” you apply, Paganism and witchcraft don’t fall under it. Incredible.

If you’re troubled or outraged by this assault on the beliefs of millions of non-monotheists living in America, here’s what you can do, in Patrick’s words again:

We all need to write to Jerry Brown, the California Attorney General, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Mathew L. Cate, the Secretary of the CDCR and let them all know our outrage.  And if you are a Pagan or Heathen, then we must also demand equal treatment, equal accommodations, equal access to our religious items for institutionalized persons, including prison inmates, and equal access to paid Pagan chaplains.

For the full enchilada, complete with links to Patrick’s full statement, and WallBuilder’s full amicus brief, please see the post on the Wild Hunt blog: Is the First Amendment for Monotheists Only?. Jason has summed up all the key points eloquently and has links to his previous posts about McCollum’s ongoing legal battle. Kids, it looks like now is the time to jump in. We’ve been letting Patrick fight for us, now is the time to make our voices heard on his behalf before this thing goes too far.

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Daniel Vis
on January 30th, 2010 @ 1:04 am

I wrote to Jerry Brown, the California Attorney General, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Mathew L. Cate, the Secretary of the CDCR urging them to all work together to correct this situation. I’m hoping they welcome enlightenment & stop this discrimination. I’m hoping others have done this as well.

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#2 
Written By Kirk
on January 31st, 2010 @ 9:31 am

HOLY #%&#%*&$^*!
This is a blatent attack on our civil liberties; it means that by becoming a member of a faith not on the short approved faiths list, you surrencer one or more of your constitually protected civil rights.
This is bigger than the original case.

Further, reading the original article, it appears they simply declared this man had no standing.

HAD NO STANDING?!?

This means ‘shut up and get out of the courtroom, you have no right to be here and present a grevience.’

Forign nationals have more right than that. He is declared a nonperson.

Because he is Pagan.

WTF?

Is your blood boiling yet?

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#3 
Written By Donna
on January 31st, 2010 @ 11:52 pm

Two clauses in the First Amendment guarantee freedom of religion. The establishment clause prohibits the government from passing legislation to establish an official religion or preferring one religion over another.

It can’t get any plainer than that.

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#4 
Written By Donna
on January 31st, 2010 @ 11:58 pm

This website might interest you…

http://www.nobeliefs.com/Tripoli.htm

:)

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#5 
Written By Kaldra
on February 1st, 2010 @ 3:37 pm

i can’t believe what i read. UGG! non people! no rights, uggg! tie our wrists behind our back, see if we float, and then take our land – no this time our rights.

spread the word, this can’t happen, religion, race, there is no difference everyone needs to eat and poop.

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#6 
Written By Tim Miller
on February 1st, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

I am a born-again Christian and despite the fact that the majority of the founding fathers were Christians and based our country’s constitution and legal system on Christian principles, I also believe it is ABUNDANTLY clear that they never intended to favor only a select few “first tier” faiths and that others were to be discriminated against.

As a previous poster has pointed out, this flies directly in the face of the clear statements of the First Amendment as well as the whole premise of how our nation came to be … the fleeing of those in a “minority religion” seeking freedom from the oppression of their faith.

I have a deep respect for, and enjoy learning about many other religions and those who follow them. And as an American, I believe they have every right to choose their religion and to follow it freely – WITHOUT government interference and with the expectation of equal protection and privileges as anyone else so long as that religion does not violate civil or moral law.

I’ve had a great respect for Wallbuilders’ ministry up until now and sincerely hope that something has not been reported correctly. I intend to investigate this outrage myself. But please let me state that NOT all Christians believe this way and, in as much as I have the voice to do so, I would like to apologize for this and similar “bigoted” actions of my brothers and sisters in Christ. This is NOT what our God or our faith teaches. Those who promote their own PERSONAL agendas in the name of their religion are usually a disgrace to that religion, regardless of its name.

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#7 
Written By Elysia
on February 1st, 2010 @ 4:19 pm

Thanks for your comment – but if you follow the link to the Wild Hunt blog, you can read the amicus filed by Wallbuilders yourself (it’s a PDF). I was not familiar with Wallbuilders until now, and I wonder how they became involved. Maybe if more Christians spoke up against this kind of bigotry, it would make a difference – they’re more likely to listen to you than to us! : )

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#8 
Written By Kara
on February 1st, 2010 @ 6:07 pm

I am deeply saddened, concerned and offended by the the Wallbuilders’ legal argument that would strip Americans of their Constitutional Rights.

How is it that I, who served my Country in the Armed Services, can now be relegated to a “Second Tier” citizen over a matter of religious choice?

The Founding Fathers that the Wallbuilders enjoy citing, followed a mixed bag of religions. I feel those brave and learned men would be outraged by the Wallbuilders’ actions.

Freedom of Religion comes without restriction. Freedom is also never free. We must all stand and make our voices heard – regardless of differences of opinion – and let not our Freedom be eroded by silence.

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#9 
Written By PatriotM
on February 1st, 2010 @ 8:19 pm

Let’s call these Christian bigots what they are, ANTI-AMERICAN!
Read the “Treaty of Tripoli” 1796, Article 11, ratified unanimously by Congress and signed by the President (who had signed the Declaration of Independence).
This type is constantly using their “religion” as a weapon to take away freedom and destroy the Democracy on which this country was truly founded.
Freedom of Religion means ALL religions. If they don’t care for American beliefs, they’re free to move to a theocracy somewhere else.

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#10 
Written By Melanie Harris
on February 2nd, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

It definitely creeps me out that the organization behind this assault is called “Wallbuilders Inc.”! That’s just too honest. I don’t understand how this proposal has even made it this far through the court system. It seems to be in obvious violation of established laws and liberties.

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#11 
Written By Mike
on February 2nd, 2010 @ 3:15 pm

NYT has an article about the First Amendment and I have posted links to this site. I recommend that others go and post a comment about this situation. The more commentary that they receive the more likely that they will cover the story.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/01/what-is-the-first-amendment-for

Respectfully,
Mike

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#12 
Written By Leela Bruner
on February 6th, 2010 @ 11:33 am

This shows complete misunderstanding and ignorance. Hindu’s believe that there is only one God. But do not limit it to just one form…. God exists within all. It’s on thing to be prejudice and another to be prejudice against something that you project onto others belief systems. yikes.

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#13 
Written By AllannaL
on February 7th, 2010 @ 4:48 am

I find it ironic that this law exists in California of all places! Isn’t this the state where more alternate religions are practiced than anywhere else in the country? It was here, while living in Los Angeles, I converted to Paganism in 1989. Little did I realize my American citizenship would take a hit, and I would be demoted to “citizen second class,” in spite of being born into a family that’s been here over 300 years!

I don’t hate Christians–my mother and dear brother follow that path–but 2 decades of discrimination (and even times of fearing physical harm) has left me a bit wary of them. So am I shocked when I read about hate crimes such as the desecration of the Pagan worship area at the USAF base? Sadly, no…not anymore.

I try to be more tolerant, however, being human and not the Goddess, I’m often not successful. But whenever I’ve encountered religious intolerance/ignorance/bigotry, more often than not, the perpetrator professes to be a Christian. I had Christianity forced on me by well-meaning parents; but I was never truly, spiritually happy until my conversion. I left this faith because there was something missing in it for me, as did many Pagans so I don’t understand when non-Pagan folk assume we must be ignorant of Christianity. I have never been happier in my faith. I liken it to a flower in bloom: it only becomes more beautiful as time passes. I imagine this is how may feel about their faiths, no matter what they are.

Now, as for the politicians…I read that the Pagan religions–especially Wicca–are growing the fastest of any in the US. I don’t know about you, but I vote! Pagans now number in the millions; that’s a pretty significant voting block, and growing as we are, they can’t afford to ignore us forever. Speak the only language politicians understand: VOTE!!!

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#14 
Written By AllannaL
on February 7th, 2010 @ 5:33 am

“1st tier faiths…” How many have read Orwell’s “Animal Farm?” It was required reading in school when I was a kid. Remember, when the animals first took control of the farm, they flew a banner that proclaimed:”ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL!” Then, as the pigs gradually took over, the banner was amended to read: “ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL–BUT SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS!” Just substitute the word “animals” with the word “religions”; it’s kinda Orwellian, don’t you think?

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#15 
Written By Elysia
on February 8th, 2010 @ 9:36 am

Careful about semantics here – there is currently no “law” in California making us second-tier citizens. Rather, this is what the California Prison System is planning to argue in court so that they don’t have to change their backward policy. Hopefully the court will see this for what it is – a blatant attack on First Amendment rights – and laugh them out of the courtroom.

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#16 
Written By Kyle
on February 13th, 2010 @ 10:51 am

Please read this piece that was originally in the Wall Street Journal:
http://www.becketfund.org/index.php/article/1158.html

It’s by the director of an organization called the “Becket Fund” which defends religious freedom.

In that article above, he talks about his legal defense work of a priest of Santeria. He goes on to give a very powerful defense of “unpopular beliefs.”

This might be a good organization for pagans and their supports to have in mind if or when they find their constitutions rights trampled upon by the majority.

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