First Wiccan Chaplain in History To Meet with U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Thursday, February 07 2008 @ 10:05 AM EST
Edited by: Michael Hess
Historic Briefing to be Held on Friday
2008-02-07 -- (CS) A Wiccan Chaplain and Statewide California
Department of Corrections, Patrick McCollum will speak at a briefing on
prisoners' religious rights at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in
Washington, DC on Friday, February 8, 2007. This marks the first time
that a Wiccan expert has spoken on religious freedom issues at a
"It is an honor to be invited to
participate in the dialogue and to share a Wiccan's point of view,"
said McCollum. "Those in minority faiths are seldom given the
opportunity to be heard, even when the issue concerns their rights. I
am hopeful this invitation is indicative of what we can expect going
forward and that there truly is a desire on the part of the U.S.
Commission on Civil Rights to ensure that inmates receive equal
treatment, and a willingness to better serve minority religions."
McCollum has been a member of Circle Sanctuary, an international Wiccan
church for nearly thirty years and has been an activist for Wiccan and
Pagan civil rights through the Lady Liberty League (LLL) which the
church sponsors. He was part of the LLL team which succeeded in getting
the US Department of Veterans Affairs to add the pentacle to its list
of emblems of belief that can be inscribed on the veteran gravestones
As LLL's National Coordinator of Prison Ministries,
McCollum has worked for inmates rights at state and federal
correctional institutions across the nation for more than a decade.
Rev. McCollum recently became the Director of Prison Chaplaincy for
Cherry Hill Seminary (CHS), which offers graduate level education to
Wiccan and Pagan chaplains serving in institutional settings. In
addition, McCollum is also chair of the National Correctional
Chaplaincy Directors Association.
Other speakers at Friday's
meeting include representatives from Americans United for the
Separation of Church and State, American Civil Liberties Union Program
on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Homeland Security, Office of the
Deputy Attorney General as well as the Task Force for Faith-Based and
The briefing will be held beginning at
9:30 am on Friday, February 8 at U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 624
Ninth Street NW, Room 540, Washington, DC.
Rev. Patrick McCollum appeared today at the US Commission on Civil Rights
in Washington, DC. He spoke at the Commission's briefing focused on
prisoners' religious rights. The briefing included two panels. The first
panel examined the free exercise of religion by inmates and prison
security issues. The second panel, which included a presentation by
McCollum, focused on the free exercise of religion and separation of
church and state issues in correctional settings.
In his remarks, Patrick cited examples of some of the types of religious
discrimination that Wiccan clergy and inmates have experienced in prison
settings. He concluded his presentation with recommendations for
achieving religious equality in prison settings, including a call for
getting "rid of administrators and chaplains who believe that breaking the
law by violating inmates’ religious rights is justified by faith."
In a phone call following the briefing, Patrick told Selena Fox: "My
presentation at the briefing went well. It was wonderful to have the
opportunity to express Pagan perspectives on this important topic. I
think that being part of this briefing has laid the groundwork for
additional public education in the future."
Jeanet Ewing, also of Circle Sanctuary, covered the briefing for CIRCLE
Magazine and Circle Times. She reports "Patrick did an excellent job. He
was well-spoken, well-dressed, and well-received."
"Patrick's participation in this briefing has not only conveyed the
importance of fair and equal treatment for Pagans and those of other
faiths in prison settings, it has advanced the quest for equal rights for
Wiccans and Pagans in society as a whole," says Selena Fox. "Thanks to
Patrick and to everyone who has supported him on this historic occasion.
May we continue to work together so that there will truly be liberty and
justice for all."
More information about the briefing, plus photos:
Text of Patrick McCollum's remarks:
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Circle Times: Friday, February 8, 2008