Religion, Expression, and the Courts
One day, the Muslim chaplain said there was a chaplaincy position opening up and that I should apply for it. By this time, I had the second largest congregation at the prison, and it was clear that the inmates really needed clergy support. It was also made expressly clear, that no current state chaplain would be willing to serve the Pagan community or help facilitate their needs. So I went to the personnel office to fill out a state application for the position, but the personnel manager refused to give me one. She told me that I could not fill out a job application — because of my religion, Wicca. I explained to her that without my filling out an application, the CDCR couldn’t possibly determine whether or not I met the qualifications for the job, and that no one there knew what qualifications I actually had.
– Patrick McCollum
Though I have written on this quite recently, I want to reiterate my support, and the support of Solar Cross, for Patrick McCollum. In speaking with him, and with one of his legal advisors, we are holding off on any ideas for fundraising. Solar Cross is currently setting up an oversight committee for a Pagan Prison Chaplains Fund in order to collect funds from our communities to support the volunteer chaplains who may need travel or other expenses reimbursed. Our goal is to have everything in place by August and hope that people are willing to donate some money to those who donate so much time and effort.
Also, to clear up some confusion people had about why prisoners were not being asked to file their own grievances by volunteer chaplains: they have been, and have done so. Rev. McCollum addresses this in his statement, which you can find in the link at the end of this post. Both Patrick and Robert Russell of Solar Cross have been helping prisoners with this often confusing process. Mr. Russell will be visiting the women’s prison in Chowchilla CA again tomorrow and will go over this process with them again, along with doing the education, celebration, and worship activities that bring him there.
The CDCR sometimes will strategically “grant” the inmate’s requested religious accommodation on paper, which stops the administrative process, but then never actually follows through with providing the accommodation, which blocks the inmate’s ability to go to court. When the inmate figures out this strategy and files another administrative grievance on the same issue to try to get around the block created by the CDCR, the CDCR’s answer is that the issue has already been addressed. This response by the CDCR under the rules of the official process stops the inmate in his/her tracks, closing the loop.
The explanation continues, of course, and I hope that anyone with an interest in this case, or in cases of religious discrimination, will read the PDF of Rev McCollum’s full statement, by visiting The Wild Hunt.