Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Sword of Solidarity

People have always gone to extraordinary lengths for their religious freedoms, the majority of the early colonists came to this continent to escape religious discrimination and persecution. They risked all, and took the leap of faith into an unknown world so they could practice their religion.

I always found it ironic that they went on to found a country that now perpetuates the same cycle of discrimination they sought to escape.

For over a decade now Patrick McCollum has led the charge against religious discrimination and has inspired many of us as Pagan Prison Chaplains. It was Patrick who took me to my first prison visit, an experience that has changed my life forever. Patrick has carried the torch of illumination from the prisons of California to US Commission on Civil Rights in Washington, DC, and fought a long hard and expensive legal battle with California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

I was both saddened and angered to learn today that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the earlier ruling, that Patrick's suit held no standing. Win or lose, Patrick has served a large part in the Big Picture, he has made the religious needs and rights of Pagan inmates and their chaplains undeniable. While Patrick has fought in the courtroom many more of us fight in the trenches at local correctional institutions around the country, feeding the needs of inmates for several years now we have seen the Pagan population and its needs grow.

There has been a lot of controversy about the term "Pagan" lately and I've tried to ignore it. But it comes into play here. We spend so much time arguing about things I consider petty, so much time being way to self involved. We need to stop worrying about what to call or not ourselves, we need to stop focusing on the issues that divide us and start focusing on the ideas that unite us.

And unfortunately religious discrimination unites us. It is time to unite under the banner of "whatever-ism," pick up the sword of solidarity and join the fight for religious pluralism!

I am eagerly awaiting Patrick's response to the decision and what further action will be taken. Will he push forward to the supreme Court? Or will he start over with a new suit, with a new strategy?

Whatever he does, he needs your help and support. If we can raise over $30,000 for Japan, what could we do for one of our own, who's fighting for us?