Ah, religious freedom! Syndicated columnist Debra Saunders writes at Jewish World Review:
In its wisdom — and yes, I am being ironic — the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco issued a ruling Tuesday that revives a California inmate lawsuit to force the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to hire a paid, full-time Wiccan chaplain…. [T]he court overturned a federal judge’s 2011 dismissal of the lawsuit.
“Wiccan,” in case you’re not up on your religions, is the adjectival form of Wicca, which is a modern pagan faith whose practitioners practice witchcraft.
The suit, Saunders notes, was first brought in 2008 by then-inmate Shawna Hartmann. (She since has been released.) Fellow Wiccan Caren Hill, who is still behind bars (for possession of a controlled substance for sale), joined the suit as a complainant.
In their complaint, Hartmann and Hill claim that Wicca has more adherents in the Central California Women’s Facility than Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism.
A skeptical Saunders checked out their allegation. “A 2007 Corrections survey,” she writes, “found 183 Wiccan inmates — compared with 42,666 Protestant, 28,884 Muslim, 23,160 Catholic, 8,296 Native American and 2,678 Jewish inmates.”
All of which invites skepticism about whether Hartmann and Hill are really witches. If they were, why didn’t they cast a spell on Saunders that caused her to see the numbers in the survey differently?
In the meantime, if hiring a full-time Wiccan chaplain sounds out of left field, be aware that the prison already has an unpaid volunteer Wiccan chaplain. This is, remember, California.
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