Rights For Me, But Not For Thee

I guess some faiths are more equal than others. (via)

Patrick McCollum is a Wiccan chaplain who has been fighting the California Department of Corrections for the right to serve pagan and Wiccan inmates. His case challenges California's "Five Faiths" policy, a policy of the corrections system that allows chaplains of only five faiths: Catholicism, Protestant Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Native American. (Though those five choices are in themselves problematic; it's not like all Native American peoples had the same religion or rituals. That's like saying someone "speaks African". Same goes for lumping all the Protestant denominations together.) Up until now the CDCR has been arguing that McCollum lacked standing to bring the case, as he is not himself an inmate. But just recently it's come out that their real argument is something a little different - and a lot more offensive.

Lawyers for the CDCR are claiming a 2-tier system of religious rights: that "traditional" faiths such as the five mentioned above are first-tier faiths, and as such are meant to receive full rights and protections under the Constitution, and that other faiths, like Wicca, are second-tier faiths, not entitled to the same protections. Which is bad enough, really. Wasn't the whole point of the separation of church and state that the government wouldn't be making decisions like which religions are good and which ones are bad?

But here's where it gets fun. The other day, an amicus brief was filed in the McCollum v CDCR case on behalf of WallBuilders, a Christian Dominionist organization, claiming that not only should we be second-tier faiths, our religion does not even count as a religion under the Constitution. From the WallBuilders brief (pdf):

The problem is that everything they [Interfaith Community Representatives, in their own amicus brief on McCollum's side] write explains why witchcraft and paganism are religions as the term is currently used in non-legal circles; nothing they write addresses whether witchcraft and paganism are religions as that word was used by the Framers in drafting the Religion Clauses. Thus, Amici can quote all the Founders they want for the proposition that various religions and faiths must be treated neutrally, but they will have accomplished nothing unless they demonstrate that paganism and witchcraft were included within the word “religion” as used in the Religion Clauses.

So because we weren't recognized as a religion 200-some years ago, we aren't allowed to be recognized as a religion now? That makes about as much sense as trying to run a modern society on the social mores of Bronze Age tribal societies! ...Wait. Christian Dominionists. I forgot who I was talking about here.

All I can say is, feel free to restrict minority faiths at your own peril. Because you don't know the future; Christians might one day be the minority faith, and at that point, precedent will have been set that the government DOES have the right to choose which faiths are deserving of protection and equality.

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