You Can’t Ban Odinism In Prison

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  June 23, 2008 — Leave a comment

The Indiana federal district court has conclusively ruled that prisons can’t ban a faith because of hypothetical problems. In this instance, Odinism and the various white supremacist groups that infiltrate and exploit the faith.

“…an Indiana federal district court has ruled that the Indiana Department of Correction’s policy banning all group worship for Odinists violates RLUIPA. In Hummel v. Donahue, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47534 (SD IN, June 19, 2008), the court held that while the interest in maintaining safety and security is compelling, prison officials must do more than speculate that a religious practice will lead to problems. Here officials were concerned that white supremacists would claim to practice Odinism, but presented no concrete evidence to support this. Secondly, there were less restrictive alternatives than totally banning group worship. These included pre-approved scripts for worship services, increased training for correctional officers, pre-approved volunteers from outside to lead services, and research into solutions found by other prison systems.”

As the court hinted, one very easy way to stem the tide of racist Odinist groups is to invite more Pagan/Heathen chaplains in. Currently, the prison system is completely skewed towards Christian modes of belief, and as a result non-Christian prisoners are treated to widespread discrimination and hostility. However, some prison systems are slowly coming to the realization that allowing Pagan chaplains in can help reduce recidivism and create a healthier support network for Pagan inmates susceptible to the overtures of racist gangs masquerading as religion.

“Bolstered by President Bush’s recent signing of the Second Chance Act, which promises more money for faith-based programs to help rehabilitate prisoners, corrections officials and religious volunteers are testing the largely unproven theory that faith can not only salvage criminals, but — in the long run — make the rest of us safer, too … In Colorado, a volunteer network of chaplains offers 216 programs and the Department of Corrections recognizes 36 faiths … those traditions range from Asatru, a polytheistic Norse religion, to Native American rituals to nature-based Wicca … Credible research on the effectiveness of faith-based programs remains sparse and inconclusive. But corrections experts and volunteers agree that such efforts, coupled with education, counseling and other therapies, could be part of the solution.”

Pagan-friendly corrections departments in places like Colorado and Washington are leading the way into the future. A future where Christianity isn’t the only religious remedy for the troubled and violent soul. A future that Indiana will now be forced to at least partially embrace in the next sixty days. Let’s hope they embrace the change mandated by the courts, and adopt some of the more progressive methods of quelling racist strains of Pagan religion. No doubt the Odinist/Asatru community in Indiana would look forward to more openness and cooperation from prison officials.

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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