Obama Administration Officials Meet With Patrick McCollum

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 8, 2009 — 29 Comments

The following is a news bulletin from the Pagan Newswire Collective that was posted a short time ago to the Pagans at the Parliament blog by PNC correspondent Ed Hubbard. I’m reprinting it in its entirety below.

(Ed Hubbard, PNC, Melbourne Australia) On December 8, 2009, Obama Administration officials from the Justice and Faith-Based Initiative offices, met with select members of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. It was a small meeting of approx. 50 members from various faiths. Patrick McCollum, of Circle Sanctuary [and Cherry Hill Seminary], one of the principal advocates of Pagan based ministry, was invited to partake and speak during this meeting. He was among religious and spiritual leaders from multiple faiths including Native American, Australian Aboriginals, as well as contingents from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhists communities.

According to Rev. McCollum, the meeting was about how the Obama Administration can advance Interfaith relations in the United States. After McCollum’s discussion, officials from the White House sought him out, to have him meet with top officials of the administration to discuss how to limit discrimination and promote Interfaith education in the United States as well as internationally. Upon his return to the states, Patrick McCollum may be able to meet with members with the Justice department as well as the Offices of Faith Based Initiatives to discuss the many outstanding situations that are currently within the American court system.

This has been an advance forward for the Interfaith cause and for Pagans everywhere.

Needless to say, this is huge news, and a big step forward for the equal treatment of Pagan religions in America. McCollum recently made the news for his lawsuit against the California prison system’s “five faiths policy”, which has gained support from a variety of prominent religious organizations. Before that, McCollum appeared before the US Commission on Civil Rights in Washington, DC, to speak at a briefing focused on prisoners’ religious rights. You can read the remarks he made at that hearing, here. I will be keeping  a close eye on this situation, and hope to bring more news soon.

ADDENDUM: More on the meeting from Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary.

When asked about this meeting, Patrick said “I am thankful that the Obama administration’s Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships participated in this year’s Parliament, held this meeting, and asked for and listened to input. International interfaith dialogue and collaboration are essential for bringing about a better world.” When asked about the Parliament as a whole, he said, “One of the best things about the Parliament has been meeting leaders from other faiths and creating friendships and alliances that will far transcend this event. It was obvious from the discussions that world faith leaders have common concerns and have moved to a place in history where they recognize the value of working together toward the common good rather than being at odds with each other. This brings me great hope!”

Again, more on this as I have it.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Beth

    This is HUGE! Thank you SO much for posting it, and for also illuminating the significance of it. I can't think of anyone I'd rather have speaking truth to power on our behalf than Patrick.

  • http://www.robinartisson.com Robin Artisson

    Hey Jason- do you have any comment on Andras Corban-Arthen's suggestion at the Parliament that Wicca does not qualify as an indigenous Pagan faith of Europe? He defended Romuva (and by extension other faiths like Asatru) as belonging to a different category of religion than Wicca… a category of "indigenous" and not "new religions". That's great of him, but I imagine the Wiccan response to that might be quite profound. Have you heard anything about it?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/thewildhunt Jason Pitzl-Waters

      I have a lot to say about that, expect a post either later today, ortomorrow on the subject.

      • http://www.chasclifton.com/blogger.html Chas S. Clifton

        There was discussion at the Indigenous Traditions/Contemporary Pagan Studies joint session at the AAR about the term "indigenous." Some people want to restrict it to only those people who are colonized and/or "oppressed."

        I put "oppressed" in quotes because some Slavic Pagans, for example, consider themselves to have been oppressed by the Orthodox Church.

        Speaking practically, however, I think the horse is out of the barn. *All* forms of Western Paganism, including Wicca, are claiming indigenous status somewhere, somehow. Attempting to restrict the term seems difficult at best.

    • http://www.hecatedemetersdatter.blogspot.com Hecate

      the meeting was about how the Obama Administration can advance Interfaith relations in the United States.

      Not the administration's job. Keep church and state separate. Glad to hear, however, that Patrick may get to meet w DoJ. Ending discrimination is the administration's job.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/GreenWaySkull GreenWaySkull

        Hecate,

        I agree completely.

      • Jake

        Please tell me how Obama is establishing a state church by meeting with various religious leaders about interfaith cooperation.

      • Ananta Androscoggin

        _Not the administration's job._

        It is if one extreme (as in those on the far Right) or the other (as in the far Left) or groups from both, give every evidence that they are building themselves up to carrying out a campaign of sectarian violence.

        We have Christianist "warriors" praying for the deaths of public officials and private citizens, There have been articles in the press (and I wish I could remeember when and where I saw them — but definitely within the past two months) about how every time in the past the "right" has worked itself up publicly like they have been doing lately, they have alwayss followed it up with violence against those they rallied the 'faithful' against.

        I remember trouble with the John Birchers (conservatives all) bombing places when I was a kid. We also had fruitcake organizations blowing up banks and robbing them while pretending to be political radicals liberating something (their own poverty, at a guess, except for Patty Hurst) or other. And real political radicals both violent (Black Panthers) and very peaceful (Dr. M.L. King).

        It's the Fed's job when local law enforcement gladly turns over minority prisoners to mobs of any kind for lynching, whether a mob entirely of the likes of the KKK or any other mixture of seething, hating, people.

  • Matt Gerlach

    This is amazing news. When he ends up speaking to those officials may his words be full of wisdom, and may they be heard and understood, and in their hearing and understanding may the officials be inspired to seek greater justice and equality for all. So be it.

    • Guest

      I agree this is good news. Patrick has worked very hard over the years and it's great to see that he has really made some significant strides for religious/civil rights for Pagan and NRM adherents.

      • http://www.robinartisson.com Robin Artisson

        I know what will end the culturally ingrained trends towards discrimination. The passage of time. Only that will really do it. It's not adults that we should be targeting and trying to work on, but young children. As generations mature and mature again, people become more liberal. What was acceptable racism in the US just two generations ago is now considered fully unacceptable and atrocious by most. In the next 50 years, gays will find their own accepted place to the same extent. And, I think, so will non-traditional religions.

        • http://intensedebate.com/people/Nope Snoozepossum

          I agree with that in general – that's been happening in the last decades as more children grow up with better chances to compare to alternate views to than the ones their parents may hold, and more importantly, first hand opportunities to observe people or groups for themselves and decide whether any information they've been taught is based on unfair prejudice.

          What I'm concerned about is the people who are fighting that expanded exposure tooth and nail. Stupidly enough, I currently know people who are as or more intolerant than their parents. I partially blame a backlash reaction to poorly-done political correctness; there's a fashion trend to be deliberately rude or discriminatory to prove that you have "good old-fashioned American values" and that "the liberal bleeding hearts don't order you around". Add that to a growing anti-intellectual agenda and the "Thinking Globally is Communism" bogeyman, and you get people who are regressing socially instead of maturing, and spinning intolerance to call it integrity.

  • http://pagan-culture.blogspot.com Magaly Guerrero

    Oh my! Oh my! I've been cocooned in my room writing for the last couple of days and have not paid attention to the news–irresponsible I know. I'm so glad you keep such a close eye, but you already know this.

    Patrick has done (and continues doing) so much for the Pagan community that to know that it feels right to see him entering, or at least peering into this door. I know that the best thing in the world would be a clear separation between church and state, but we already know that's just a wondrous dream, so I echoed Pat to say, that as a Pagan I want (and as a member of a marginalized religion) I want one of mine sitting in that circle.

    Thanks so much for sharing this. You keep an eye on the great things happening out there, I'll keep an eye on you!

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    • http://pagan-culture.blogspot.com Magaly Guerrero

      To send "Faith Based initiative… on permanent vacation" would be the ideal, but do you see this happening any time soon? What happens to the members of marginalized religions in the meantime? I agree that using the authorities to force others to "tolerate" religious expression in certain places can only do so much, but some people need that little bit. You and me (I like to think) are quite capable of discussing faith critically, but what about those individuals who can't? The ones who get attacked or even just "talked to" once and go home and hide in fear (a bit extreme, but not unseen)?

      It would be nice if this country was filled with people who were willing to ask "productive questions", but reality is another. Until we can get more critical thinkers when it comes to religion, I don't mind taking whatever I can get. Some need to walk before they can run, it seems that in this case there might even be some low-crawling before we can even walk.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/Nope Snoozepossum

        I'm all for the "if I can't get a mile, I'll take an inch" approach – those inches start adding up. I can maintain what I believe at the time to be the best ideal, and still see places along the way as decent enough stepping stones to get there, or in some cases the lesser of two evils. Sometimes those stepping stones are the means of finding the flaws in the ideal, and help you build a whole new ideal to aim for.

        None of these help immediately with people who have a moral objection to thinking or tolerating, but I still think that making prejudiced asshats socially unfashionable goes farther than legal measures.

        Of course, a nice trebuchet with a three ton counterweight makes them go even farther . . . ;0)

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wVADKznOhY

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Baruch Baruch

    Any action on the discrimination front will almost certainly have to wait until Obama's second term. He will have enough around his neck going into 2012 as is.

    Baruch Dreamstalker

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Pax Pax

    Hecate,

    I agree on the separation of Church and State. Especially important in a nation that the Founding Fathers meant to be a religiously diverse and pluralistic interfaith affair!
    On the other hand, as long as there is that office of Faith Based Initiatives… wouldn't it be fabulous to have… say the Officer's of Avalon's, Avalon Cares project get a hold of some federal money to pay for free or low cost Red Cross First Aid Classes for their civilian member/supporters… for example?
    As long as the office of Faith Based Initiatives exists, I DARN WELL want a place at that table for the Pagan movement.

    Peace,
    Pax

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Erynn Erynn

    This is fantastic news. I'm very excited that Patrick will be opening these doors for the greater Pagan community. He's done some incredible work over the years and now it's finally starting to pay off in ways I couldn't have imagined a few years ago. This is such a significant step away from the right-wing Christian stranglehold on the halls of government power. Interfaith work will be necessary for as long as religions exist.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Nope Snoozepossum

    Which do you think will be more likely to actually end discrimination in government and military entities, as opposed to just making the discriminatory more careful to not get caught – legalese and punitive action, or getting the disparate viewpoints to agree to cooperate on this or that project? The latter has the advantage of hopefully getting people to decide to be tolerant on their own; the former is just getting in someone's face and telling them they have to put their "beliefs" aside because The Man told them to.

  • http://pagan-culture.blogspot.com Magaly Guerrero

    I have to agree with Pat. According to the Founding Fathers, there should be a "Wall" between church and state and "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…" nevertheless, that wall is so thin that we might as well go ahead and look in too. If we don't, a whole new nation might be started on the other side and we (Pagans) won't have part on it. I don't know about you, but I want to be part of something that big, if it exists at all.

  • http://pagan-culture.blogspot.com Magaly Guerrero

    Oops! I called "Pat", my apologies. That's rather embarrassing ;(

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Pax Pax

    No worries!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Nope Snoozepossum

    I'm not suggesting that the administration promote any faith, and honestly I think the Faith Based initiative thing needs to go on permanent vacation. What I think is more workable is raising the bar for dealing with religious entities on a civil level. You can't legislate morality; laws against discrimination often don't work now, and sometimes have the effect of making people retaliate against a person or group out of resentment.

    You can encourage people to see for themselves whether their ideas about other religions are accurate. I'm thinking along the lines of requiring law enforcement and municipal officials at all levels to do some community involvement* with a minority faith group, or a class on minority faiths given by representatives of those faiths, rather than some idiot "expert" with a Satanic Panic resume. Having a provision that if one of these "occult experts" is called as a consultant for any proceeding, a member of the involved minority faith must be included too. Nobody local willing or able to step up? Dig out the web cams. Yeah, I know, that's oversimplified, but every building starts with one board or brick. The main thing is that they have an opportunity to meet minority faith members face to face, and hopefully not ones who are as prejudiced as they themselves may be.

    The other thing that makes for a big mental shift is getting people to see that tolerance is not the same as acceptance. One reason many people reject tolerance is the idea that it's the same as agreeing with what you think is wrong, and a lapse in integrity or faith. We get various attitudes from people who observe our public events, but both the angrily affronted and the amicably curious go sort of speechless when I say that I don't care if they agree with or like us, but I do want them to disagree with or dislike real facts instead of sensationalist propaganda bullshit. Then unless they're absolutely against thinking, they start asking productive questions.

    *Pay the cops for the hours – they get screwed on time enough as it is. The governors and mayors can do it as volunteers.

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