Wiccan Inmate Suing Massachusetts Department of Corrections

Cara Schulz —  December 4, 2014 — 70 Comments

Unfortunately, the case will not be whether he should get ten kinds of cake, but rather whether it is legitimate to ask for cake as a part of Wiccan ritual. If the court rules against him, it will be taking away the rights of all Pagans in Massachusetts prisons to celebrate the ceremony of cakes and ale which is a fundamental Wiccan practice with a long history. – Pagan Chaplain and activist Patrick McCollum

A Wiccan man serving time at MCI-Norfolk since 1987 for a  triple murder is suing the Massachusetts Department of Corrections for allegedly infringing on his religious rights. Daniel LaPlante says prison officials are interfering with his ability to practice the Wiccan religion by preventing him from obtaining specific ritual oils, herbs, teas, medallions, and a variety of cakes for his faith. He also says they are preventing him from practicing his faith in the “time, place and manner” that the Wiccan religion requires.

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Wiccan Altar [Photo Credit: Angie Armstrong/Flickr]

Without those items, LaPlante claims he won’t be able to stay in the Coven Communal Wicca Group, which meets weekly in the prison. LaPlante also maintains he also needs to be able to worship during certain moon phases, such as new and full moons.

In 2013, LaPlante’s attempt to sue the DOC failed. In recent weeks, both LaPlante and the Department of Corrections (DOC) have filed motions for summary judgment, asking the judge to end the lawsuit by ruling in their favor. There is no date set when Judge William G. Young will make a decision.

Prison officials do admit that they haven’t provided some of the items, but quickly add that many items on LaPlante’s list are considered contraband. They also say that they are following guidelines in the DOC’s Religious Services Handbook, which is used to evaluate inmate religious requests for commonly practiced religions. Wicca is included in the handbook.

The Wild Hunt spoke with Pagan Chaplain and activist Rev. Patrick McCollum about the case, and what it means for the religious rights of Pagan prisoners. Rev. McCollum trains state and federal prison religion directors each year, and he says accommodating Wiccan and Pagan practices is the number one request.

Patrick McCollum [Courtesy Photo]

Patrick McCollum [Courtesy Photo]

We first asked Rev. McCollum how important are things such as candles, incense, and teas to the practice of the Wiccan religion. He responded:

As you know, there are many different traditions under the category of Wicca. To many of them, especially the earlier traditions, things like candles and incense and observances of the phases of the moon are critical to their practice. For example in my tradition, access to actual fire, water, earth, and incense, are fundamental to any working or ritual. And as for ritual teas, that practice is common among many in the Wiccan community. Also, medallions and ritual oils play a big part.

However within a prison context, the question as to whether or not these things are required or supported by our practices is irrelevant. Under RULUIPA, which is the law of the land regarding religious practices in correctional institutions, prisons are required by law to provide all of these items to Pagan inmates if requested unless they specifically create a threat to the safety and security of the institution. The majority of the items requested in this case cannot be seen as creating a security risk, as they have been approved previously in other contexts in the past. Therefore the state should be trying to find a reasonable way to accommodate them.

In the end, one needs to recognize that while it’s possible that the inmate is pushing volume-wise for more than might be reasonable, his actual requests are clearly within reason under the law. Unfortunately, the case will not be whether he should get ten kinds of cake, but rather whether it is legitimate to ask for cake as a part of Wiccan ritual. If the court rules against him, it will be taking away the rights of all Pagans in Massachusetts prisons to celebrate the ceremony of cakes and ale which is a fundamental Wiccan practice with a long history.

When asked if he felt prisons have become more accommodating to Pagan religious practices in recent years, he said they were nationally. He added:

There is no question that prisons are becoming far more accommodating to Pagan religious practices in recent years. Twenty years ago when I first started challenging prison systems for discriminating against Wiccans and Pagans, prisons wouldn’t allow Pagan religious practices period! Now the prison systems in almost every state in the U.S. have designated Pagan religion programs or have procedural manuals on how to accommodate them. I have attended services in prisons in various states across the country where candles, incense, May Poles, BOS, Thor’s hammers, chalices, and even Athames [cardboard or wooden replicas] are common. Also outdoor ritual space and even small bonfires.

While things are getting better across the nation, Rev. McCollum sees this particular case in Massachusetts a continuation of a long standing policy to restrict the religious rights of Pagan prisoners. Yet even there, he sees some progress.  He said:

I advised the Massachusetts DOC on the basic requirements of Wiccan practices at least 15 years ago, and they took the position that they would fight every request, legitimate or not. This case, no matter how frivolous it may seem, is really just the end result of many years of religious discrimination coming to a head.

This case like many others, will likely never see the light of day on the real issues presented. Instead, the state will seek to get it thrown out on technicalities so that they are not forced to comply with the law.

To give credit, Massachusetts has made some progress in this area and have established some Pagan accommodations, but they are generally about ten years behind everyone else in the country on accommodating Pagans.

Rev. McCollum wanted to caution Pagans outside the prison system on how they can unintentionally set these hard fought gains backwards. He said:

Some in our community take the position that nothing is really necessary to practice our faith in prison other than our personal connection with magic. We need to be careful in making that assessment, especially when speaking for others (especially those in prisons). It’s important to remember that all that is necessary to practice Protestant Christianity according to the very definition of Protestant, is the person and a Bible! They do not require Sunday services or Bible classes or a chaplain or minister, or all of the other paraphernalia that they have been given to accommodate them. It is only when Pagans or other minority faiths ask to be accommodated equally, that denials persist.

The Wild Hunt will continue to follow this story and report as things change.

Cara Schulz

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Cara Schulz is a journalist and author living in Minnesota with her husband and cat. She has previously written for PAGAN+politics, PNC-Minnesota, and Patheos. Her work has appeared in several books by Bibliotheca Alexandrina and she's the author of Martinis & Marshmallows: A Field Guide to Luxury Tent Camping and (Almost) Foolproof Mead Making. She loves red wine, camping, and has no tattoos.
  • David Salisbury

    So what I am hearing (please correct me if I’m wrong) is that the inmate’s suit may actually cause retrograde harm to MA inmates by totally banning cakes altogether? I wonder what the view of other Wiccan inmates in MA is, in terms of if its worth the risk or not. Can any be contacted? Just very curious on that.

    • Blake Kirk

      The problem here is that our case law in this area requires the courts to give a significant degree of deference to the security concerns of prison officials. In the very first prisoner rights case ever filed by a Wiccan, DETTMER v. LANDON, 799 F.2d 929 (4th Cir. 1986), although Dettmer ultimately “won” the case in front of the 4th Circuit, the court only gave him a portion of the relief he was requesting, accepting the arguments of the Virginia prison system that some of the items requested represented an unacceptable risk.

      That having been said, any official objections to the requested items must have some legitimate connection to maintaining institutional security before the courts will give them cognizance. A prison warden may not simply issue a blanket rule prohibiting any religious accommodations as a matter of policy.

  • Blake Kirk

    My feeling here is that this is a combination of an actual petition to the courts for relief and the more traditional “nuisance lawsuit from prisoner” sort of case. For some prisoners, filing these sorts of cases becomes something of a hobby. From my perspective, the amount of stuff he wants seems excessive for a de minimis practice, which is all he’s going to be able to get away with while he’s inside.

  • dantes

    Patrick McCollum shows once again that he’s an articulate and intelligent man if any!

    Otherwise, regarding this inmate’s right being violated I would only quote the Newspaper article provided in this post:

    Andrew Gustafson returned home from work Dec. 1 to discover his wife, who had been sexually assaulted, dead of two gunshot wounds to the head in their bedroom. His children were drowned in separate bathtubs.

    And somehow I don’t feel that much sympathy for this inmate anymore.

    • Melissa Gerber

      He’s not asking to be released. He’s asking to have his religious rights upheld, so far as is reasonable.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        I may be mistaken, but is not a central tenet of Wicca not “An it harm none…”?

        If he doesn’t take that seriously, why should he get to have all kinds of fripperies that are not critical to practice?

        Prisons are places of punishment, first and foremost. That includes the suspension of rights.

        • dantes

          I would guess this inmate “converted” while in jail, even if I have no evidence of that. Too bad he didn’t choose jesus-worship. He would have been perfect in the role of the “repentant” believer.

          Otherwise, Prisons are places of punishment, first and foremost. That includes the suspension of rights. sounds like music to my ears.

        • Martin

          “Inmates are in prison AS punishment, not FOR punishment.” The confinement is legally the extent that punishment is allowed. Anything beyond that is considered cruel and unusual. Prisoners still maintain many of the rights the rest of us enjoy. If this were not the case, we would not be discussing this offenders religious rights. Finally, the mission of “corrections”, is public safety; to correct offenders’ behavior so they do not victimize again. This means offering real opportunities for rehabilitation, including spiritual opportunities. Even if this offender is never released, if he is truly following a sincere spiritual path, the other people around him, staff and other offenders, are safer. It is in the state’s long term interest to provide the “reasonable accommodations” at least to some extent, that he is requesting.
          I have been volunteering in prisons for 17 years, and have been a Wiccan correctional chaplain for 12. I know a little bit about it.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            The difference is a semantic one.

            What is now considered “cruel and unusual” would, not all that long ago, have once been considered fairly pleasant.

          • Bruce

            Thank you for this articulate reply. Now if other Wiccan’s can set aside their prejudices…

          • Laura Boccelli

            Not prejudice, justice! Don’t you all realize a criminal has more rights than the victims? What is wrong with this picture? The victim’s loose everything the criminal gets a life that they can wine about how bad they are treated, 3 mealsa day warm beds, showers, and lots more afforded them. But the vicim gets nothing.

          • Laura Boccelli

            Prisoners shouldn’t have any rights! He took 3 lives, what about their right to life?

          • dantes

            The problem is that he was condemned to the highest possible penalty for his crimes, three life-sentences. There’s nothing else one can do to punish him further. One could however wonder about the relevance of keeping such offenders alive at all but this is another question altogether.

        • Karen Heyou

          Yes, “Do no harm” is a basic tenet of Wicca, one this prisoner apparently violated. One of the 10 Commandments of Christianity is “Thou shalt not kill.” Yet, a Christian murderer is granted accommodation for the practice of his/her faith. It is not the prison’s place to judge if the actions which put an individual behind bars is or is not a “sin” according to that individual’s beliefs.

          • Northern_Light_27

            No, “do no harm” is not a basic tenet of Wicca. “Rede” means advice, not law, for one. For two, it only says that that which does no harm, one may do; it doesn’t speak to that which harms. For that, as I’ve been told, the Wiccan’s coven should be teaching them appropriate ethics around the use of magic. To reduce that down to “do no harm” is to get it wrong.

          • Karen Heyou

            Every rule/law/piece of advice is open to interpretation, I did not “get it wrong.” I interpreted it differently than you do. “If it harm none, do what thou will.” does not only apply to magical use. It applies to one’s entire life. Yes, I simplified it, because there was no need to go into the details of what harms and when it is OK to do harm (i.e. Is it more harmful to kill a plant or an animal for food?, or is it more harmful to kill a serial killer or to allow them to continue killing?) There was no need for me to go into a long philosophical discourse on exactly what the Rede means to me, because this article is not about what the Rede means or whether he broke it. It is about whether Wiccans and other minority religions deserve the same rights as practitioners of the more popular religions. Also, to state that one’s coven should be teaching them ethics ignores the fact that many thousands of Wiccans are solitary practitioners. (Edited to add: And I didn’t call the Rede a law. I called it a tenet, which means “a principle, belief, or doctrine, generally held to be true.”)

          • Northern_Light_27

            “Rule/law/piece of advice” cannot be run together like that, they’re fundamentally different things. You said “do no harm” is a basic tenet of Wicca, and it isn’t. Yes, some people interpret it that way, but not all or even most. Here, have a really good article on this: http://wicca.cnbeyer.com/the-wiccan-rede/

          • Karen Heyou

            Don’t blame me. I got it straight from the dictionary. If you don’t like the way they define words, I can’t help you.

        • mptp

          In that case, given that “thou shall not kill” is part of Christianity, no murderer in jail should get any Christian materials, amirite?

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I’d say so, yes.

          • dantes

            Except that every times a christian engage in some bad deeds, he can always claim for divine forgiveness at the end.

      • Kim K

        Interesting. I have no issue with inmates practicing their spirituality and reasonable religious rights. However, “specific ritual oils, herbs, teas, medallions, and a variety of cakes” have never been *required* for my Wiccan practice, so I don’t understand where that’s coming from. My HPS never once said to me, “You must have this specific oil or you are no longer welcome in this coven.” Tools are just tools. One can still have a relationship with the god and goddess with no tools at all. My HPS has led several rituals where no ritual tools were used. Implying these tools are mandatory/required to be Wiccan, IMHO, is a misrepresentation of Wicca.

        • As McCollum points out, for other religions, the question is not one of is this absolutely, positively, beyond question necessary? It’s whether a religious accommodation can be granted without compromising security.

          Are you really OK with only allowing Wiccans bare-minimum access, while Christian inmates receive regular services and access to a variety of tools and texts? Have you never found props or ritual tools to be useful in your spiritual formation, your training, or in finding your way to deeper relationship with the gods?

          I love bare bones ritual, myself. But I can tell you that I learned to do terrific, no-props rituals after making use of traditional tools and props for many years. As an elder in my tradition, do I need them? Not so much.

          But do I really want to say that all Wiccan inmates should be held to the standard of an elder in my tradition? Maybe not, on second thought.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            And let’s realize that prisons accommodate a prisoner’s religion out of a core idea that it may help reform them. There is no reason to exclude Pagan religion from that. AFAIK no opponent has said that Pagan gods do not make demands of their worshippers, only (from one side) that they are not Christian gods or (from the other) that people in prison are, well, bad people.

          • dantes

            I think it may not have been as clearly explained in the article as in your post. Thanks for clarifying the situation.

            In that cases, I very much support the idea to give all faith the same amount of support, especially when christianity is as usual been given the best share.

        • Raji the Green Witch

          Kim K, like you I hold the the belief that all you need to practice Wicca is yourself. However I ALSO know that there are many traditions under the umbrella, “Wicca”, all of which have different beliefs, practices, rituals and ceremonies. I ALSO know that Wicca is such that, if you get 10 Wicca into a room, you will discover that there are eleven different sets of beliefs. So while you and I may find it EASY to practice with just a finger, WE do not speak for ALL Wicca and must acknowledge that there are traditions which adhere very tightly to those things that you and I would call the “props” of Wicca. As Cat C-B points out, there are Christians, Muslims and Jews who also do not believe in the “props” of their Faith and there are many who DO. The “system” makes allowances for them and to be just and equitable it should have to make allowances for Wicca who DO hold tightly to their “props”, too.

          • Laura Boccelli

            Do you understand that Wicca is not that old only been around since Alister Crowley and Ramond Buckland wrote on the subject and they changed it to fit what they thought it should be an orggie fest!

          • Raji the Green Witch

            And your point is? EVERY single Religion on Earth has been less than 20 years old at one time or another. The AGE of the Religion is not what makes a Religion valid or invalid.

          • I take it you would have your understanding of Wicca/Witchcraft be definitive? Only those practices which meet with your approval merit Constitutional protections?

            Excuse me if I prefer to side with the secularists on this one, and say your understanding of “legitimate” Witchcraft has very little place in this discussion. How you define your religion is not up to me, or to the justice system. That is true for practitioners of forms of Witchcraft of which you disapprove, too.

          • M.McBrayer

            Wow. You dont read at all!! Alistair Crowley wasnt wiccan. He was a member of the Golden Dawn. Raymond Buckland is a Gardenarian who explains the beliefs from Gerald Gardners point of view. Oh and the fact that they are just a mere 60 years a part and dont share the same beliefs.

    • Irrelevant. It’s not how sympathetic someone is that determines whether or not their basic rights are respected.

      That is, in fact, why we call them “rights,” and not “privileges.”

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        They are privileges, though.

        You do a crime (and get caught and convicted) and the single most important “right” is revoked – the right to freedom.
        Calling for other rights to remain in place is just gilding a cage.

        • dantes

          gilding a cage

          Good word here sir.

        • “I know why the caged bird sings”– Maya Angelou

    • Laura Boccelli

      Rev. McCollum has no clue! Sorry but Wicca is a modern take on an older set of beliefs that have been colored and changed by people like Alister Crowley and Raymond Buckland. To what they felt it should be not what it truly is.

      • dantes

        So, your point is?

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    Hard cases make bad law.

  • The Man

    You know what else is a LOOONG standing tradition? Improvising. He can use moldy bread for cake and toilet water for ale. He has rights to religious freedom, he doesn’t have the right to force society to provide him materials he can very well gather on his own. Do not forget this is a mass murderer. There is no tenet in Wicca that requires we have to forgive and/or tolerate murders, That’s a christian practice. He believes in Karma, then who is anyone to say not getting delicious cakes and ale is part of the Karma he sowed and is now reaping?

    • dantes

      There is no tenet in Wicca that requires we have to forgive and/or tolerate murders

      Amen brother.

      • Happily, we do not live in a theocracy, where Wiccan tenets–or those of any other religion– determine law. I am quite contented, Wiccan or no, that the U.S. Constitution, with its guarantees of freedom of religion, should govern in this case.

        I don’t have to forgive someone or to condone their actions to wish to see their basic rights respected by the state. I would no more like to see my religion determine the rights of prisoners than I would like to see fundamentalist Christianity or Islam making those decisions.

        It’s that separation of church and state thing. This is not a question of what religion has to say about this individual… it is a question about what rights this individual has to practice his religion independently of the state.

        • dantes

          Good point but besides the religion/state thing, would you actually like it no better if Wiccan “tenets” were to be applied rather than other fundamentalist monotheistic ones? Just out of curiosity.

          • I thought I was guilty of hyperbole, when I saw your comment at first, Dante. But some of the comments by witches on this post seem to support that perspective…. I gotta say, I’m not sure I’d be much happier under a Wiccan mullah than a Muslim one.

            Maybe I’ve just known too many Pagans?

          • dantes

            You certainly know more than me so I won’t start blabbering about it.

  • Edward G. Rickey

    If I read the article correctly, he was found guilty of shooting a woman to death and drowning her two children in a bathtub.

    Forgive my reaction, but I am hardly willing to defend the religious rights of this man, when he took his victims rights to live from them.

    I understand the arguments that will be used to justify it, but frankly I don’t understand why this murderer is still drawing breath. I think if the pagan community is going to pick a religious rights cause in prisons, it might be wise to pick a cause that didn’t benefit a murderer of children.

    • Nick Ritter

      “If I read the article correctly, he was found guilty of shooting a woman to death and drowning her two children in a bathtub.”

      As I read it, he raped her, shot her, and drowned her children.

      While I understand the standpoint of those who wish to ensure that the rights of inmates are protected, and while I applaud Rev. McCollum’s efforts, I still cannot bring myself to sympathize with this foul example of humanity at its worst.

  • Wendy Griffin

    While I have absolutely no sympathy for this prisoner, the issue is about the law, not the individual. Under RULUIPA, prisons are required to give requested items to the inmates for religious use unless they would provide a security or safety risk. If we believe in this principle of the law, regardless of the individual or even the religion involved, then we must support the prisoner’s rights. Now how actively we support them is another issue.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      And about whether Wicca is treated the same as other religions.

      • Precisely! It doesn’t matter if the man is as evil as Pol Pot, and it doesn’t matter if my version of Wicca or the next person’s is practical with or without all the “bells and smells.”

        I like how McCollum put it, honestly: “It’s important to remember that all that is necessary to practice Protestant Christianity according to the very definition of Protestant, is the person and a Bible! They do not require Sunday services or Bible classes or a chaplain or minister, or all of the other paraphernalia that they have been given to accommodate them. It is only when Pagans or other minority faiths ask to be accommodated equally, that denials persist.”

        It is the rights of the individual to practice their religion while in the power of the state, and of Wiccans to be placed on an even footing with other religions, that are in question here.

        Those of us who insist on making this about the nature of the crimes committed by LaPlante are in danger of letting our desire for vengeance outpace our wits.

        • Laura Boccelli

          Ok so Cat C-B since wicca is not a organized religion then there are many ways of practices none that require as a necessity of cackes and ale. Or of tools. Many many of the practicing witches, I am a witch not wiccan, most from Salem Ma. Have all said it is an individual thing to use tools or not not a necessity

  • Charles Cosimano

    I wonder if he wanted a cake with a file in it. Or maybe he wants to have his cake and eat it too. This is a ridiculous case.

  • Elishiva

    It’s all about INTENT. If they give him a wax disc he can carve a pentacle, cakes can be any kind of sweet baked good and ale can be koolaid. Flameless candles for fire, a feather can represent air, a rock earth, don’t need an athame, you can use your finger… there are ways to do this and still be able to meet the needs of the inmate so he is able to still honor his belief. Contraband is contraband… I am afraid you lost your right to freedom to have what you want. But there are still ways around getting what you need.

    • I agree, but you are assuming that he can get flameless candles, a feather and a rock. I doubt he would be allowed to obtain and keep any of these.T And, there are no “sweet baked good” items in prison either. Let me put it this way: if Christian prisoners can have communion, why can’t a Wiccan prisoner have cakes and juice? It is a matter of equality.

      • Elishiva

        The point is the prison is reluctant to provide fire and incense and medallions. They can provide flameless candles and feathers and prisons have commissaries where they have cookies. Bottom line, it is about intent. You can hold an entire ritual in your mind. He can make a plea. Just be reasonable. Worse thing he can do though, is act entitled.

  • Damn, that pic of Patrick looks awesomely resolute and powerful!

  • Brenda Volino

    I don’t feel sorry for him. He murdered three people. He shouldn’t be allowed to have anything to practice his religion. Just like I don’t approve of Heathens being allowed to have their stuff when they practice racism and attack people. Wiccans live by a moral code, harm none. I’m a Hellenist and even though I don’t follow the Rede, I believe that prison is a place to be punished. Not to get goodies.

    • The day that basic human rights are only accorded to those we find sympathetic is the day that we cease to recognize basic human rights. Some things–like freedom of conscience and the ability to be in relationship with our gods–are so essential to our humanity that we have chosen, as a people, not to allow the state to grant them or to take them away.

      They are not “goodies.” They are rights. And humans don’t grant them or revoke them for other humans–at least, in the minds of the framers of the Constitution.

      And speaking as a Pagan, the gods are perfectly capable of deciding, all on their very own, who to listen to. They don’t need either you or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to tell someone whether or not a prisoner is entitled to commune with them.

      Prisons are places of punishment, sure. But it’s absolute hubris to consider that your judgement or that of the state should govern in a matter as basic as this. That’s what freedom of religion means.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Word!

      • Northern_Light_27

        A variety of cakes, medallions, teas, herbs, oils… seriously, NONE of those are “goodies” to you? I agree that he has the right to religious practice, but a sensible line needs to be drawn somewhere between “all you need is your mind” and enough crap to outfit a small botanica.

        • dantes

          It’s like if a catholic asked for a 5 foot-tall rood, a golden crown and a piece of the cross in his cell.

          • Northern_Light_27

            I’m reminded of Brevik asking for not just video games (which I have no problem whatsoever with a prisoner having, any more than I have a problem with a prisoner having books) but the latest and greatest in next gen console games. If he has a right to games, he gets a 1st gen Xbox or a PS2 and whatever’s in the dollar bin at GameStop– if he wants GTAV, he should have thought of that before he got his murder on.

          • dantes

            The problem in Norway is that inmates are almost too cuddled. I’m totally for keeping basic human rights in place but when this mass-murderer started whining about the latest consoles I realized how self-entitled people in this country can sometimes be.

  • gypsy269

    well,,im confused,,they are arguing about the CAKES???? Cause i figure the CANDLES WOULD BE A BIGGER PROBLEM!!!

  • Bruce

    Did anybody bother to read the last paragraph?

  • Keith Campbell

    While I have approximately zero sympathy for the individual in question, and I am nevertheless strongly in favor of minority religions in prison being accommodated to the same degree that majority religions are, I gotta say, the question at the top of my mind here is:

    Why does he need so damned many different kinds of cake?

    Followed quickly by: if you have interpreted “cakes and wine” as dessert pastry baked from batter, like a birthday cake, you are Doin’ It Wrong. Back to 101 class with you. (Not that he would likely be faring any better if he asked for oats and honey and salt, but at least the request would make a little more sense. 🙂

  • AndrasArthen

    Freedom of religion is one thing; claiming freedom of religion as an
    excuse to make exaggerated and unreasonable demands is quite another.
    It’s interesting to read the comments made by Wiccans and pagans in the
    Boston Magazine article regarding this matter, and to note the many
    complaints to the effect that LaPlante is making a mockery of their
    religion:
    http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2013/05/14/wiccan-rituals-daniel-laplante-lawsuit/

    LaPlante’s
    rape and murder of Patricia Gustafson, and the drowning of her two
    small children, was a particularly savage act for which he showed no
    remorse, and it is still widely remembered around these parts. LaPlante
    was sentenced to three consecutive life terms without parole, but he is
    trying to avail himself of last year’s Supreme Judicial Court ruling
    which retroactively rescinded life sentences without parole for
    juveniles. It wouldn’t surprise me if all of this was nothing more than a
    bit of grandstanding on his part, in the hope of finally gaining parole.

  • WytchFawn

    Just give the man a biscuit! Jeez!

  • Laura Boccelli

    Ok now this is bullshit, cakes & Ale are not that old of a tradition people! The modern wiccan is not an old revived religion! Wicca is new in the past 90 years only! Get this crap out of the courts! Wast of time and money. If you committed a crime like murder you should not have any rights! You take away another’s right to live what gives you the right to bring a lawsuit against anyone? This guy the Rev. McCollum needs to do more research before he speaks!

    • “This guy the Rev. McCollum”?

      And we’re all quite well aware that Wicca is a new religion. (Capitalize it, please; that’s the correct usage for the name of a religious group.)

      Laura, are you new to Paganism, or an outsider simply here to troll? Now, “new” is hardly an insult–as a Wiccan, I’ll be the first to attest to that.
      But it’s pretty clear you’re not especially well-informed about us. Perhaps you, too, could benefit from a little more research before weighing in on questions about Pagan religion, or the movement to protect our religious liberty.

    • Rhoanna

      “If you committed a crime like murder you should not have any rights!”

      Fortunately, that’s not what the law is.

  • Natala Ravenfeather

    As a pagan I will say this: When you break the law all freedoms are stripped away. Especially in the case of murder. The gods and goddesses are not going to look down favourably on this man for his crimes. More than likely most have turned their back on him.

    It is my personal opinion that when you break the law to the extend you wind up in jail or prison you have given up the right to freedom!