Hindu American Foundation Honors Patrick McCollum

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Last night the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) awarded Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum the Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Advancement of Religious Pluralism at their 7th annual Capitol Hill Reception. McCollum, a long-time activist for the rights of minority religions, has worked with Hindu organizations and individuals for several years in his quest to obtain equal treatment for religious minorities in the United States prison system. HAF recently supported McCollum in the ongoing court battle with the state of California over their discriminatory “five faiths” policy.

Patrick being presented the award by Suhag Shukla. Photo courtesy of the Lady Liberty League.

Previous recipients of the Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Advancement of Religious Pluralism include the Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United, Right Reverend J. Jon Bruno, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, and Preeta Bansal, Commissioner, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Holli Emore, Executive Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, who attended the ceremony, had this to say about the event.

“The Hindu American Foundation articulates with refreshing clarity the vital importance of religious pluralism. The skill with which they have reached across the proverbial political aisle, in several directions, should be an inspiration and example to Pagan activists. We do, after all, share the HAF “ideals of understanding, tolerance and pluralism.” The budding relationship between HAF and Pagan leaders like Rev. Patrick McCollum holds significant potential.”

This is, needless to say, a great honor. One that hopefully signals a new era of cooperation, sharing, and solidarity between American Hindus and modern Pagans. Below, I’ve included the full press release sent out by Circle Sanctuary shortly after the ceremony ended.

Patrick McCollum & Selena Fox. Photo courtesy of the Lady Liberty League.

On Tuesday, September 14, 2010, Wiccan minister Rev Patrick McCollum received the Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Advancement of Religious Pluralism from the Hindu American Foundation (HAF). The award was presented during the seventh annual Capitol Hill reception sponsored by HAF. This year’s reception was held in the Gold Room of the US Congress Rayburn Building.

Patrick was one of four award recipients. Neal Katyal, acting Solicitor General of the United States received the Pride of Community Award. Community activist Shal Agarwal received the Dharma Seva Award. US Congressman Edward R. Royce (Republican, Orange, California) received the Friend of the Community Award.

“Patrick is not only the first Pagan to receive this award, but the first Pagan to receive an international interfaith advancement award. This is an important milestone in Pagan interfaith relations,” said Rev. Selena Fox, Senior Minister, Circle Sanctuary. “I am glad that Patrick and his work to build bridges of understanding and collaboration among those of many faiths was honored.”

In his remarks upon receiving the award, Patrick expressed appreciation for this recognition, and also spoke about the importance of respecting diversity and sacredness of human beings. “We are all part of the human family and we must learn to respect each other and live in harmony.”

About 150 attended the reception, including Hindu American Foundation members, Americans United for Separation of Church and State staff, and several US Congressmen and Congressional staffers. Also among those attending this interfaith reception were Pagans from the Patrick McCollum Foundation, the Lady Liberty League, Cherry Hill Seminary, and Circle Sanctuary.

Patrick’s international interfaith work also will be honored during the Lady Liberty League 25th Anniversary Reception taking place in Washington, DC on Wednesday, September 15, from 7-9 pm EDT. Selena, Patrick, and a variety of Pagan and interfaith leaders will be speaking. Reception is free and open to the public. More details are on-line: www.circlesanctuary.org/liberty. A video of the reception will be streamed live on the internet – tune in!

Maggie Beaumont, CHS Dean of Students, Patrick McCollum, Holli Emore, & Selena Fox.

As the press release mentions, tonight McCollum will be honored at the Lady Liberty League 25th Anniversary Reception, also in Washington DC. David Salisbury from the Pagan Newswire Collective’s Washington DC bureau will be there to cover the event, so stay tuned to their web site for more information. I’ll be posting more about this award, and tonight’s ceremony, as the information comes to me. Congratulations to Patrick McCollum!