Quick Note: Legal Commentary on McCollum Ruling

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As the recent Ninth Circuit Court decision in Patrick McCollum’s case against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reverberates through our community, those familiar with the law (and “legalese”) are weighing in. Yesterday I quickly pointed out Rhett Aultman’s commentary on the McCollum decision, in which he explains why he thinks the decision was sound and what steps we should be taking from this point. I’d also like to point my readers to the comments made at this site by Alley Valkyrie, a paralegal who works for a lawyer that specializes in federal civil rights litigation. She also thinks the ruling on standing was appropriate. Now, fellow Pagan blogger Hecate, herself a lawyer, gives a clear breakdown of what the ruling is, and where McCollum, his legal team, and the larger Pagan community (and its allies) should go from here.

“Judge Schroeder sets out a clear path that shows how to build a successful case. Pagans need to request visits from Pagan chaplains (in hospital, when they are concerned about their family members, before appeals and other trials, etc.) and document that they get denied because their chaplains are not “regular paid chaplains.” They’ll probably also have to accept a visit from, say, a Catholic priest who counsels them about the evils of Witchcraft and then show why that didn’t work for them. And then, with the help of McCollum, those willing to raise funds and do magic, etc., they’ll have to pursue their claims in a timely manner.

This is the work of a number of years. It’s not nearly as likely to sustain long-term Pagan interest as, say, a run at SCOTUS, which, as I’ve noted above, is, at best, a pipe dream and, at worst, a way to have this loss turned into a complete and total loss. But it’s how civil rights have always been won. Thurgood Marshall laid out a long-term, multi-year, incremental route to Brown v. Board of Education. And he won.”

I know I say “read the whole thing” a lot when I link to essays, but here I really, really, mean it. I encourage everyone, especially my fellow Pagans who produce media, to start from the top and work your way down. The issue of standing vs arguing the actual case has tripped up a few commentators around the web, and if we’re going to have  a productive discussion on this issue we need to be clear what was actually decided here, and what our options are going forward.

As this goes forward, I’m hoping to get commentary from Patrick McCollum once he’s back in the country, and ideally from someone on Patrick’s legal team so they can share their opinions and analysis of the ruling. I’ve been covering this story for years now, I plan to continue covering it in the future. We have to collectively keep our eyes on the prize here, and not forget about the rights of Pagan prisoners if a high-profile SCOTUS appeal doesn’t happen. I’d like to thank Hecate, Rhett, and Alley for lending their expertise toward helping us grasp this decision, and what the options are going forward.