Patrick McCollum Not Pursuing Supreme Court Appeal, Shepherding New Rights Cases

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Last night on the PagansTonight show special guest Patrick McCollum, a noted chaplain and activist within the Pagan community, announced that he would not be pursuing a Supreme Court appeal to a recent 9th Circuit Court ruling that upheld a lower court decision stating he doesn’t have standing to challenge California’s discriminatory “five faiths” policy. This policy limits the hiring of paid chaplains to Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Native American adherents.

Patrick McCollum on the cover of Witches & Pagans.

Patrick McCollum on the cover of Witches & Pagans.

“I have decided not to go to the Supreme Court. My primary reason for deciding not to go to the Supreme Court is that there would only be two issues the court would allow us to bring forward out of the whole case. The one issue is not if we [Pagans?] have rights, but do inmates generally have religious rights. So if I went and I lost I would take away the religious rights of every inmate in every correctional institutuion […] but if I won all I would get is that we had rights, but I would not win our case.”

Instead of going forward in challenging the 9th Circuit Court decision, McCollum has been nurturing new cases brought by Pagan inmates that would also challenge the California chaplaincy policy. According to McCollum, one of those cases is now before the 9th Circuit, with more waiting in the wings if necessary.

“I’m currently in a place where if an inmate brought a case, my case could go forward […] I saw this coming down the pike, and so I have helped inmates bring forward cases that meet the criteria to make it so my case is viable and valid […] I’ve managed to keep those cases under the radar and the first of those cases his the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last week. […] If the court rules that those inmates who are on that case do have a right to a chaplain then I can walk right back into the court and forget the ruling made by the 9th Circuit or anybody else.”

McCollum also noted that Jones Day, the law firm that has been representing his case, has agreed to not only continue working his case pro bono, but has also committed itself to represent all these other cases that could result in clearing the way for Pagan chaplains (and by extension, other minority faith chaplains). You can listen to the entire PagansTonight interview, here.

I’d like to thank the PagansTonight crew for bringing this vital update to the Pagan community, and Patrick McCollum for his tireless service on this important issue. This seems like a very hopeful move forward from the disappointing 9th Circuit decision. For more background on this case, here are some highlights from my coverage.

In addition, the latest issue of Witches & Pagans (pictured above), available in print or as a digital download, has a nice summary of the case, and an interview with Patrick McCollum regarding it, and his work.