A Disruptive and Inconvenient Realization

Samhain is a time to let go of the things that no longer serve us. It’s a moment when we look back on the year, perhaps even the over-arching patterns of our lives, and we reevaluate. We ask ourselves what needs to be burned in the fire in order for us to move forward with a clean conscience and a clear mind. Then, often quite literally, we write that thing down on a slip of paper and we set it ablaze. This year at Samhain I’m coming to terms with the realization that Paganism, itself, does not serve me in the way that I thought it did.

Following Up With The Christo-Pagans, Buddhist-Wiccans, and Catholic-Protestants

The News Tribune checks back in with McNeil Island Prison after a court decision in January gave prisoners the right to claim adherence to multiple faiths.”Inmates across the state won the right to declare multiple faiths after an inmate who was both an American Indian practitioner and a Seventh-day Adventist sued, arguing that the Department of Corrections was illegally restrictive. The rule change prompted Tom Suss, McNeil’s longtime chaplain, to resign. Suss, a Catholic priest in addition to a state employee, said his job would have forced him to go against his beliefs in working with inmates he thought were espousing contradictory combinations – such as being Catholic and pagan simultaneously.”I covered the histrionics of former chaplain Tom Suss, who heavily implied that the new policy would endanger the sanctity of his faith, and leave chaplains open to spiteful litigation if they didn’t compromise their beliefs (rhetoric reached a point where special legislation was drafted to “protect” clergy from having to minister to multiple-faith adherents). The reality, several months on, seems to be that prisoners are using the freedom of multiple adherence to more fully practice their preferred faith or reflect the religious reality of their lives before incarceration.Interview with Mark Misiak, Buddhist/Wiccan“They say, ‘You never did it out on the streets, so why do it in here?’” said [Arlen] Lopez, who is scheduled to be released in 2012. “Out on the street, I went to Catholic services and I (also) went to Christian services with my cousin.”While some have raised alarms that prisoners will “game the system” by claiming multiple faiths, prisoners see the situation as a solution to longstanding problems with the way issues of adherence and religious observances were handled.”Inmate Maceo “Mace” Wiles, 31, said some people will always try to game any system.

Update: Can You Be a Christo-Pagan in Prison?

Back in January, I blogged about a new policy within the Washington Department of Corrections that altered its stance regarding a prisoner’s adherence to multiple faiths. Before, a prisoner had to get permission from each faith in order to declare adherence to multiple belief systems, but after a recent lawsuit this hurdle was removed, and now only a simple form needs to be filled out. This allowed for “Christo-Pagans” (specifically an Asatru-Catholic) to exist, and caused the head chaplain of McNeil Island prison, Catholic priest Tom Suss, to take a leave of absence in protest.”Common sense says you cannot be a pagan Christian,” [Rev. Tom Suss] said. “As a state chaplain, I must endorse state policy. I have to be willing to endorse this inmate’s freedom to be both religions at the same time, but my own convictions being a Catholic priest don’t allow for a Catholic to be a pagan at the same time …

Updates on Recent Stories

The Theological Necessity of Goats: A Santeria priest who challenged the animal slaughter laws in Forth Worth, Texas has lost his lawsuit against the city.”At the end of the one-day trial, U.S. District Judge John McBryde said Euless was protecting the public’s health by banning animal slaughtering in the city limits but that Merced could do the rituals elsewhere … Euless officials said they were pleased with the judge’s ruling, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on Monday. “Public health is one of the most compelling interests that cities protect,” said Mick McKamie, the city’s attorney for the case.”Of course, their appeal to public health is completely arbitrary since the city does allow citizens to slaughter chickens in their homes. An animal just as capable of transmitting pathogens as a goat. Jose Merced is currently considering an appeal to the ruling.Even Intolerant Fools Deserve Free Speech: Repent America founder Michael Marcavage has been found guilty of disorderly conduct by a judge in Salem.

Around the Blogosphere

Some great Pagan and Pagan-friendly content has been popping up lately in the blogosphere, so I thought I would take some time to highlight some posts that I found particularly interesting.To start off, Mollie at Get Religion takes a look at recent press coverage concerning the entheogenic plant ayahuasca, and the surge in popularity of shamanistic therapy sessions among upper-class suburbanites in Southern California.”Piccalo explains that ayahuasca, meaning “vine of the soul” has been used for hundreds of years or more by tribes in Central and South America. In countries where it is legal, pilgrims flock to ceremonies. She notes that Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs introduced the plant concoction to pop culture in the 1960s but that it has remained a largely underground phenomenon – until now. A community shepherded by shamans is emerging in the United States … Unfortunately, the religious component of ayahuasca isn’t really explored.