The following article was waiting in my mailbox this morning, & I think it illustrates 2 important points. First, that there is a serious need for pagan prison chaplains, both to help inmates in their spiritual growth, & to provide a legitimate source of information regarding pagan faiths for the judicial & prison systems. Second, it shows why the current "It's ok to believe whatever you want, & call it whatever you want, regardless of the facts" trend is just plain wrong.
If you take the time to read the comments, you'll quickly see that it's not just a matter of the system not allowing pagans to be chaplains. There is a serious lack of pagans - of all faiths - who are willing to volunteer their time & help out. We can't blame the system for not letting us in if we never show up in the first place.
I`ve done time in the south and a little less then halfway through I converted to wicca, in a year later i taught the class for just short of 2 1/2 years before maxing out. this is the bible belt where they don`t care about your religious beliefs ouitside of christianity. in thier eyes your just going to hell anyway .
i had been a christian for over 35 years during this time and having been a part of the prison church groups kept me in good graces only as a responsible inmate who did what the system wanted . the SYSTEM is geared for voluteers, but the harrassment of nonchristians is sad. it takes paitence, to strip down run through a metal detector , inspection of items brought in ,ect. most people don`t want the hassles .
as far as being a chaplian inside the system you have to have a masters degree. and no you don`t have to have any special classes, or knowledge of the other faiths such as what is required in the military .
as far as this guy changing his name . federal law prohibits any name changes for any reason by a felon. also i would be concerned about his motives ... alot of bullshit artist in prison , and this dude might have other issues also , nutjob ! plus another factor is there are men and women fighting different case laws that are legit . then there are the people with time who clog the system with bullshit issues .
Once you get past the background checks, the daily searches, having to have all ritual items made of easily breakable hobby wood and acrylic ($$$) and providing all the paperwork for the group inside, you have the ongoing harassment of "the chaplain center lost your paperwork" nonsense so you can't get in after all. It is mind-numbing, exhausting and soul-crushing. And that's not even dealing with the ongoing issues you're going to have from your group inside. Folks who want pewter statuary with sharp pointy bits, incense, etc. because they are more focused on the stuff than the spirituality.
YMMV, of course.
Sounds like a lot of work, what were the rewards?
Depends on the person. Some people are in it for the "glory" whatever that is for them, savior complexes, etc. Some people believe they are called to do it by their Gods. Others are genuinely called to service the pagan community. Some organizations require a certain amount of community service as a part of their membership or priesthood training requirements, so folks come into pagan ministry as part of their membership or training, some stick with it, others try it on for size and leave when they have their time in. Etc, etc., etc.
We found there was a certain number of the inmates in the pagan group were doing it to either rebel, get attention, or get incense since their cells smell bad. They rarely joined us for ritual, but they certainly liked to come for the feasts on sabbats. (That is, if the chaplain staff didn't lose our paperwork!)
Since most groups do not allow inmates to lead groups inside, you often have some interesting power issues from folks who consider themselves leaders, anyway.
And of course, you also have the information gatherers - those looking to make contacts to see if the pagan leaders can find them places to stay, which is required by many prisons so the inmate can be released. That's absolutely not allowed for those visiting as clergy in the prisons here. I have no idea about other DOCs.
And the last group, those who mistakenly believe we're going to buy them statuary, ritual tools, etc. for their jail cells. *eye roll*
Second, it shows why the current "It's ok to believe whatever you want, & call it whatever you want, regardless of the facts" trend is just plain wrong.
How does it demonstrate this specifically?
Yesterday Charles Jaynes, convicted in 1997 of participating in the abduction, molestation, and murder of 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley, went before a judge in a Brockton, Massachusetts District Court to petition for a name change. The man who would be named “Manasseh Invictus Auric Thutmose V” seeks to abandon his “old human name” as it is “religiously offensive” to his claimed Wiccan faith. He further elaborated that this name came from “God” after his conversion experience.
Sounds like a Good-guy badge to me. (Especially the under-lined portion)
He's seeking to have his name changed legally, while it's not a requirement by any form of Wicca, it doesn't mean he can't seek the change as part of his own spiritual transformation.
“I can’t hide from my crime,” Jaynes said. “I wake up in prison, I see my crime every day. I don’t seek to minimize my crime. I’m growing spiritually.”
Robert Curley, the father of Jeffrey Curley, opposes the change, pointing out that Jaynes used multiple aliases to commit crimes while he was free, and that the change could muddy the waters down the line when Jaynes is eligible for parole. Curley was joined in his protest by a local couple and Curley’s lawyer, Michael Chinman. Meanwhile, the Covenant of the Goddess, one of the oldest and largest Wiccan and Witchcraft organizations, sent out a press release restating that Wicca does not demand chang..., and that Jayne’s actions do not represent their religion.
It's a valid concern to speak out against his seeking of a legal name change. This directly addresses inmate Rights. He can request the name-change legally, it doesn't mean he'll be granted the privilege.
And WHY did this Wiccan organization feel compelled to send out a Press Release? What do Jayne's actions have to do with 'THEIR' religion?
As we stated in August 2012, “The Covenant of the Goddess, a public not-for-profit 501c3 organization representing Witches and Wiccans for 37 years, in no way views the actions of Charles Jaynes, as being even remotely related to the religion that we recognize as Wicca. Nor do we, as a religion, have any tenet that mandates a legal change of name for any reason. Though it is a common Wiccan practice to take a second name in accordance with spiritual beliefs, it would be considered very unusual to do so legally; as these names are very personal to the individual and unlikely to be shared outside of a select few.”
Sounds like moral compass pointing to me. They sound like opportunists. A Legal Name Change is not a requirement, but it may be sought by initiates into any transformation. People request legal name changes for many reasons.
Witnessing this controversy, I am immediately pulled back to my experience at the American Academy of Religion’s Annual Meeting where I watched a special forum on the Pew Forum’s Religion in Prisons survey. As I mentioned before, this survey noted the overwhelmingly Protestant (and theologically conservative) Christian nature of prison chaplaincy, and how lacking in resources Pagan inmates (and other religious minorities) are. Further, because of the overwhelmingly Christian nature of prison chaplaincy, most Pagan inmates are self-made and often undirected in their spirituality. This is not so troublesome a phenomenon in the outside world, where solitary practitioners can freely interact with like-minded individuals and teachers, but it can spawn variations of “Wicca” or “Paganism” that have little relation to how the our faiths are actually practiced by the majority of adherents.
Recognized 'clergy' is another matter. Each state has their own requirements and I see many reports of butthurt pagans that do not get the clergy docs they seek because they don't do enough research or meet the requirements. Volunteering their time is another matter. Perhaps they don't volunteer because they don't see Inmates worthy of their services.
Had there been a Pagan or Wiccan chaplain for Jaynes to consult, or at least a chaplain well-versed in serving minority religions within a prison populations, he or she might have told him that legal name changes aren’t a requirement of the Wiccan faith, or that most forms of Wicca are either duotheistic (worshipping/acknowledging a God and Goddess) or polytheistic (worshipping many gods) as opposed to his rather Judeo-Christian conception of what Wicca is (referring to his Charles Jaynes as his “heathen” name, and referring to God as his “father”). Further, such a chaplain could have been called to testify in regards to this matter, and give accurate information about the religion Jaynes claims to have converted to.
This is positioning a Clergy person to have a more powerful position than the inmate himself.
I’m not here to judge the sincerity of Jaynes religious beliefs, only pointing out that they seem to differ wildly from my extensive experience interacting with, and being a part of, modern religious Witchcraft. The judge said she would make a decision in the next 30 days, and I have no doubt that it will be based on constitutional merits and existing precedents, but I can only think this entire matter would have been clearer had there been a better, more effective, chaplaincy for prisoners outside the Christian paradigm. Our correctional system needs to support minority faith chaplaincy, not only to give prisoners spiritual support while incarcerated, but to make sure our traditions aren’t distorted in the void created by a solely Protestant chaplaincy body. Perhaps some of this trauma for Jaynes victims could have been avoided had there been more robust spiritual instruction for would-be Pagan prisoners.
Sure honey, sure. Nevermind that people who position themselves as 'Clergy' are really no better (in most cases) than traditional clergy parroting out dogma and doctrine. An organic form of Spirituality is just as valid as those that have a firm set of beliefs and practices that adherents should follow.
I call bullshit on this whole article, really I do.
If clergy folks wanted to volunteer in prisons they would, period. I didn't need anyone to put a gun to my head to participate in the pagan pen-pal program for over a decade.
I do not see why we cannot have Pagan or Wiccan Chaplains in Prisons. But:
What kind of person should represent us?
How much book training should they have?
Should they be versed and adept at ritual?
Should they also have an academic background - a Degree in Theology - in addition to experience as a Pagan Priest?
If you were an incarcerated Druid, would you be happy having religious instruction and help from a Gardnerian, Dianic, or Priest of an Egyptian deity? Or even a Voodoo Mambo?
Should our Prison Priest/ Priestess also have legal experience or qualifications?
As Pagans are so diverse in belief we have to reach agreement before anyone can seriously represent us in prison. This goes much deeper than the above issue touches on.
Books aren't training. Books are information.
Yes, you are correct. I should have said 'Practical Training' instead. What do you think about the other questions?
Generally speaking, you need someone well-trained in running group rituals and in group dynamics. We simply don't have a lot of folks with that background in the neo-pagan community who can meet the DOC requirements, wants to do the job and can meet the scheduling requirements, as well.
I know a few folks in BTW (British Tradition Wicca) who are involved in pagan prison ministry, but its fairly rare given the Proper Person requirement, though I do know of a Myjestic who is also in Asatru, so she can serve both communities, witches and Neo-Pagans, too. Which basically proves that what we really need are generalists, not specialists.
As far as academic backgrounds go, I'd honestly rather see someone with degrees in Psychology, Social Work, Sociology, Criminal Justice, etc. going in as clergy. People who understand the specific needs of the inmate congregation. We learn our spirituality on our own time, frankly. And there's too few seminary programs of any real validity in Neo-Paganism at present.
At the end of the day, of course, a mentor who has been involved in pagan prison ministry - be it in real life or people you can bounce ideas and problems around with is absolutely essential. How to write appropriate rituals for a population of various backgrounds, various knowledge bases, how to put together a ritual team, etc.
Hi Again Noe,
I totally agree with you. Now all we need to do is find a dozen or so, such people there and in the UK.