A coalition of national Pagan and Nature-centered religious organizations has released a letter calling for religious freedom in a California court case. The case, which has attracted national attention, is being waged over whether the state should hire prison chaplains from outside five “state approved” faiths: Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Native American.

In an amicus brief, the conservative Christian group Wallbuilders, Inc. called on the courts to reject the case of Rev. Patrick McCollum, a Pagan chaplain, arguing that Paganism is a “second tier” religion and therefore not subject to the protections of the First Amendment.

Our Freedom: A National Pagan Civil Rights Organization rejects the state’s claims in general and the Wallbuilders Inc. amicus in particular. Our Freedom states that Pagan inmates have requirements and needs comparable to those of the five faiths currently being served. Our Freedom stands in the promise of our nation’s Constitution and its guarantee of religious freedom.

Included in Pagan inmates’ needs are: access to paid Pagan chaplains to facilitate regularly scheduled religious services, provision of spiritual guidance and counseling support; facilitation of Pagan rites of passage and liturgical needs; and service as intermediaries between Pagan inmates and correctional administrators and staff to educate about Pagan religious needs or requirements of Pagans.

“We want to see the state of California continue to move forward into a system which is inclusive of religious belief and honors our country’s Constitution,” said The Rev. Jerrie Hildebrand, a spokesperson for Our Freedom who co-signed the letter on behalf of Circle Sanctuary and Lady Liberty League. “We strongly support Rev. McCollum in his case. As organizational leaders of Pagan religious communities, we stand for all Americans having equal access to the religion of their choice and that they are honored with the dignity and respect that our country’s founders showed in crafting the First Amendment.”

For the full text of the press release and the letter, please seehttp://www.ourfreedomcoalition.org/projects/letter_mccollum.html