Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Wake Up Virginia, It's Santa Claus (And Thor Too)

Virginia is the only state with a privately run chapel service in their prisons. This is why it comes as no surprise that the prison system discriminates liberally against those with non mainstream religions. In early June, it was reported that a federal case will go forward in Virginia brought by a prisoner of the ancient Nordic religion persuasion.

Virginia officials may have violated the constitutional and statutory rights of an inmate when they denied him access to “Thor’s Hammer” — a religious pendant of central significance for his Asatru faith — a federal judge recently ruled.

Inmate Forest Fisher sued the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) and various prison officials after they denied his request for Thor’s Hammer, while allowing inmates of other religions to wear various medallions. Fisher, who proceeded pro se — without an attorney — contended that these actions violated his First Amendment to freely exercise his religious faith, the federal law known as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act

A local weekly paper in Asheville, North Carolina is reporting further progress.
The Virginia Department of Corrections told the High Priest and Priestess of the Asheville Coven that prisoners now can use tarot cards.

The penal system in Virginia employed creative methods in the past to ban tarot cards. They said they could be used for gambling, even though they allowed poker cards into the prison. They would run up red tape, and delay as much as they could, before denying the right for people to practice their religion.

I am not a Wiccan. My faith in the Flying Spaghetti Monster has also been brought into question. What I do believe in is a level playing field. A good way to prevent fundamentalism from being imposed upon all, is to allow everybody a place at the table. You believe in Thor, Zeus, Apollo, Voodoo, you get the same access as the Christians.

Virginia is a great place to start. The Albemarle School District allowed Christian groups to send flyers advertising their wares and worship in public school children's backpacks. A camp run for atheists requested the same access. They were given that right, but in "civil disobedience" many of the teachers and schools refused to give equal treatment to the "disgusting" flyers.

These people don't want freedom of religion. They want freedom to promote whatever the hell Pat Robertson's spewing about on the 700 Club today.

Flying Spaghetti Monster statue in the central square of town stat.