Saturday, 6 October 2012

Bothered by Part-Time Wiccan Chaplains? Easy Solution: Fire All Part-Time Chaplains!

Wiccan Priestess
Kate Hansen (image source)
Halloween's coming up soon so it's very apropos to post about witches.  Here's a post that includes a real witch - aka Wiccan.

Rest assured that there is nothing supernatural here, just our current quasi-theocratic government propping up Christianity at the expense of other religions (and potentially non-religions) under the guise of budgetary cuts.

Sounds scary, huh?  Happy Halloween!

The basic backstory is laid out pretty well in this article by one of my least favourite news publications: Minority religion prison clergy cut as part time contracts end

Basically the Federal Government has cut all funding to part-time prison chaplains working in federal prisons.  Being an Atheist, I should be really jubilant about this, but there is a twist here. Something that gets my secularist goat.

Full-time chaplains who remain will be expected to provide spiritual guidance to inmates of all faiths. 

Okay, maybe the sheer theocratic folly of this hasen't sunk in yet.  Here's some more.

Kate Hansen, a Wiccan priestess who has been serving inmates in B.C. for six years, said Thursday night she was dismayed by the decision. 
“I’m disturbed that the government believes that all these minority faith people can be dealt with by Christian chaplains,” she said. “I don’t know where they’ll get all the minority faith volunteers from. I don’t know how they’ll make that work.
Drawing down the Moon.
That's right!  Christian chaplains are expected to start summoning the spirits of the four quarters, draw the circles, dip the athames and maybe even draw down the moon!  I'm sorry, you want Wicca?  We only have Christian.  I'm sorry, you want Secular Humanists?  Why not open your heart to Jesus?

It gets more fishy than that.  Columnist Stephen Maher digs a little deeper in his article Giving thanks for religious freedom (except for Wiccans)

You see, last month Corrections Canada recognized they had inmates of minority faiths and put out the call for part-time Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh and Wiccan chaplains.  These would be paid positions.

The Canadian Press jumped on this and ran a series of light-hearted pieces about how witches would be casting spells and drawing magick circles in the prisons.

It took Public Safety Minister Vic Toews just an hour to respond, declaring that the government would review the decision to hire a witch to work in prisons. 
On Thursday, Toews told CBC that he would get rid of all 49 part-time chaplains in Canadian prisons, 18 of whom are non-Christian. All but one of the remaining full-time chaplains are Christians, which means that the federal government will now pay for the spiritual care of Christians, while other faiths will have to rely on volunteers. 
Heaven forbid, though, that anyone think that the government is supporting Christianity.

Well it just so happens that all the remaining chaplains are Christian.  Sorry Sikhs.  Sorry Jews.  Sorry Wiccans.  But since the government can promote one religion over another, don't fret.  We'll just have the Christian chaplains do your little religion thing with you.  Shocking yet not surprising really.

Maher sums it up well:
Hard to imagine a Catholic priest presiding over a ceremony involving a pentacle, isn’t it?

Finally Maher echoes my concerns about the proposed Office of Religious Freedom.  How can a government with such a bad track record defending basic human rights of free expression and speech possibly be trusted to create an office to promote religious freedom?  Which religion(s) will they protect?  Obviously not Wicca.  Obviously not the irreligious either.
In the election campaign last year, the Conservatives announced that they would set up a $5-million Office of Religious Freedom, an admirable idea that might do a lot to help vulnerable people far away. 
When the government held consultations last year, though, the official list of speakers included representatives of the Christian, Jewish and Bahai faiths, but not Muslims or Wiccans, minority groups that face obstacles to acceptance here in Canada. 
If we are to go around lecturing people in far-off countries about respecting their religious minorities, we ought to start by making sure that we respect our own, especially when we find it difficult to do so.
If I go to prison will I ever again 
be able to feel Its Noodly 
I'm not sure how I feel about public funding of prison chaplains.  But I know how I feel about the public funding of the promotion of a single preferred religion in our prisons.  This is obviously a government that is hostile to all religions but their own.  Classic Theocracy.

And for us Atheists and Agnostics?  Forget about it.  We don't count for anything.

I don't think I quite see eye-to-eye with Stephen when it comes to respecting own own religious minorities.  But when the government starts effectively promoting one religion over another the secularist in my screams, 'We will not have this theocracy in this country!'


  1. Wonderful.... Maybe they should switch to volunteer chaplains like the US does for prisons, police departments, etc. i have an idea, maybe you should apply to be a chaplain for the church of the FSM just to challenge their decision to only leave Christian chaplains. :)

  2. Btw, if you ever need help with promoting the blog, try getting involved with reddit, it works wonders for my blog...

  3. Yes, perhaps the real take-home message here is if they cannot apparently pay for all the different faiths in the prisons then they should pay for none and they should all be volunteer based.

  4. I have put up the occasional post on Reddit but I've often questioned if people really are reading the stuff. And I am afraid they'll kick me out for too much self promotion.

  5. They haven't hit me with penalties or angry response just yet, but I only post once or twice a week, I probably stay under the mod's radar...

  6. Yeah. I shall choose my Reddits cautiously.


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