Monday, May 12, 2008

Pagan Prisoners' Rights Addressed in the UK

You’ll recall from my earlier blogs that a civil rights commission was reviewing policies on religion in prisons and well-known prison chaplain Patrick McCollum appeared before that commission to testify on the treatment of Pagan prisoners.

Well, we haven’t heard much about that after it happened, but the UK seems to be a step ahead of us. Under advisement of the Pagan Federation (and I’m sure other groups as well), they have revised their rules to require and allow certain religious paraphenelia. The Pagans gave a little to get a little of course as Jenny Percival of the Westminster Editor reports “the Pagans have decided to tone down what are seen as the more exotic and striking forms of their worship and ritual, such as carrying flaming torches.” which makes perfect sense to me. While prisoners still can’t have athames or swords (a decision I heartily agree with!) Pagan prisoners will be allowed to collect and decorate wands and Muslim prisoners will have prayer mats.

Not everyone is thrilled about this new development and there have been more than a few disrespectful remarks. But this gives me an opportunity to point out good, unbiased reporting versus bad, biased reporting.

First, take a look at this article–

Some negative comments were recorded. Word Pagan is capitalized, putting it on equal footing with other religions, such as Christianity and Islam, which are always capitalized and the article is forthright and to the point. Nice.

Now, take a look at this one.
Paganism is not capitalized and check it out; no Pagans were interviewed in the creation of this article. Only the detractors.
Take a look at the starting sentance of each article. They’re almost identical but…
The first one says: “Prison officers have been ordered to allow Pagan prisoners to take twigs into their cells to use as magic wands.”
And the second one says: ” Prison bosses have been instructed to let pagan inmates keep twigs in their cells…to use as wands.”

What a difference capitalization and a couple of dotdotdots make. Kudos to Jenny Percival. James

Slack on the other hand… is a slacker.

I don’t think I’d want a wand if I were in prison. Not that I plan to go. I just don’t ever use a wand. I can understand why incense and candles would be a problem and I probably wouldn’t get those. I think I’d want a cauldron with water and sea salt. I think that’s the only thing I’d really need (if I couldn’t have candles). Except maybe on Beltane. Then I’d need a wand… and my Priest.