Patrick McCollum Not Pursuing Supreme Court Appeal, Shepherding New Rights Cases

Last night on the PagansTonight show special guest Patrick McCollum, a noted chaplain and activist within the Pagan community, announced that he would not be pursuing a Supreme Court appeal to a recent 9th Circuit Court ruling that upheld a lower court decision stating he doesn’t have standing to challenge California’s discriminatory “five faiths” policy. This policy limits the hiring of paid chaplains to Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Native American adherents.

Patrick McCollum on the cover of Witches & Pagans.

“I have decided not to go to the Supreme Court. My primary reason for deciding not to go to the Supreme Court is that there would only be two issues the court would allow us to bring forward out of the whole case. The one issue is not if we [Pagans?] have rights, but do inmates generally have religious rights. So if I went and I lost I would take away the religious rights of every inmate in every correctional institutuion […] but if I won all I would get is that we had rights, but I would not win our case.”

Instead of going forward in challenging the 9th Circuit Court decision, McCollum has been nurturing new cases brought by Pagan inmates that would also challenge the California chaplaincy policy. According to McCollum, one of those cases is now before the 9th Circuit, with more waiting in the wings if necessary.

“I’m currently in a place where if an inmate brought a case, my case could go forward […] I saw this coming down the pike, and so I have helped inmates bring forward cases that meet the criteria to make it so my case is viable and valid […] I’ve managed to keep those cases under the radar and the first of those cases his the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last week. […] If the court rules that those inmates who are on that case do have a right to a chaplain then I can walk right back into the court and forget the ruling made by the 9th Circuit or anybody else.”

McCollum also noted that Jones Day, the law firm that has been representing his case, has agreed to not only continue working his case pro bono, but has also committed itself to represent all these other cases that could result in clearing the way for Pagan chaplains (and by extension, other minority faith chaplains). You can listen to the entire PagansTonight interview, here.

I’d like to thank the PagansTonight crew for bringing this vital update to the Pagan community, and Patrick McCollum for his tireless service on this important issue. This seems like a very hopeful move forward from the disappointing 9th Circuit decision. For more background on this case, here are some highlights from my coverage.

In addition, the latest issue of Witches & Pagans (pictured above), available in print or as a digital download, has a nice summary of the case, and an interview with Patrick McCollum regarding it, and his work.

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  • Muse

    Looks like he made the right move on this …if you can’t hit them hard face on then circle around and hit them from the back. If enough individuals post a complaint then it just may get looked at the right way. All faiths should be treated equally.

  • Lsodders2003

    I want to thank Pagans Tonight for bringing this very important news to light , I applaud Patrick for his work and encourage everyone to keep those letters going to the prison s and governmental offices . Its hard to say what I would have done in this case, but I respect the thought and hard work Patrick has put into this case for prisoner, and as well as all of our rights as Pagans .

  • Peter Dybing

    Patrick’s efforts continue to deserve the support of the entire Pagan Community. His decision is a wise one reflecting a focus on the goal not grandstanding. I applaud his efforts and call on all Pagans to continue to support his efforts with real dollars!

  • Ed Hubbard

    Thank You for publishing this. It is vitally important that the Pagan Press find ways to share information, as we are much too small to cover everything. For Rev. McCollum, he definitely needs help and he is asking for us help bring pressure. For podcasters, we will be making this interview available. Just contact us and we will send it to you.

  • Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    Thank you very much, Ed Hubbard and Traci Logan Woods, for bringing this very important matter to the public. Thank you, Rev. McCollum, and blessings, for your fight for our rights. And thank you Jason, for printing this… we couldn’t get the podcast to work last night, prolly cuz of inclement weather… this shows how important it is for Pagan Media to work together to get information out to everyone.

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad to see Rev. McCollum pursuing this path. Many thanks to him and to his pro bono lawyers at Jones Day. (Pro bono (for the good) means that the lawyers aren’t charging for their services. In today’s economy, there’s a lot of pressure on law firms’ bottom lines. Good for Jones Day for taking on this less-than-popular cause at no charge.) Is there a Case No. for the case that got to the Ninth Circuit this week?

  • Ceinan / Dennis

    I just sent an email to the head of the pro-bono section of Jones Day, to thank them for their work. Here is what I sent. If you have the time and willingness, let them know how you feel about their efforts on our behalf (yes, it is on all OUR behalves, even though me may not be in prison) Blessings.
    (also, here is the website for the pro-bono section for the firm, in case you are curious


    For all the work your firm has done, is currently doing and shall be accomplishing int he future, thank you. I read today that your firm is the one who is taking the pro-bono case of our Rev. Patrick McCollum, as well as the possible future suits brought on by inmates in CA.

    I am just one Pagan in WA state, not even of quite the same ‘flavour’ of Pagan as Patrick is; It does not matter, we are the same in the sense that we want religious access for all.

    I know that many more Pagans will not take the step to do the research, track down your main website and then the pro-bono one, and send a note of thanks. So, it behooves me to do so, in the name of so many others who might not have the time, knowledge, skills, or even the willingness to thank you.

    I know that pro-bono work is good for a firm of any kind for so many reasons, from the financial and advertising returns point of view. From our point of view, though, it means a lot more. It means fighting for the freedom of religion and for he RIGHT to a free religion that my husband, a Navy Veteran of 20+ years has given so much for.

    Again, thank you for helping Patrick in his efforts.

    May the God/dess (or Deity of your beliefs) bless your endeavours, now and whenever they are Good.

    Dennis Jamnik-Kimbrough
    Bremerton WA

  • Anonymous

    This is a lovely gesture. You have no idea how few people do this and how much it means to the firm and the individual lawyers and paralegals. Great idea.

  • Ceinan / Dennis

    I worked in Retail and Service industries for many years. I know what the statistics are on people taking the time to give compliments and thanks. The negatives always outweigh the positives in that context, even though the positives experiences are actually higher.

    It is important to let all manner of institutions, politicians, agencies, stores, etc know what YOUR opinion is, positive and negative. In this case, it also reinforces the idea that they are championing a worthwhile cause, and that many more people other than Patrick and the inmates care.

  • Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    What a brilliant idea!
    Thank you!

  • Grimmorrigan

    I will be sending them a letter of my own and encouragin my Circel to do the same. Thank you for this idea and the link.

  • Viktoria Whittaker

    I feel very, very relieved that Rev. McCollum is not pursuing this with the Supreme Court. With the makeup of today’s court, I fear that the more extremist elements could have used this case as an opportunity not just to strip Wiccans of religious protections, but also all minority religions. I’ve had nightmares about that. Seriously. Patrick has made a very wise choice!

  • Kat Emralde

    Thank you for this coverage. I have also sent just a quick note to Jones Day, thanking them for their support of this important issue.

  • Ceinan / Dennis

    I just came across this… as it floats around FB in the pagan circles I frequent.

    I feel that this is in some ways undermining Patrick’s fight, since it is inaccurate in some ways -as I understand the LEGAL issue, not the emotional one. Anyone seen this and knows what is it supposed to truly do? Where it started? I have not had time to look into it yet, and my friends who did say that there is no info on it there.