Cherry Hill Seminary Director of Chaplaincy and Lady Liberty League National Coordinator of Prison Ministries Testifies Friday In Washington On Religious Discrimination In Prisons
BETHEL, VT—The Rev. M. Patrick McCollum will be part of a six-member panel of experts presenting to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on Friday, February 8, 2008, on Religious Discrimination and Prisoners' Rights. The panel is being convened to shed light on the nature and extent of the problems which have arisen in this context and to discuss what can be done to resolve inmate grievances in United States prisons. After a period of public comment, a report by the Commission will be made available to Congress.
McCollum has a long and successful history of ministering to those unable to practice their faith in institutional settings. He is the Director and Chair of the National Correctional Chaplaincy Directors Association, and is the statewide Wiccan chaplain for the California Department of Corrections, has served as a Wiccan chaplain in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, has helped mentor chaplains from many faith traditions across the country, and has advised state and federal correctional institution officials on religion issues across the nation.
McCollum has taught Pagan Chaplaincy Training at the Leadership Institute, part of Circle Sanctuary’s annual Pagan Spirit Gathering, for the past seven years. His involvement with Circle Sanctuary’s outreach goes back nearly thirty years. As the National Coordinator of the Lady Liberty League Prison Ministries Program, and a member of the National Advisory Council of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, McCollum was closely involved with efforts by those groups which resulted in a policy change within the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs to include the pentacle symbol on the list of approved symbols permitted to be inscribed on the headstones and markers of fallen soldiers.
As the newly appointed Director of the Chaplaincy Program of Cherry Hill Seminary, McCollum specializes in courses which address issues encountered by chaplains ministering in institutional settings, such as prisons. Cherry Hill Seminary provides distance-learning graduate-level higher education for Pagan ministry.
"It is an honor to be invited to participate in the dialogue and to share a Wiccan’s point of view," said McCollum in a recent interview. "Those in minority faiths are seldom the opportunity to be heard, even when the issue concerns their rights. I am hopeful that this invitation is indicative of what we can expect going forward; that there is truly a desire on the part of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to ensure that inmates receive equal treatment, and a willingness to better serve minority religions."
For more information about this story, please contact Holli Emore, Cherry Hill Seminary, at 888.503.4131, or CHS@cherryhillseminary.org, or Rev. Angie Buchanan, Circle Sanctuary, Lady Liberty League, at 608.924.2216, 847.456.4833, or Angie@circlesanctuary.org.