Skip to comments.Murderer wins right to Wiccan religious items behind bars
Posted on 12/08/2005 6:15:13 PM PST by Crackingham
A convicted murderer who practices the Wiccan religion won the right Thursday to receive religious books and items while behind bars. The state Department of Corrections settled a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey on behalf of Patrick Pantusco, who was convicted of murder, aggravated assault and other offenses in Bergen County in 1998, and sent to East Jersey State Prison at Avenel.
He began practicing Wicca in 2002, while serving a 30- to 50-year prison term. Wiccans say their religion is based on respect for the earth, nature and the cycle of the seasons.
Pantusco, 30, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Newark in 2003 after prison officials denied his request for religious books and items such as beads and scented oils, a small bell and flute, ritual powder and a necklace, said Edward Barocas, the ACLU's legal director.
"They were comparable to rosary beads or Muslim prayer oils," he said. "Everything he asked for had a similar counterpart with the Christian and Muslim religions that was allowed into the prison."
Among the books Pantusco sought was "The Book of Shadows" by Lady Sheba, who registered Wicca as a religious organization in 1971. It includes secret initiation rites, laws of the religion, consecration rituals, invocations and chants and dances for calling on the gods. He also wanted to receive "The Encyclopedia of Wicca and Witchcraft."
The lawsuit claimed the state violated the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which protects the religious rights of inmates.
"All Mr. Pantusco wanted was to have the same rights as the Muslim and Christian inmates," said Steven Latimer, who served as his attorney. "He asked for no special privileges."
Damn that slippery slope.
If in prison, my religion would include hacksaws, files, and an oxy-actylene torch as necessary for worship.
You forgot the blonde!
Ironic. The ACLU is right there to defend the rights of a murderer who practices witchcraft, but is nowhere to be found when a private homeowner is harrased by their homeowners association for the nativity scene in thier front yard.
So when does the ACLU call this "Literally, a witch hunt"?
Who cares. He is behind bars. Thats my concern. His religion is his own business.
>>>"If in prison, my religion would include hacksaws, files, and an oxy-actylene torch as necessary for worship"<<<
Those items are just for projects, I would also need 24 hrs per day of un-interupted freedom in the State or Nation of my choice, no supervision and a small weekly stipend to make sure I have enough cash to live the way that my Religion dictates.
(Guess they'd just send me back to New Orleans)
Sounds pretty lame but I say just let him have his Wiccan crap. Makes no difference to me. I guess if people are allowed Bibles or Rosary, et al, let him have his stupid Wiccan stuff.
"If in prison, my religion would include hacksaws, files, and an oxy-actylene torch as necessary for worship."
Yep, I myself am a member of the Worldwide Church of Mapp Gas
Wicca is not a religion for two reasons:
1. It was invented by the Gardiner fellow in the mid 20th century, as an eclectic mix of this and that.
2. There is no God in Wicca, it is merely faux paganism without the real traditions. If Wicca can be a religion, anything anyone says, does or makes up can be a religion.
And they're trying to keep Christian groups out of jails when they allow this? I guess we can figure out who is in charge of *the system*.
Wiccans say their religion is based on respect for the earth, nature and the cycle of the seasons....
------Just not respect for human life. Yep, there is a place for him in hell.
but does she float?
The problem here is RLUIPA. It says that before a prison can "substantially burden" an inmate's religious practices, it must show a "compelling state interest."
In practice, this tends to mean that if a prison cannot show that whatever the inmate wants is a direct threat to prison security, he can have it. Prior to RLUIPA, we had RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act), which more or less did the same thing, but was thrown out by the Supreme Court for other reasons. Prior to either one, all the prison needed to show was basically that there was a legitimate correctional reason for banning something.
Ironically, I think RLUIPA and RFRA were passed with the support of otherwise conservative Christian groupsl. Makingd it more ironic that the ACLU is involved.
That my dear friends is the truth trying to hide in the darkness.