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Religious Law

9th Circuit Rejects Bid by Wiccan Chaplain to Force California Prisons to Hire Him

Posted Jun 2, 2011 10:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal appeals court has ruled against a volunteer Wiccan chaplain who alleged in a lawsuit that California prisons violated inmates’ rights when they failed to give him a paid position.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals never reached the merits of the free-exercise and equal-protection claims asserted on behalf of the inmates by Patrick McCollum, Courthouse News Service reports. The appeals court opinion (PDF) said McCollum lacked standing because he "attempts to transform his employment discrimination action into an effort to vindicate the inmates' First Amendment rights."

Seven inmates had over sued over the lack of pagan chaplains, but their suit was dismissed at the trial level because they were untimely and unexhausted, Courthouse News says. The 9th Circuit upheld the dismissal of their claims, as well as the dismissal of McCollum's personal claims against the prison system.

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