Wicca in Prison: Is religious freedom being violated?
September 10, 2012
The denial of religious freedom is a very real and terrible thing that so many people face around the globe. This week, David penned a stern rebuke of the government’s so called assault on religious freedom.
Which government? Iran? North Korea? Syria?
Why? Because the federal government decided to review a request for a proposal for a Wiccan chaplain in a B.C. prison that would have cost between $25,000 and $50,000.
The government says they aren’t “convinced all services offered through the chaplaincy program reflect an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars.”
No one is saying prison inmates can’t practice their Wiccan beliefs or any other belief for that matter.
The issue is whether this particular government service is a good use of taxpayer cash.
David seems to be confusing a constitutional right with an entitlement to public funds.
I have a constitutional right to freedom of expression, but that doesn’t mean I have the right to receive a new laptop from the government so that I can write columns to freely express myself.
Government funding is based on many criteria. Demand and need are key factors to consider when determining what should be funded. This rule isn’t unique to prison chaplaincies, it’s applied to many other programs and services as well.
The reason I can’t get French language services in northern B.C. isn’t because the government is trying to oppress or deprive me, it’s because there isn’t enough demand to make it worthwhile.
There are four government-recognized Wiccan temples in B.C. and one allegedly reaches approximately 600 people by email.
How many Wiccans are currently inmates in this prison and how great is the demand for this service? Maybe demand is huge, or maybe it is miniscule — these are relevant facts to consider when determining whether funding this service is an effective use of taxpayer money.
Would David support funding a $25,000-$50,000 chaplaincy position if there was only one Wiccan inmate?
I think even he would say that would not be prudent, especially if that money could be put towards something like a rehabilitation program that would benefit all prison inmates.
If anything, David’s overwrought outrage is a testament to how good we truly have it in Canada. Let’s have a discussion based on the facts and save the human rights alarm for when it’s really needed.
This column appeared in today’s 24 Hours Vancouver as part of my weekly feature “The Duel”