B.C. Prisoner Group Protesting Non-Christian Chaplain Layoffs

This is a decision by CSC that I just don’t understand

A prisoners’ rights group in B.C. is suing the federal government for allegedly violating the constitutional rights of non-Christian inmates by cancelling the contracts of 18 non-Christian chaplains at federal prisons.

Two Buddhists, two Wiccans, two Muslims, a Sikh and a Jewish believer say Corrections Canada is denying them reasonable access to religion and spirituality.

In October, the agency confirmed its plans to lay off 49 part-time chaplains — 31 of whom are Christians — who provided religious counsel to a variety of faiths. The layoffs, expected to take effect at the end of March, will leave British Columbia without a non-Christian chaplain.

The part-time chaplains are to be replaced with a mix of volunteers and the CSC’s 71 full-time Christian chaplains and two full-time Muslim chaplains.

“It is a pretty clear cut case on the basis of religion,” said D.J. Larkin, a staff lawyer with West Coast Prison Justice Society, which is representing eight current and former inmates in the case.

“What’s happening right now is there are Christian-based chaplains in B.C. There are no minority-based chaplains in B.C.”

Larkin says she has documented a number of cases where prisoners have requested religious counselling but have been unable to attain it.

Cantor Michael Zoosman was a part-time Jewish prison chaplain in B.C. who now works in Washington D.C.

He says religion can help people stay out of prison — saving money and helping them reintegrate into society.

“There’s a real opportunity for rehabilitation through spiritual connectedness that only chaplains can achieve,” Zoosman said.

“Minorities deserve the same access to that rehabilitation as majorities.”

With their lawsuit, the eight current and former inmates are asking that the Correctional Service of Canada reinstate and continue the contracts of the non-Christian chaplains in British Columbia.

The CSC wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit, but released a statement saying it is committed to respecting religious freedom.

The agency “will also continue to engage the voluntary support of our community partners to deliver chaplaincy services to offenders,” the statement read.

I agree with the prisoners on this.  Laying off chaplains (who do a really important job in Corrections no matter what their faith background is) is a weird move but eliminating all of the part time positions that minister to minorities is even more mind boggling until you step back and realize that Vic Toews is the minister in charge. 

I know a lot of offenders who have turned their lives around in jail and almost all of them have talked of their work with a chaplain.  Cutting chaplaincy is a bizarre decision (they get paid like crap) but doing it this way is even worse.  Perhaps Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom could take a look inside our borders on it’s way to protect religious freedom outside of our borders.

Cornell West vs. The White House

From the New York Times describing an exchange with Valerie Jarret and theologian Cornell West

Ms. Jarrett was similarly “livid,” one former White House official said, with members of the Congressional Black Caucus who accused the president of paying insufficient attention to the particular economic woes of blacks. When the writer and academic Cornel West joined in, calling Mr. Obama the “black mascot of Wall Street,” Ms. Jarrett’s response was “ruthless,” Dr. West said.

He recalled a phone call in which she dismissed his criticism as sour grapes for not receiving a ticket to the inauguration, and said he later heard from friends that she was putting out the word that “one, I was crazy, and two, I was un-American.”

“It was a matter of letting me know that I was, in her view, way out of line and that I needed to get in line,” he said in an interview. “I conveyed to her: ‘I’m not that kind of Negro. I’m a Jesus-loving black man who tells the truth, in the White House, in the crack house or in any other house.’ She got real quiet. It was clear that she was not used to being spoken to that way.”

Actually West said Barack Obama is a, “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”  While I don’t agree with what he said, I do appreciate someone who can tell off someone in power and then stand by it.

The New Yorker vs. Scientology

Paul Haggis takes on the Church of Scientology in the New Yorker.  Not only is it a fascinating read, it has generated a story from NPR on how it was written.

In September 2010, Wright, his editor, the New Yorker fact-checking team and the magazine’s editor-in-chief, David Remnick, met for eight hours with the spokesman for the Church of Scientology, Tommy Davis, along with Davis’ wife and four lawyers representing the church, to discuss the facts in the piece.

Wright says that one of the most interesting parts of the meeting came when he asked Davis about L. Ron Hubbard’s medical records. Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, had maintained that he was blind and a ‘hopeless cripple’ at the end of World War II — and that he had healed himself through measures that later became the basis of Dianetics, the 1950 book that became the basis for Scientology.

"I had found evidence that Hubbard was never actually injured during the war. … And so we pressed [Tommy Davis] for evidence that there had been such injuries and [Hubbard] had been the war hero that he described," says Wright. "Eventually, Davis sent us what is called a notice of separation — essentially discharge papers from World War II — along with some photographs of all of these medals that [Hubbard] had won. … At the same time, we finally gained access to Hubbard’s entire World War II records [through a request to the military archives] and there was no evidence that he had ever been wounded in battle or distinguished himself in any way during the war. We also found another notice of separation which was strikingly different than the one that the church had provided."

Furthermore, says Wright, the notice of separation that the church provided was signed by a man who never existed. And two of the medals that Hubbard supposedly had won weren’t commissioned until after Hubbard left active service.