New State Prison Chaplain is the Rev. Witch, a Wiccan
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referenced from http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,40270,00.html
Jan 16 03:53:44 2000
A follower of Wicca, the nature-based beliefs that some
call witchcraft, has
been hired as a full-time chaplain at one of
The Rev. Jamyi Witch has
voluntarily ministered to Wisconsin inmates for about
two years, and she
began her new full-time position this week at the Waupun
Institution. She is believed to be the first Wiccan chaplain in
Although a legislator questioned whether her hiring was
with the state Department of Corrections said
Wednesday that Witch met the
requirements and that it would be unfair and
illegal to bar her from serving
because of her faith.
They noted that
the prison has another chaplain, a Protestant, and prisoners
have access to
other volunteer ministers.
Witch's selection was based on interviews,
references and her background —
including extensive knowledge of alternative
religions, having previously made
presentations on the topic to corrections
"Basically, a lot of it has to do with the duties and character
individual, and Jamyi is an outstandingly approachable person —
somebody that I
wouldn't mind approaching on spiritual matters myself,"
Warden Gary McCaughtry
said. "If biases are present, it's a matter for us to
work through those
He said there are some limits on faiths of
those who serve as prison chaplains
and volunteer ministers, which would
rule out Satanists or members of some
violent cults, especially those
associated with hate groups.
Wiccans, in general, celebrate nature and the
Earth. Followers are sometimes
referred to as witches, though many prefer
the term Wiccan.
Out of 1,200 inmates at Waupun, 30 are Wiccan, 400 are
Christian, and the rest
are either nonreligious or practice other religions,
including those in the
Islamic and American Indian traditions, McCaughtry
He said about 10 people were interviewed for the civil service
does not require ordination or a theological degree.
Wiccans have been ministering to inmates voluntarily for many years, said
Hyatt, development director for the Reformed Congregation of the
Goddess in Dane
Wicca is "a very fast-growing religion, and also
there's so many misconceptions
about it," Hyatt said. "We're just like any
other ordained folks. We have
ordained priests and priestesses. Most Wiccans
in general do not proselytize. We
don't ever try to convert anyone."
Selena Fox, a senior minister with Circle Sanctuary, a Wiccan congregation
Mount Horeb, said she has ministered in prisons as far back as 1980 and
as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Justice on religious
followers of other nature religions.
there are more than 5,000 followers in Wisconsin.
A state lawmaker said it
did not make sense to have a chaplain who practices a
relatively few followers in the prison.
Rep. Scott Walker, R-Wauwatosa, said
his Assembly Corrections and Courts
Committee may look into Witch's hiring.
"I can't imagine that most of the inmates would feel particularly
going to that individual," Walker said. "I would think, in some
ways from a
religious standpoint, it might actually put inmates in a
position that talking
to (a Wiccan) is contrary to what some of their own
religious beliefs might be."