Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Dear Governor Brown,
As the Attorney General who oversaw this case (and the current Governor who will support its judgement), we applaud your victory against the encroaching evils of religious freedom purported in Patrick McCollum et al. vs. California. Kudos on using the Memorandum and Order for this case to promote and maintain California’s five faiths policy. [In case you don’t recall, this Reverend McCollum and others filed a suit against California alleging religious preferences by state agencies.]
We also think it particularly savvy of you to avoid any formal legislation on this policy. According the aforementioned order, this policy emerged over time through decisions from your State Personnel Board. Indeed, we cannot find any official reference to this policy on the State of California’s or your attorney general’s website (using the search bars). We scoff at these pesky do-gooders, vying for equal recognition! You cannot strike down a law that doesn’t exist. You cannot purge a rule that is not written down. You are so crafty! And we don’t mean that in a “witchy” way, at all. You are also totally hip. This is prime “retro” politicking – totally “1984”!
We also think it was a brilliant strategy to introduce “six neutral factors” used to determine whether a paid chaplain for a particular religion is warranted for prisoners: (1) liturgical needs, (2) the numbers of the group, (3) existing and alternative accommodation means, (4) security, (5) cost, and (6) other practical factors related to institutional operational needs (from Section IA, paragraph 6 of the order). So what if your Department of Corrections never used these criteria to inform their past decisions?! Establishing unwritten rules to support unofficial policy promotes a transparent democratic government. Might we also add that we are particularly fond of number six. The potential for broad and vague application is impressive.
However, we must offer some criticism of current policy based on your new, unwritten “neutral factors.” You should reconsider the five faiths. Five is an awful lot. Right now, you “recognize” Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Native American religions. Data are available to assess numbers 1 and 2 of your six criteria and you could easily drop the last three faiths. According to the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life, most Californians who identify themselves with any faith are Catholic and Protestant. You could probably save a lot of taxpayer dollars (number 5!) without much protest. Only 33% of your state population is not Catholic or Protestant. Let’s face it, this is a numbers game. This isn’t about equal treatment for equally valid religions. And hey, what’s that 33% going to do, anyway? Vote you out of office?
By the way, we notice your state has a liberal policy on hate crimes. According to this 2005 report, you promise pretty hefty retribution against those who commit a hate crime based on religion. We hope you limit the religions you “protect” to the five faiths referenced in your unofficial state policy. [Though, really, you should just “protect” the two we have identified above to align with demographic conditions]. Really, if “other” faiths don’t merit recognition via state pay, they don’t merit recognition via state protection. Wow. We feel like we’re saving your state a lot of money! *sigh* You’re welcome, Governor Brown.
Keep up the good work!
In good faith,
The Pagan Princesses
Note: This is, of course, a satire. The Pagan Princesses fully support equal rights, access and pay for persons of all faiths. For those of you who would like to learn more about the Reverend McCollum’s cause, you can visit his blog or read about the case against California at the Wild Hunt.
Here are just a few of Dr. McCollum’s accomplishments:
1. Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Advancement of Religious Pluralism
2. Invited speaker at the U.S. Commission of Human Rights
3. Invited speaker at a meeting between the Obama administration and the Parliament of the World’s Religions
4. Member, Executive Board of Directors of the United Nations NGO, Children of the Earth