Sep 15, 2011

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's Five Faiths Policy limits paid chaplain positions to individuals who are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, or Native American.  Patrick McCollum, a Wiccan clergyman, began serving as a volunteer chaplain in CDCR prisons in 1998. On various occasions over the following five years, he spoke with officials about applying for a paid position.  Each time, however, he was told that he was ineligible to apply due to the Five Faiths Policy.  McCollum sued the CDCR in 2004, alleging that the policy violates the Establishment Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and Title VII (by discriminating against him based on his religion).  In two decisions, one in 2006 and the other in 2009, a U.S. district court dismissed McCollum's claims on the grounds that he had no right to challenge the Five Faiths Policy, either as an excluded job applicant or as a California taxpayer.  McCollum appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  

On November 30, 2009, Americans United, joined by other civil-liberties organizations, submitted an amicus brief.  The brief argued that McCollum's suit was a textbook application of employment-discrimination law as well as a classic taxpayer challenge of an Establishment Clause violation.  Both law and logic, the brief explained, required that McCollum be given his day in court.  Oral argument occurred on October 7, 2010, and we await a decision.