Today marks the 19 year anniversary of my being installed as the first official government recognized Wiccan Chaplain in the United States. I had no idea at the time where that first step forward would lead, but I still remember much about that particular day. I had never been inside a prison before and there was huge opposition to my being empowered to serve the Pagan community. I was spit on by staff and threatened and I was even locked in a room by the supervising Christian Chaplain with several inmates who then proceeded to have a conversation about what would happen to me if I returned. It was that incident and the tremendous pushback that I experienced that drove me to decide to not only serve the inmates in that particular group, but to also take on the entire system across the country to try to create religious equality for everyone! It was a long row to hoe and I spent nearly twenty years working on it daily, but at about the ten to twelve mark in my work, things began to change toward the better. In the end, that first day at my first prison and the issuance of my very first official government ID card, shifted the future of every Correctional system in the United States.

Not only did Pagans gain new rights and the ability to practice, but while I was there fighting for their rights, I also helped open doors for the Native Americans and many other minority groups. Of course there are still many challenges to address. But the legal, social, and policy changes necessary to lead to real equality for all faiths are firmly planted and irreversible.

Today I look out at all of the committed individuals who currently walk that same walk that I did so long ago, and I see the real difference that they are all making. Not only in the lives of the inmates that they serve, but also in the communities that those inmates will later return to. I both respect and honor their commitment, and I applaud them!

Life speeds by and one day fades into another for me. But sometimes it’s good to just stop and reflect on the journey and its consequences. We often forget that what we do and say on any one particular day, may become the foundation for the future!

I do not have the original State ID card any more as I was required to turn it in to get the next one (but I do have a photo somewhere). But I do have the official state ID issued in 2004 which was preserved as evidence by the court after I filed the federal lawsuit taking on the whole system.
It is my hope that one day there will be many such ID Cards from many different minority faiths, and that true equality for all peoples no matter what their beliefs are will one day become a reality!

Peace & Blessings,
Patrick McCollum