2016-06-30
(RNS) A Wisconsin state lawmaker who objects to the selection of a Wiccan as a prison chaplain said he intends to propose rules that could block such an appointment from taking place again.

Waupun Correctional Institution's decision to hire the Rev. Jamyi Witch as one of its two prison chaplains "raises both personal and political concerns," said Rep. Scott Walker, chairman of the Assembly's corrections committee.

"Not only does she practice a different religion than most of the inmates--she practices a religion that actually offends people of many other faiths, including Christians, Muslims and Jews," he said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Walker said he intends to create rules that would require chaplain appointments to take into consideration the percentage of prisoners who share the chaplain's faith.

About 30 of the 1,200 inmates at the maximum-security institution are Wiccan.

Walker said his proposal would also cut off funds for the position, a move supported by fellow Republican Rep. Michael Huebsch.

Walker's planned proposal "is a pretext that tries to support majority religions over other faiths," said Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the Wisconsin American Civil Liberties Union. "Can you discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion? I thought that was against state law."

In a Corrections Department report, 91 of Wisconsin's 20,894 inmates identify themselves as Wiccan. The report noted that the largest block of respondents--5,798--identified their religious affiliation as "none," "missing" or "unknown." About 3,496 inmates claimed Catholicism, 81 identified with Buddhism, 45 claimed Judaism, and 37 said they were Mormons or followers of Latter-day Saints churches.

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