Supreme Court review of the matter in 2005 sees no reason to stop religious services in prisons; Druid priestess sees positive changes in inmates.

Jail administrations of West Virginia and Ohio have given greater freedom to inmates to receive spiritual aid from religions other than the major Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist faiths. Pagan and Heathen inmates are now allowed to practice Paganism, Wicca and even Satanism while in jail with the help of Donna Donovan from the Appalachian Pagan Ministry in West Virginia and Ohio.

In West Virginia and Ohio, Druid priestess Donna Donovan from the Appalachian Pagan Ministry, caters to the spiritual needs of prison inmates whom she calls “pan pagan.” The priestess refers to those religious prisoners who don’t adhere to an ‘Abrahamic’ faith, thereby excluding Jews, Christians and Muslims. People who attend the services her ministry conducts include those who follow Heathenism, Odinism, Asatru and even Satanism. For Donovan, it’s not important as to who the attendees at her services believe in. All that matters to her is that they believe in a “higher power.” She told The Columbus Dispatch “The only way to eradicate hate and intolerance is through education. I don’t personally care what your higher power is as long as you believe there’s a higher power than yourself.”

Pagan ways of life are different from conventional Abrahamic religions in that they don’t advocate the supremacy of any deity. Rather, they accept all deities and believe that whether or not any of them are supreme is a something left to the believer. No wonder then, that pagans of all systems find spiritual solace in Donovan’s ministries.

Donovan notes that these ministries are helping the inmates develop a positive spirit, as is reflected by the acceptance that the inmates have of their mistakes and their conscious efforts at trying to improve.

The ministries are currently focused in and around Ohio. Records state that Baptists, Roman Catholics and Muslims form the highest number of inmates in the prisons, at 4,739, 3,420 and 1,563 respectively. Donovan says that just as a lot of misunderstandings about Paganism exist outside, in the prisons too inmates are largely unaware about this way of life. However, Donovan is steady in her resolve to reach out to the inmates, and meets around 30 to 40 prisoners during each visit. She insists that she has seen a lot of positive changes in the inmates ever since the ministries began.

Religious ministries in Ohio prisons began after the Supreme Court found no basis to deny religious services to inmates. So far it has been ministers from major religions who have been visiting the prisons. Pagan, and especially Satanist education in schools, has been heavily opposed by religious people so far. Although constitutionally allowed, it’s a matter of time before we see how religious Conservatives react to these pan pagan services.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter