Pagan Inmate Says He Can't Practice Religion

January 4, 2004

Source: The Associated Press

On January 4, 2004 The Associated Press reported, "An inmate who practices Wicca has filed a federal civil rights suit, claiming Bedford County jail officials are violating his religious rights by forbidding him to practice his religion. 'If it has spells in it, I'm not allowed to have it,' Charles Risenburg, 27, of Saxton, said in the lawsuit. He is not seeking any monetary damages, only to be able to practice his religion and receive vegetarian meals. But Sheriff Gordon Diehl says he isn't going to let anyone practice something that, in his mind, could be akin to intimidation. 'His tarot cards, oils, pentagrams and books all have spells in them,'Diehl said. 'He was trying to cast spells with his pentagrams, and he even made his own magic wand...' American Civil Liberties Union officials say the group is unlikely to come to Risenburg's rescue, though they believe prisoners should be free to practice their chosen religion so long as security is not in jeopardy."