When Belief Means a Battle

July 19, 2009

Author: Scott Smith

Source: Recordnet.com


A Druid lives behind the walls of Deuel Vocational Institution, a state prison for men near Tracy.

Morgan James Kane, a burly man with tattooed forearms, follows a neopagan belief older than Christianity. The little-known religion born among ancient Celts promotes the divinity of nature. Druids celebrate the sun, moon and turning seasons.

Magic and miracles are possible for the pure at heart, a belief Druids like Kane still hold.

"I have been following what today is called 'Druidism' all of my 54 years," Kane wrote in the course of a yearlong correspondence with a Record reporter documenting his religions practices and obstacles he sometimes confronts in prison.

Kane - who pleaded guilty in 1984 to murdering a Fresno man with cyanide - says he's at odds with prison officials over his religious freedoms. He doesn't receive the same access to chapel time as inmates of mainstream religions, and he claims prison staffers have outright targeted him for his faith.

While prisoner advocates say they've won incremental progress in hard-fought battles toward equality for inmates of various religions, they add that more challenges lie ahead. Kane is just one an example.