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Kansas DOC Claims Discrimination Against Wiccans Was “Inadvertent”

by Douglas Ankney

On September 27, 2023, the Kansas Department of Corrections (DOC) appeared to back down from a fight over providing state prisoners materials from a Wiccan shop—though it maintained a ban on correspondence from the shop owner and an associated coven.

For at least 20 years, MoonShadow Coven has provided a free course in Basic Wicca to any incarcerated person requesting it. The coven is a small Wiccan religious group operating from The Enchanted Willow shop in Topeka, which is owned by Dr. Robert E. Miller. For those two decades, he has sent coven materials to prisons and jails in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Washington and Kansas.

But in August 2023, DOC began photocopying incoming prisoner mail, allegedly to reduce the inflow of contraband. The photocopies are then printed and distributed to prisoners or made available in digitized versions on electronic media tablets. Because coven materials are copyrighted, Dr. Miller notified DOC that he objected to copying, pointing out that DOC did not photocopy Bibles, so Wiccan materials should be treated equally.

DOC Public Service Executive Vickie Brungardt responded by letter: “We do not believe that you have a registered and enforceable copyright. Nor do we believe that there has been any violation of copyright laws with regard to your pamphlets. However, we are willing to attempt to honor your request that photocopying not occur. The best way of honoring your request is to discontinue allowing this mail into the facility for distribution to residents at this time.”

Not only did DOC ban coven course materials, it also banned a newsletter to some 47 students. DOC also banned Dr. Miller’s private correspondence with prisoners—apparently in retaliation for protesting copying of coven materials. A ‘Notice of Mail Censorship’ provided no reason for DOC’s rejection but noted: “Mail from this individual has been deemed censored by [DOC] central office.”

Dr. Miller complained to DOC Secretary Jeff Zmuda and Gov. Laura Kelly (R). In reply he heard only crickets. Then the Kansas Reflector picked up the story and contacted DOC. The next day, DOC told Miller’s shop that the ban was “inadvertent” and had been “rescinded.”

“We apologize for the oversight by our staff,” DOC said.

However, the ban on Miller’s letters and coven materials was not lifted; DOC told him they were a “threat to institutional safety, order or security.” American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas Communications Director Esmie Tseng said the move appeared to be part of a larger effort by DOC to discourage materials from non-­Christian religions and spiritual groups.  


Source: Kansas Reflector

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