Ousted after demanding wine for Mass, jail chaplain claims rights were violated


#1

Post-Courier:

Ousted after demanding wine for Mass, jail chaplain claims rights were violated

For a quarter century, Monsignor Ed Lofton has served as one of 86 volunteer chaplains at the Charleston County jail. Bringing calm to inmates and jailers alike is considered essential to his mission.
That endeavor includes Communion, and for Catholics, wine is a necessary component.
But carrying wine into a facility where alcohol is labeled as contraband hasn’t come without controversy. He has fought and won that battle before.
For 15 years, he has consumed 1 ounce of sacramental wine during Mass without incident. Inmates partake only in the bread.

But this week he lost a fight.
Chief Deputy Mitch Lucas, the jail’s administrator, has told Lofton to replace the wine — brought to the jail in a TSA-approved container designed for holy water — with grape juice.
He booted the chaplain Tuesday after he refused to do so.
Lucas said the move was necessary because Lofton had threatened to sue on the basis of a civil-rights violation. He didn’t want the chaplain to continue visiting the jail and “gathering evidence” for a court claim, Lucas said.

The action has denied inmates a First Amendment right and a religious rite that’s “at the heart of what the Catholic Church is all about,” Lofton said. He added that he would ask for Lucas’ firing during a meeting today with Sheriff Al Cannon.

“They pull this on me after I’ve been doing this for years,” said Lofton, who leads St. Theresa the Little Flower Catholic Church in Summerville. “It’s pretty bad that I have to fight for something the Constitution allows. But this is religious freedom, and I’ll fight for it again.”

I hope this is due to stupidity rather than prejudice. And no, I'm not being mean but I can imagine the Sheriff honestly not getting why the Catholic chaplain has to use wine, after all, all the other chaplains are OK w/ grape juice.


#2

I’m with you - I hope that it is shear stupidity - but I’m afraid there may be more to it…
The side-bar to the right of the article shows that SC’s prison policy permits the priest to use wine.
In the video attached to the story, Fr Lofton says that when he showed a copy of the policy to the jailer, he was laughed at…

Me-thinks that there will be an apology coming from the corrections people before too long…

Kudos to Fr for his courage and also for his service.

Peace
James


#3

Hopefully this thing will be settled quickly...

I tend to agree with the above comment that it can only be from shear - well I'll say "ignorance" instead of "stupidity"....

Peace
James


#4

I wonder if a compromise could have been reached and mustum (basically very very very low alcohol wine) used. Priests who are alcoholics, for example, are permitted it.


#5

I’ve had people confuse a rosary with Muslim prayer beads before…


#6

Couldn’t the chaplin have used “mustrom” (sp) in lieu of the wine?


#7

[quote="LilyM, post:4, topic:285689"]
I wonder if a compromise could have been reached and mustum (basically very very very low alcohol wine) used. Priests who are alcoholics, for example, are permitted it.

[/quote]

I really don't see a need for this kind of compromise when the priest is not an alchoholic. Because they allow the use of mustum for alcoholic priests is no reason to deny a priest who is not alcoholic the use of a small amount of an essential ingredient for the celebration of the Mass.


#8

My guess is that any such permission would have to come from the Bishop. The priest could not simply make the substitution since, as zab points out, the alternative is provided to meet a specific situation. In this case I doubt if the Bishop will want do this.

The reason I say this is because really nothing has changed that I am aware of. The rules of the jail have not changed. The Canon Law has not changed. The priest’s actions have not changed. So what has always been permissible should remain permissible…At least if I were the Bishop that is the position I would take…

Peace
James


#9

Law breakers forfeit many rights when jailed, and constitutional ones can be affected including religious practices. This guard may not have done anything outside the scope of his charge.

Honestly, the priest sounds shrill and I am appalled that he is asking the guard to be fired. Mentioning the fact that he has done this for “fifteen years” is about as relevant as the fact that people of faith, particularly Christians, are over-represented in US jail populations.

In all likelihood the wine will be allowed (after a review of religious practices, which is not unheard of) but what a terrible, terrible way for a person of faith to represent religion.

Again.


#10

[quote="Publisher, post:6, topic:285689"]
Couldn't the chaplin have used "mustrom" (sp) in lieu of the wine?

[/quote]

He shouldn't have to. This is the sheriff's problem, not the Priest's


#11

Agreed…my best friend is a therapist in our prison system here in Oregon. There are prohibitions against alchohol in prison. That the priest had “been doing it” all this time does not remove the rule against alchohol being brought into prison.

Knives are not allowed in prison either…and a case brought to court by Wiccans on behalf of Wiccan inmates bears this out. To cast a circle a ritual knife (athame) is used…according to the Wiccan Priest chaplin who came in monthly to conduct ritual with the Wiccan inmates asserted…after a hearing, it was determined that an athame COULD in fact be used in the ritual to cast the circle since that was part of the religious practice of Wiccans. An officer had to be present during the ritual to provide security measures that the athame would not be used as a weapon…accommodations CAN be made.

In this time of unemployment and stress of families…I find it less than honorable for the priest to call for the termination of the prison officer for following the rules set forth by the prison system…

Sounds like a case of laxity IN the prison system on the part of the security staff for 15 years and one officer chose to obey the rules rather than this being a case of “religous persecution” as some have claimed.

Since mostom CAN be used instead of alcholholic wine with the approval of a bishop…accommodation would appear to be easily made…but the channels would need to be brought in…terminating an officer for obeying prison rules sounds harsh coming from a man of faith.:shrug:


#12

[quote="ringil, post:10, topic:285689"]
He shouldn't have to. This is the sheriff's problem, not the Priest's

[/quote]

But again an accommodation COULD be made if a petiton to the bishop to allow it.....without the legal procedures and the call of termination of an officer for following the rules....would seem more sensible to allow the accommodation or seek alternate means....rather than resorting to law suits.


#13

I don’t understand what suddenly prompted the officer to ask the Chaplain to use grape juice. Did he just suddenly have a revelation that the Chaplain shouldn’t be doing that after so many years of it being allowed? This makes no sense.


#14

I’m guessing based on the information I hear from my sister who is a probation officer for one of our counties sherrifs department and from my best friend who is a therapis/sphycologist in our state’s prison system.

Various officers sometimes are rotated in their schedules. Each shift is managed by the officer of the day for each shift…there is no great level of consistancy at times as to the privelges allowed to the inmates OR the civilians providing service to the inmates. It is a management issue for the most part.

What may be allowed on the day shift without much concern is not allowed on the swing shift as the officer in charge may be a stickler for the rules…in many cases what is or is not allowed is a judgement call by the officer dealing with each situation.

IF this particular officer is well versed in the rules and regulations governing the sherrif’s department and is concientious in their job…he was only following the rules…it makes no difference if a different officer would have made a different judgement call…THIS officer was obeying the rules by not allowing alcohol…

In reading the story at first glance there doesn’t seem the officer was being malicious toward the priest…he was simply executing his duties as a sworn officer of the law and following the rules of the department…which he had agreed to follow and uphold.

:shrug:


#15

[FONT=Arial]There seems to be some concern on the part of the jail deputy on how the wine was to be used, that is, whether or not the priest was going to give the Precious Blood to the inmates. [/FONT]

[FONT=Courier New][size=3]Sheriff Al Cannon called a priest’s consumption of wine during Mass behind bars a “non-issue” and chalked up the chaplain’s ouster to a disconnect on how the alcohol was being used.[/size]
The sheriff reinforced Monsignor Ed Lofton’s ban from the county jail, but said he would allow other priests to use sacramental wine while the topic is reviewed.
postandcourier.com/article/20120525/PC16/120529433/sheriff-cannon-wine-for-catholic-mass-in-jail-is-non-issue-but-chaplain-still-banned
[/FONT]


#16

The ol '“They’re already in jail, let’s punish 'em as much as we can” approach. Classy.

Honestly, the priest sounds shrill and I am appalled that he is asking the guard to be fired. Mentioning the fact that he has done this for “fifteen years” is about as relevant as the fact that people of faith, particularly Christians, are over-represented in US jail populations.

Nope. 15 years without a hitch, and understanding on the part of the jail’s administration, sets precedence. You can’t just throw that out of the window when someone changes their mind.

In all likelihood the wine will be allowed (after a review of religious practices, which is not unheard of) but what a terrible, terrible way for a person of faith to represent religion.

Again.

In your opinion. Let’s hope you never have to go to jail and live up to your words.


#17

[quote="Publisher, post:12, topic:285689"]
But again an accommodation COULD be made if a petiton to the bishop to allow it.....without the legal procedures and the call of termination of an officer for following the rules....would seem more sensible to allow the accommodation or seek alternate means....rather than resorting to law suits.

[/quote]

Yes, well, I agree that priests shouldn't really be suing people in general.

Still I don't believe that a substitution fo mustum is needed.


#18

[quote="Publisher, post:14, topic:285689"]
I'm guessing based on the information I hear from my sister who is a probation officer for one of our counties sherrifs department and from my best friend who is a therapis/sphycologist in our state's prison system.

Various officers sometimes are rotated in their schedules. Each shift is managed by the officer of the day for each shift....there is no great level of consistancy at times as to the privelges allowed to the inmates OR the civilians providing service to the inmates. It is a management issue for the most part.

What may be allowed on the day shift without much concern is not allowed on the swing shift as the officer in charge may be a stickler for the rules.....in many cases what is or is not allowed is a judgement call by the officer dealing with each situation.

IF this particular officer is well versed in the rules and regulations governing the sherrif's department and is concientious in their job...he was only following the rules....it makes no difference if a different officer would have made a different judgement call....THIS officer was obeying the rules by not allowing alcohol....

In reading the story at first glance there doesn't seem the officer was being malicious toward the priest...he was simply executing his duties as a sworn officer of the law and following the rules of the department...which he had agreed to follow and uphold.

:shrug:

[/quote]

If, in 15 years, the officer formerly managing the shift couldn't communicate the allowances for the chaplain to the new officer in charge, then something is very, very wrong in the administration of that jail.

Like I said to Sample, one can only hope that you never have to go to jail and live up to your own rather stony words.


#19

[quote="Lochias, post:18, topic:285689"]
If, in 15 years, the officer formerly managing the shift couldn't communicate the allowances for the chaplain to the new officer in charge, then something is very, very wrong in the administration of that jail.

Like I said to Sample, one can only hope that you never have to go to jail and live up to your own rather stony words.

[/quote]

"Stony words"....?????

Relaying what occurs in the county jail and prison in my state makes me have "stony words"? Surprising to me....I thought I was offering a credible explanation as to what could have occured instead of jumping on the "religious persecution" band wagon....color me surpised.:)


#20

As the majority of these men are going to be out of jail at some point…I want to give them as much freedom to practice their faith as possible. The more devout and sincere about their faith they are, the less likely they are going to fall back into a life of crime when they leave prison.

I’m definitely not for making jails and prisons a vacation resort, but freedom of religion still applies to inmates, especially those who don’t seem to have done anything to lose privelages like harming themselves or someone else.

I agree though that the inmates should either only recieve the Body of Christ, or recieve both the Body and Blood via intinction. If there was confusion about that then I sympathize some with the officer, but the higher ups in charge here definitely have some work to do to nail down specific policies for Chaplains.


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