06-Apr-87 2253 MST Sb APoh 04/07 Prison Witchcraft COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The leader of a w
06-Apr-87 22:53 MST
Sb: APoh 04/07 Prison Witchcraft
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The leader of a witches coven says she doesn't share
the beliefs of an Ohio prison inmate who wants to be allowed to grow
Samantha Pugh, high priestess of the Wicca coven in Findlay and a minister
licensed by the state, testified at a hearing Monday the sect has no tenet
protecting uncut hair.
William E. Morehouse, who is serving a life sentence at the Marion
Correctional Institution for a 1974 murder in Licking County, says he became a
follower of witchcraft in 1979.
He sued the state in U.S. District Court, where Magistrate Norah McCann King
is holding an evidentiary hearing that began Monday. It was to continue today.
Morehouse said in the suit that long hair is an essential part of his faith
and that cutting his hair woud disturb a "natural harmony with the mother
goddess" of Wicca worshipers.
The suit contends that Wicca is a religion and asks that the state allow
Morehouse to grow his hair and provide him with candles, scented oils, statues
of Wicca deities, a wand, a robe with a braided belt and hood, and other items
he says he needs to practice Wicca.
The state has recognized Wicca as a religion but has denied Morehouse's
Robert Prosser, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilition and
Correction, said officials believe candles are a safety risk because of the
chance of fire. He also said long hair and hoods present a security risk because
they could easily hide contraband.
Ms. Pugh testified that the basic principle of witchcraft holds that
followers can do as they please but cannot harm anyone. But she said the
practice varies among covens and followers.
"There are many people who believe cutting hair deters the free flow of
psychic and spiritual energy," Ms. Pugh said.
Morehouse's court-appointed attorney, Thomas F. Schmidt, said Wicca has been
recognized as a religion by other federal courts and that Wicca covens have been
given tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service.
Copyright 1987 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank