AP 10/28 1245 Inmate's Witch ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) - A prison inmate and the superintenden

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AP 10/28 1245 Inmate's Witch ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) -- A prison inmate and the superintendent are awaiting advice on whether the prisoner's minister -- a witch -- can worship with him. Prison Superintendent William McRae said he asked the state attorney general's office to determine if witchcraft can be considered a religion. Even if it is, he said, Robert Edwards' request would violate a policy recommending that inmates not convert to another faith after they enter prison. Edwards, 35, who listed himself as a Protestant when he entered St. Cloud Reformatory five years ago for a 16-year, nine-month sentence for second-degree murder, says he's being persecuted for his religious beliefs. "Someone once said, What man does not understand, he seeks to destroy,"' he told the St. Cloud Daily Times in an interview published Monday. "I think that's what's happening to me in this situation." Edwards said he began corresponding with Antiga, a practicing witch and licensed minister, about six months ago after he saw her on a TV program. He said he thinks officials are stalling because they misunderstand witchcraft, which he said has nothing to do with Satanism or the occult. Witchcraft, Antiga said, is an ancient Earth-honoring religion that predates Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism and takes its inspiration from nature, the movement of the planets and the cycle of the seasons. McRae said witchcraft has evil connotations for him. "I don't rush out and embrace witchcraft or Satanism or voodoo, or any of those things. They seem more founded on evil than good. Therefore, I don't see any advantage to inmates or to myself in having them in here," he said. The rule against inmate conversions is recommended by the state Chaplaincy Advisory Committee to protect vulnerable prisoners, McRae said. If the attorney general says witchcraft is a religion, he said, he may appeal to the Chaplaincy Advisory Committee, which advises prisons on religious matters. If the attorney general's office decides witchcraft is not a religion, then McRae said, he would not allow Edwards to have a ceremony. AP 10/31 0244 Prison Witchcraft By LAURA WILKINSON Associated Press Writer MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A prison inmate won a fight to have a witch perform a ritual in his cell after corrections officials decided he has a right to worship as he chooses. Robert Edwards, serving time at the Minnesota Correctional Institution in St. Cloud for a second-degree murder conviction, was granted permission Thursday to have a witch visit him. "It seems to me appropriate that the prison treat the request for religious services ... the way that it treats requests for religious services by inmates who profess more orthodox religious beliefs," said Richard L. Varco, counsel to the state Department of Corrections. "The witch seems to perform functions parallel to those performed by priests and ministers," Varco said. Antiga, a 54-year-old priestess of the Covenant of the Goddess who declined to reveal her full name, said she didn't know when she would visit Edwards at the prison, but that it wouldn't be today, Halloween. She said she planned a private ceremony today, by invitation only, "for those in the craft." Edwards said he would celebrate Halloween "very discreetly."

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