A member of the pagan religion of Odinism has been denied his religious rights by a Utah state prison, a U.S. judge has found.
The inmate, Danny Lee Warner Jr, had been serving a sentence for theft, attempted purchase/possession of a dangerous weapon, attempted aggravated assault and identity fraud charges, reports The Salt Lake Tribune.
District Judge Tena Campbell awarded Danny Lee Warner Jr. a sum of $100 but denied his request for a compensatory and punitive award, since the correctional facility had taken steps to ensure that Odinists were not denied their right to religious belief and practice.
The religion of Odinism — also sometimes referred to Asatru — believes in several gods and goddesses. The supreme deity is usually regarded as Odin, who is believed to have discovered the Mysteries, codified as “runes,” esoteric symbols used in Odinic practices.
Contemporary Odinic movements believe that there are “nine noble virtues.” These can include Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Self Reliance, Industriousness and Perseverance, although the virtues may differ from organization to organization.
The contemporary faith is sometimes regarded as controversial within neo-paganism, because of its tendency to believe in traditional male and female gender roles, and the promotion of masculinity, although Odinism also attracts many female converts. It is also the religion of choice for many Death Metal or Black Metal music bands.
Because of its emphasis on northern Europe, the faith is sometimes regarded as racist by the general public, as well as by more inclusive and New Age-type neo-pagan faiths, such as Wicca. However, Erin Lale, author of Asatru for Beginners, said recently, that she felt welcomed by Asatru practitioners, despite being part native American. “There are many people of Native and part Native ancestry in Asatru and in other pagan and heathen groups,” she writes in The Guardian Express, “I would guess a good third of the Asatruars in my local area are part Native.
Judge Campbell commended Warner Jr for “the zealous defense of his rights and for the exemplary manner in which he has litigated his claims here.” Warner Jr filed the complaint in 2008, alleging that prison officials had interfered with his right to practice his religion, denying him the same basic respect as was accorded to those of other faiths. Specifically, he complained that he was not allowed to receive a religious book — which prison officers allegedly mistook for a racialist book — and that his food requirements were accommodated during a period of religious fasting during daylight hours.