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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 28,390,425  

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Question of the Week: 48 - 7/2/2001

How Fares The First Amendment?

Do you think that the First Amendment protections are in better or worse shape than they were five years ago? What do you currently think about the Bush administration's faith-based initiative and do you think that it will go forward? Under the Constitution's First Amendment right to personal religious freedom, how do we balance out one religion's 'right' to discriminate against another religion whose tenets it may not agree with or to proselytize with another religion's 'right' not to be discriminated against because of their beliefs or to be proselytized to?.

 Reponses:   There are 20 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

I'm Afraid Our First Amendment Protections Are Being Diluted Every Day That... Jul 2nd. at 1:50:18 am EDT

Kate (Somewhere, Georgia US) Age: 64

I'm afraid our First Amendment protections are being diluted every day that goes by. We have an appointed president who is determined to keep the religious right happy nevermind what it costs the rest of us. Bush's faith-based initiative is political pay-back. It'll go forward but not as he envisions it. There will be some safe-guards but we'll lose some of our freedom in the doing.

We have the right to worship as we choose. We also have the right to associate with whom we choose. So long as we recognize that others have the same rights we are fine. It's when someone decides they know best what's good for you that the problems arise. Getting in someone's face about your god being better than their god is just plain bad manners. What's so sad is the fact that the ministers of the evangelical churches are encouraging their congregations to be rude. They call it 'saving souls'.

They can only get in your face if you let them. You have the same right to be left alone as they do. They would not tolerate your 'preaching' to them about the Goddess. Quit standing there as if you're somehow exhibiting good manners by listening to them and simply turn and walk away. You have effectively shut them down and you have shown far better behavior than they have. You have done no harm - they get to live with their own karma!

I Read Somewhere Recently That 20%-odd Of Americans Think The First... Jul 2nd. at 3:20:52 am EDT

ndinsil (Bozeman, Minnesota US) Age: 23

I read somewhere recently that 20%-odd of Americans think the first amendment goes too far. I also remember learning that Madison was originally opposed to the idea of a written Bill of Rights, believing that a codified list of rights would imply that those rights are granted by law rather than inherent in humanity as laws of Nature. He was finally swayed (partly from political pressure to get a working central government that the anti-federalists would accept, but also) by the idea that such a writted code would be a useful teaching device, a reminder to all citizens of what we possess by birthright.

I don't know about the last five years, but it does seem we are reneging on our responsibility of eternal vigilance as the cost of freedom. External threats from the power structure certainly are dangerous to liberty, but internal apathy is a catalyst that exacerbates the problem. So many people don't care, or even want to care, about the philosophical implications of Bush's faith-based initiative. Perhaps the cynics are right when they said of the election we got what we deserved.

I Have To Admit That I Wasn't A Really Big Follower Of... Jul 2nd. at 11:06:09 am EDT

Ciarrai (KC) (Somerset County, New Jersey US) Age: 33 - Email

I have to admit that I wasn't a really big follower of politics until lately. But it is pretty scary. This whole faith-based initiative makes me think that they even think that it's wrong to be a Roman Catholic these days. I have Fundamentalist relatives that absolutely feel this way. "If you believed the way that we believe." That's pretty scary coming from your own family. Of course I don't want to come out of the closet w/ them, at least until I'm more educated to have an adult discussion. It's a shame, b/c I decided to stop using my own name on the Sponsor page here for this reason - work & family. I hate being proselytized to (I have been for years, even way b/f my interest in Paganism as a religion) and I refuse to proselyize b/c it is a major turn off. What are we supposed to do? I really don't know what to say. I'm anxious to see what others have to say.

Ciarrai (or KC - initials for my given name and my newly acquired Gaelic equivalent specifically b/c this is becoming a scary place!)

I Think W. Bush's Initiative Is Hypocritcal If It Does Not Include... Jul 2nd. at 4:20:09 pm EDT

Sam-I-Am (Lawrencville, Georgia US) Age: 29 - Email

I think W. Bush's initiative is hypocritcal if it does not include all faiths. All branches of the military (in essence, the government) have policies and guidelines for Pagan/Wiccan practice for its active duty members. All that considered, W. Bush should not be able to exclude Pagan faiths that the government recognizes.

Unfortunately, rights of free speech trample my desire not to have a headache! we now have laws against road rage, why not laws against religion rage? Now I rather enjoy a healthy debate; I do not enjoy total strangers telling me I'm going to rot in Hell, people like me are the reason this country is faling apart, etc. The right to free speech should have the responsibility to listen attached!

I Honestly Think That The First Amendment Protections Are Better Now Then... Jul 2nd. at 5:15:38 pm EDT

Pandora (Orlando, Florida US) Age: 16 - Email

I honestly think that the First Amendment protections are better now then they were five years ago. As for Bush's faith-based initiative, pagans are taking it way out of control. The funded money is desigend to go to religious charities that are very large . Call me crazy, but I haven't seen many pagan charities at all, let alone any big enough to need government money to run. Pagans, on the average, seem to think that "religious tolerance" implies that everyone has to kiss our feet and say that our forms of worship are great. This is just not going to happen-let's be realistic. Fundamentalists of any religion simply do not accept that any other religious group is "right". You can't expect, for example, Southern Baptists to fawn all over us pagans. Also, you cannot blame people for believing what their religion says-no other faith is truthful. We cannot rewrite Christianity to make it more politically correct and less "mean".

Too many times I've seen pagans scream that they are being persecuted for their religion beliefs, when really they aren't liked just because they are so annoying about religion. Don't be stupid! If you pick up a viper, it's going to bite you. Likewise, if you prance in front on conservative religion groups waving your crystal wands and singing praises of the Gods, you're going to get screamed at.

In One Of His Early Songs, "let Me Die In My Footsteps... Jul 2nd. at 7:37:54 pm EDT

Gwydion Canu Bleidd (Knoxville, Tennessee US) Age: 32 - Email

In one of his early songs, "Let Me Die in My Footsteps, " Bob Dylan sings these lines: "I've listened to their speeches and not said a word/But now, dear God, let my poor voice be heard." This, to me, is what the First Amendment is all about. Being heard...and also, being understood.

I too have heard that there is a percentage of people who think that the First Amendment goes too far; I sometimes think that there are some people who abuse their First Amendment privileges, too. But I also think that the operative word there is "privileges." Other countries don't grant their citizens such freedom, not even our neighbor to the North, Canada. We have the right to free speech according to the Constitution, but when you get right down to it, it's much more of a privilege than a right. We have the privilege of voting in free elections, too, and this combines with the ideal of free speech.

Last November's election results proved that there are those who don't really think we should be allowed such privileges--Al Gore won the popular vote, but the Electoral College handed the election to Dubya, who is slowly proving himself to be rather less than the president we need in office. And pushing the faith-based initiative as he is, and with his views on Wicca (not a real religion, says Dubya), it is clear what direction this country will go in if we don't allow ourselves to be heard.

By the same token, I also agree that proselytizing and shoving our religious beliefs down others' throats will not win us, as Pagans, any popularity contests among the vast majority of Americans. We must exercise our rights, but do so with caution. I recently moved to the rather conservative bastion that is East Tennessee, and while not afraid to let it be known what I am, I have also been careful not to make a major issue of it.

By "first Amendment Protections," It's About How It Is Currently Being Interpreted... Jul 2nd. at 8:43:25 pm EDT

Lynne-Renee (rural, St. L , Missouri US) Age: 29 - Email

By "First Amendment Protections, " it's about how it is currently being interpreted. The 1st amendment hasn't changed, afterall.

I have *huge* worries considering the appointment of Supreme Court justices. You see, Bush Jr. will be out of office in 3+ years. Those whom he appoints *for life* will have a much greater effect on the rest of our lives in this country.

Think about it, there's always the ACLU and such advocacy groups; even more can be started and existing ones may wax or wane. Who can change the psycho-social mind of a seasoned, 55+ year old judge? Do you think that was an easy job? Do you think they were completely above politics? How do lower court judges (which they've all been) get their seats in your area? Don't know 'bout you, but we vote 'em in with the rest of the politicians.

My area is strongly evangelical Christian. Like an earlier comment, even Catholics are hated/not trusted/barely tolerated. I see little "climate" change in acceptance. My family taught to never discuss the heart of our beliefs-okay, the heart but no details.

There's no excuse to disallow an aberrant Religion. I was assigned the "pro-Nazi" (Spokane case) argument in a university law class. I'm of Irish-Jewish descent. The KKK sees no good in me. However, it was easy for me to argue for their right to speech (and assemble). My argument was based on the "Heckler's Veto." To summarize:

In many court cases, it has been found that just because someone has a minority view, the majority *is not* allowed to "heckle/silence" her. That 1 person out of 1, 000 still has her 1st amendment rights.

Keep in mind, these decisions were made by Supreme Court justices who are changing decade by decade according to the whim of the current President of the United States of America.

(Please VOTE next time-even in your small, local elections. That's where the lower court judges are elected.)

I Feel That The First Amendment Is More Enforced When It Comes... Jul 3rd. at 6:13:10 pm EDT

Cougar MorningStar (Walsenburg, Colorado US) Age: 17 - Email

I feel that the first amendment is more enforced when it comes to monotheistic religions, they have the right to pray in our schools, but if someone with a different religion wants to practice it, then all of a sudden it's wrong. The founding fathers of this country left England to escape religious persecution, yet somehow the persecution followed them.

It Is The Best Of Times, It Is The Worst Of Times... Jul 3rd. at 6:27:56 pm EDT

Aedh Rua (New Richmond, Wisconsin US) Age: 35 - Email

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.........Ok, so not the most original of openings, but accurate, I think. The First Amendment has always been more a matter of theory than of practice. People who express radical or different ideas have long faced opposition and suppression in the United States. Depending on the radical idea, this has usually been less than in other countries, and occasionally harsher, but never has any nation been as free as most Americans like to imagine they are.

Non-Christian religions of any kind have always been granted liberty in the United States -- in theory. And in practice, they have always been discriminated against, harrassed, persecuted, and sometimes outright suppressed. It is only in the last 40 years or so that any non-Christians have won the right to follow their religion openly. Pagans and Wiccans have not had religious liberty, in America or anywhere else, since ancient times. In the '80s, we were essentially considered a dangerous cult, and treated accordingly. But in the liberal, free, and easy '60s and '70s, most people regarded us as crazy.

For Pagans, the period when the 1st Amendment first began to apply to them was during the last ten years, essentially the Clinton years. The irony of this is that it was also a time when many of our enemies were feeling persecuted for the first time, under Janet Reno. From 1992 to 2000, the First Amendment took steps both forward and back, as groups, Pagan and otherwise, both won new recognition, but also tried to suppress speech which they considered dangerous and didn't like.

More recently, Dubya and company have tried to turn the clock as far back as they could. The Faith Based Initiative, the appointment of John Ashcroft, and other measures were deliberate attacks on our freedom, and, in my opinion, were the opening moves in a campaign of scapegoating and persecution directed specifically at Pagans, Wiccans, and Gays. Had this gone unchecked, it probably would have just led to a lot of ugly harassment, but could easily have gotten a lot worse than that.

The changing of the Senate to Democratic control has put a stop to any such activities, at least for now. For the time being, the Religious Right is facing a backlash of epic proportions, and we have a breathing space. Chances are, given the demographic and financial realities which most of their groups are facing, that this is their final fall from political power. But we would be fools not to take advantage of this time, to organize, to build up our defenses, and to prepare to give a bloody nose, legally or otherwise, to anyone who tries to take away our liberty to worship as we choose.

To put it another way, the First Amendment is what it always has been, a scrap of paper. Freedom must be taken and then defended.

How Fares The First Amendment? Better To Ask How Fares The Entire... Jul 4th. at 4:34:50 am EDT

Snorri Laurelsson (San Francisco, California US) Age: 32

How fares the First Amendment? Better to ask how fares the entire Bill of Rights, but I can see how that gets out of topic for the Voice.

If I had to make an assessment right this moment I'd have to say that this country appears to be in greater danger than ever of sliding off into religious hatred. At the further, scariest, most extreme end of that path is theocracy. I don't consider that very likely, but I sleep better knowing that I have contributed to organizations like the ACLU, which help to stave off such nightmares.

I certainly don't trust our government to do what is right, or even lawful. Keeping those who rule in check requires constant vigilance. We as a community have been good about this, but we need to be far better if we ever wish to make further advances toward equality and acceptance.

Ultimately I Think That Religious Freedom In This Country Is Probably Pretty... Jul 4th. at 2:52:45 pm EDT

Emerald (Fort Lauderdale, Florida US) Age: 20

Ultimately I think that religious freedom in this country is probably pretty safe. We had a bit of a scare there during the last election, but now it seems like all the plans of the current administration are collapsing, nothing has been accomplished and even of what little they did accomplish some of that has been retroactively reversed (remember the Executive Order to cut funding to overseas clinics that provide abortion services with their own money? it was shot down last month). The Democrats control the Senate, and while I don't know how far to trust Democrats I know they're not trying to subvert our civil rights of make the wealthy wealthier, so I imagine that having them in control is probably a pretty safe situation as far as our religious rights go. I think we can all sit back and take a deep breath and relaxe, stop foaming at the mouths and look forward to what promises to be a relatively uneventful four years, then make sure you get your butts out to the polls next time and vote for the right people. As for the 'Faith-based initiative', it has stalled in the Congress because it has very little support on either side.
We have to start to understand that we are no longer in the time of the Medieval Witch Persecutions. Empires are no longer slaughtering Druids and Clergymen are no longer ordering the burning of 'witches'. True there are people out there who wish to persecute us, but when has that ever not been the case when a person refuses to 'fit in' and 'do what's expected' by a majority group? The majority of the population likes to think of itself as part of homogenous groups: religions, races, skin colors, etc... So, when someone refuses to bend to the will of these majority groups and celebrates their own independence they always face persecution, but at this time and place in history we're about as safe as we've ever been, maybe a little less safe than during the previous administration but still pretty safe. Breathe, relaxe, no powerful force is out to get you.

I Think We're Worse Off Than We Were Five Years Ago, In... Jul 5th. at 11:19:51 pm EDT

Lauryl Stone (Chapel Hill, North Carolina US) Age: 33 - Email

I think we're worse off than we were five years ago, in large part due to a disturbing trend I've seen recently (even in the neopagan community) where anything someone finds "offensive" must immediately cease being said/posted/printed/etc. And people don't seem to realize that silencing that 1 individual in 1000 who holds a minority opinion is a bad thing -- who knows when you or your HPS may be that 1 who gets silenced? Change the channel, turn the page, surf to a different website, hit your "delete" button -- but once you start taking away First Amendment rights because your sensibilities were shocked, you've put your feet on a slippery slope, and Goddess help you. It's not always the fundies and right-wing crackpots who steal our rights; we're doing it to ourselves.

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