The opinions posted on the Pagan Perspective pages are those of individuals and are not neccessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.
Posted: Sep. 8, 2002
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Question of the Week: 49 - 7/9/2001
Ending Religious Discrimination-What's It Gonna Take?
After reading the Tempest Smith story, we have to wonder just what it is gonna take to prevent this sort of thing from happening to any other child-or to any adult. No other school district ever received as much information about Pagan beliefs as the Lincoln Park School District did -and it even had to pay big bucks to settle a lawsuit over the wearing of a pentacle in one of that district's the high schools- yet what happened to Tempest occurred in that very same district. What more can the Pagan communities do to help end religious discrimination? What other groups can we get to align with us? Why does this continue to happen not only in the schools, but also in the workplace and in divorce/child custody proceedings? What are the causes of religious discrimination or intolerance for others? How are Pagans doing in this area" Are we part of the problem (Do we discriminate, too?) or part of the solution?
| Reponses: There are 41 responses posted to this question.
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| Children Can Be So Cruel, And Sadly, The Adults That See This... ||Jul 9th. at 9:51:28 am EDT|
|Ciarrai (Somewhere in Somerset County, New Jersey US) ||Age: 33 - Email |
Children can be so cruel, and sadly, the adults that see this just let it happen. It takes me back to my RC High School years where we had one Jewish female student that went to the RC school b/c the public schools in the city I was raised in were rated very poorly in the state and her parents wanted for her to have the best education (as did mine, except it was easier for me b/c I was brought up Catholic). She always stood up when we were supposed to pray in the morning, she did take the religious classes that were a part of the curriculum without complaining that she shouldn't have to because she was Jewish, but yet there were some boys that felt a need to throw pennies at her. She never "told on" anyone, but I bet she had a lot of tearful after school afternoons.
Adults have to take the responsibility to make sure that these things just don't happen -- to anybody! The parents need to take the time away from her/his Palm Pilot and talk to the kids about the other kids at school, what's going on, and guide them accordingly. The adults that are supposed to be held accountable for these kids while they are at school need to treat each and every one of them as if she/he was one of his/her own. Gimme a break, the teachers see what's going on with these kids all day -- whether they agree with what a child believes, looks like, dresses like, whatever -- they are responsible for these kids during a great portion of their waking hours! These PTA meetings shouldn't focus just on the bake sales to help purchase a new bus for the football team! It should be an interface between the parents that have the kids that come home crying every day to find out why the adults that are being held responsible for their health, education and welfare are blantantly ignoring their responsibilities! There is some serious psychological damage being caused just by going to school.
As far as the workplace is concerned, sheesh, if I only knew. I'm still knee deep in study and I haven't even self-initiated/tried to hook up w/ a local coven yet because I am a firm believer in the year and a day theory. However, I had no problem sponsoring TWV with my own name. That is until I found out through someone that was doing a search on an Internet browser that typing my name in brought them right to TWV sponsor page. My heart went in my stomach, and I wanted to blast myself for even having an anxiety attack over this. So I took on a "craft name" or to be even more honest an "alias" because as everything that I am reading tells me, I am not ready to have a battle of wits b/c right now I am truly unarmed. I don't want to "do battle" with anyone over this. But the thought of what could happen to me at my job frightens me; yes, I said it, it does. I've been putting time into a top Fortune 500 company since I was 19 years old and I am bound and determined to keep it that way until I can retire. I really don't know what the consequences would be. Of course it wouldn't be ethical to discriminate against me but it would be make me feel more warm and fussy inside if there were someone else first. Who knows, maybe I might have to become the Pagan Pioneer (when I have the knowledge and the wisdom). But I must say that I have worked with people from all around the world, and I have, amongst many others, have been able to be sympathetic toward people of different cultures than that of myself.
As far as divorce and child custody goes, I don't know anyone that has had that problem, but divorce is ugly - PERIOD. In the State of New Jersey, there's no way to be nice, unless you want to wait 18 months and have a no-fault divorce. Of course I didn't want to wait, but I wanted to have an amicable divorce, so I had to site "mental cruelty" and begged my ex not to bother reading the paperwork (he didn't - Goddess bless). But I'm sure that people have a FIELD day with Pagan spouses and parents, even they themselves are Pagan, and lie and say that he/she isn't a Pagan anymore, or that he/she never knew that his/her spouse was a Pagan (yeh, right, big surprise!) just to look good in the courts. We have to make sure that the Pagan cases that go well are put into the books and marked as statutes so they can be referenced for other Pagans. I do believe that judges try to enforce the law. We need to find out how to put favorable Pagan cases in all of our States family law books!
I can see how we could be a part of the problem (blaming Christians, etc.) But I think that we all try to be a part of the solution. I find that most of the Pagan Website and Organizations that I sponsor have "helpful hints" of ways to have productive discussions with people regarding Paganism, not defensive agruments.
| Religious Discrimination Will Never End. There Are Too Many Religions Out There... ||Jul 9th. at 11:21:22 am EDT|
|Daven (Nashville, Tennessee US) ||Age: 33 - Email |
Religious discrimination will never end. There are too many religions out there that are of the opinion that their own way is right, and if they are right, everyone else is wrong. Thus, it will always be a matter of exclusivity.
Since the beginning, man (and woman) has wanted to be part of something that makes them feel special. Because of that drive to be unique, to be lifted above their fellow people, there is a need to create an us-them mentality.
Religion tends to foster this attitude.
This not only happens in the Christian Community, but it also happens in the Wiccan/Pagan/Islamic/Hindu/Judaic communities as well. What is never stated is that if one is right, all others are right as well.
Many will disagree with me on this point, but it is fundamental to dispelling the us/them mentality. Even though the religious/philosophical path that you have found for yourself is correct, it is ONLY correct for YOU and YOU ALONE. Another path is just as correct as any other for other people.
This is not to say that all religions are the same, far from it. There are vast differences between the religions and the beliefs and the faith and the dogma of the various religions. But if the goal of a religion is to bring peace and comfort to the soul of the practitioner, what does it matter if they are Asatru or Shinto or Buddhist or any other flavor of religion out there?
Unfortunately, in an effort to gain converts some religions have started going "WE ARE RIGHT!!!! THEY ARE WRONG!!!!! Wouldn't you rather be right than wrong? Join us, and be RIGHT!!!!" and casting aspersions on everyone else.
The reason this is happening is because of the subjective nature of the material. There is no way to prove one group right or wrong, and weak willed people fear public ridicule, so they would rather join something that might be right than to be totally wrong.
Sadly, the only cure for this state is for everyone, the whole planet, to grow up and mature and to loose that fear of being held up to ridicule. We all need to grow up in such a way that we are secure in ourselves. We need to learn that we are all worthy of love and that we are right for ourselves.
This is not a question that has a yes or no answer. Or any one right answer. It's like asking what numbers are contained in "infinity". The answer is "all of them", "none of them" (no numbers in the word), "123456789", "uncountable" and many other answers. This is a subjective idea, like "right and wrong" and "Love" so there is no one true way or answer. All the answers are correct in different ways.
"And this above all, to thine own self be true. And it must then follow as the night the day that thou canst then be false to no man."
| Growing Up Roman Catholic In The Missouri Bootheel In The 1950s, I... ||Jul 9th. at 11:35:41 am EDT|
|Choriambic (Baltimore, Maryland US) ||Age: 51 |
Growing up Roman Catholic in the Missouri bootheel in the 1950s, I faced a lot
of discrimination. The Lutherans and Protestants felt we were superstitious and incapable of thinking thoughts/holding ideas outside of what was sanctioned by the Vatican. I heard the ripple that argued if Kennedy won the presidency, the Pope would be over here to run the country. An idea that was a serious threat in some quarters back then, though it seems ridiculous today.
The Baptists thought we were amoral because the Germans, Irish, Scots and Polish that principally made up our parishes enjoyed their drinking and their cigarettesŃjokes argued these were the few things the Church seemed not to condemnŃbut the Baptists felt it sinful.
For us, there was an ever greater mystery about what went on in those Revival tents, which we associated with them.
In short, I grew up amidst a lot of crazy perspectives on what the other religions stood for, in a time when an exchange of communication that could dispel that ignorance was yet to come.
Just now, as I finally have accepted I'm a witch, always have been, but can define my religion and all its aspects as frankly drawing from my upbringing in many ways (grottos, shrines to Mary, May processions, etc.), I've still had a hard time not shrinking from speaking the term 'witch' or wearing a pentacle. Why? Maybe some past life memory (there are a few I have recalled), but moreso, when I studied yoga in the 70s, my former corporate exec husband used it as an excuse to 'replace' me with someone who still confirmed to how I'd been before I'd change to that weird group. (Now even his company uses its hatha informed stress reduction methods.)
Today I can easily claim the old Catholic upbringing, the yoga, but it's a little dicey admitting, also, to being a witch. What changed it for the other two previous spiritual practices? I can suggest two main events: the advent of persons who represented the individual groups as having a global focus where spiritual issues were concerned (JFK, Martin Luther King, Pope John). I'm sure everyone can add many more names to this list.
But also, during the end of the '70s, a day when some ad or another for something connected to yogic practice came up in an ad and a friend yelped, "that's it, we're in the culture." I was offended by the way I felt the ad downgraded the practice. He advised: "It puts it out there. Once Madison Avenue chooses you as part of the culture, you are IN!"
And, yes, I guess from there on it was a roll of sorts that makes 'yoga' a word many toss around as one of those used to put a notch on their 'positive social standing' list.
I know how the first group managed to have their impact -- they became seriously involved in politics or politically charged activity. I've read several announcements over the past 5 years of a planned Pagan/Wiccan walk on DC, but none have materialized, or possibly just not been covered. (This, I learned from friends active in environmental issues often takes those who can pull strings to get the notice.)
I haven't a clue what makes Madison Avenue hop on the wagon beyond marketing surveys and projections for sales in an area that makes the venture lucrative. Then they just hand it over to some hot ad firm like Leo Burnett and let them do their 'magic' to make it something the average person should "want" to embrace and show that association through buying lots of trendy things.
The goodness of the group in responding to moments of persecution will always be baseline for its health within in the culture. But what I suggest, if I'd read this question correctly, is exactly what I believe, because I saw it happen, occurs to allow a group to become enfolded within the 'acceptable' things that make up a culture.
Know any good wiccans/pagans/witches who work for major marketing/promotion groups? Encourage them to tease their bosses into finding entrpreneurs (like Whole Foods, which began back during that 70s period and is now a HUGE corporation) that they may want to encourage! As well as encouraging those who may consider running for office or putting forward politically active issues in a BIG way!
| As A Pagan Parent The Most Important Thing I Can Do Is... ||Jul 9th. at 11:38:37 am EDT|
|Jennifer Morningstar (Bonshaw, Prince Edward Island CA) ||Age: 28 |
As a pagan parent the most important thing I can do is to go to the school principal and explain exactly what my religion is really about, and then extract a promise that each teacher in the school will be educated with the material I have left for them. Another good idea is to get involved personally with the school, for example, help out on a sports day, or be on the home and school association, they won't think you're a weirdo if they see you working alongside them for the good of the school. Also try organizing a multicultural week, to promote the greatness of diversity. If you're still not happy try making a presentation to the students at one of their assemblies. Perserverence is key.
| I Think It Comes Down To Education And Through Education, Understanding And... ||Jul 9th. at 12:52:22 pm EDT|
|Kit (Austin, Texas US) ||Age: 23 - Email |
I think it comes down to education and through education, understanding and respect. A lot of discrimination -- religious and otherwise -- comes from the fear of the unknown. When we meet a person who is radically different than us, we wonder about them. Sometimes though, we find an answer in stereotypes, or misinformation. And some people use this purposefully do their own advantage. It has been a long tradition to accuse the opposing religion of horrible crimes like eating babies. The Christians got it in their time, and now it is often directed at us.
So we have to educate the Christians (and others), and they have to be willing to learn. At the same time, we also have to be as open as we always claim to be, and not think less of someone because their path in this lifetime is a different one than our own. Too often I hear Pagans disparaging those who choose Christianity, other minority religions, or even differing traditions within our own.
| You Ask, "are There Groups We Can Align Ourselves With?" Yes! My... ||Jul 9th. at 2:46:52 pm EDT|
|Emerald (Fort Lauderdale, Florida US) ||Age: 20 |
You ask, "Are there groups we can align ourselves with?" Yes! My first recommendation is to align yourself with a non-denominational politically-active church like the Unitarian Universalist Church. In my area there are three Unitarian Churches, and two of them have pagan groups, which are part of a decades-old national alliance of groups known as the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. Find Unitarian Universalist Churches in your area (and believe me I've found them even in the Bible-belt, so they're probably in your area too) and join the CUUPS group or start one. At my church, we've done Wiccan and Druid stuff during the Sunday Services, even though most of the congregation is Humanist. I believe there are even UU Pagan Churches out there, but I've only heard that. Become active in the UU Churches, get others to come and be active, join the church and become Deacons and Board Members and Presidents and even Reverends. There are so many sub-groups to the UU Church that in addition to being a non-denominational liberal-minded church it also serves as a political force working for the interests of its congregants. And don't worry if you're gay, bisexual, or transgender, you'll be welcome in the UU Church, they even have a gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender group called Interweave. And another thing about UU Churches is that from my experience they usually put more into their lands than into their chapels, and usually the pagans are the only ones who really got a lot of use out of the lands, so they'll let you do things like put in fire circles and labyrinths and maypoles, whatever you can convince them to let you do.
Another thing to do to improve understanding between religions is not to breed these conflicts ourselves. If your parents or siblings would freak out about it, then you have to really ask yourself whether you want to come out of the 'broom closet' with them at all, after all you don't have to climb up on a mountain and declare your religion for all the world to hear, it can be something that only you know and if you're following your path correctly it will still be fulfilling. Avoid pentacles in front of others if it would cause needless hassle. When someone else says, "Thank God, " or something to that extent, don't immediately feel forced to throw in, "And Goddess, " or "Thank the gods, " just because you don't like that they have chosen to honor and believe in the existence of only one god. Do not, do not, ever, make cruel Christian jokes, or dishonor the validity of their belief system or disrespect the strength of their convictions. I have a Christian mother and sister who'm I love dearly and who were unbothered by my choice to honor the old paths, and I know pagans who have also maintained their affiliation to Christianity. So if you're mocking Christians you're mocking your fellow pagans, and you may be discouraging the aid of possible allies from within the Christian community. Enough of the Christian bashing! As if the shameful deeds of the Christians were any worse than the shameful deeds of the organized followings of every large religion in the world. I've got news for some of you, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucionism and all the Eastern religions so many people have come to glorify are as corrupt as Christianity, maybe more so (you think the Chinese never launched an inquisition? or that the Hindus never fight Holy Wars? or that Taoists never say that other religions are wrong simply because they disagree? get real. if anything, those things happen far more often in the Eastern religions than in Christianity). Let's get right down to the nitty gritty, if you want to change the ideas that have been spread about us, start by not repeating the patterns of your oppressors, and then begin to display your beliefs in whatever way you safely can, perhaps simply by expressing an eco-consciousness or in some other simple way, it's not necessary to freak people out to show them what you believe. Most people can watch a Druid ritual or a Wiccan ritual or a Norse ritual, not being told what they're watching, and not freak out at what they see, but if you come to them and shout, "Hey, wanna go watch our pagan/heathen ritual?" what do you expect them to do? You know they're gonna get weird images in their heads. The gentle approach is the best way.
| Interfaith Work. That's What It's Going To Take. Getting To Know The... ||Jul 9th. at 3:29:19 pm EDT|
|Sue A McCullough (Oakland, California US) ||Age: 42 - Email |
Interfaith work. That's what it's going to take. Getting to know the people of your community who practice another religion, and giving them a chance to get to know you as a person.
My coven's High Priestess is actively involved with the local interfaith counsel, and she's pulling in the talented folks in our coven to help them get a web site up.
They also are running a food kitchen for homeless people, and have land they want to turn into an organic garden, both to feed their clients and to teach them a skill, organic gardening. That's the part that I'll be working on, helping them set up composting, getting the garden planted, teaching other volunteers how to plant, weed, maintain, and harvest.
Our coven is showing our support for community work, not talking about it. This is what will gain Pagans and Witches the acceptance, and maybe someday even the respect, of people of other belief systems.
We need friends and allies. We can't do this alone.
| I'm Only Fourteen, So I Have No Clue How Being Pagan Affects... ||Jul 9th. at 9:05:32 pm EDT|
|Silver Owl (Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas US) ||Age: 14 |
I'm only fourteen, so I have no clue how being pagan affects your career or anything like that. All I know is, if you try to come out of the closet @ school in the Bible Belt it is NOT good. I think that, at least if you're in a largely religious area, the best way to keep the peace is to keep quiet- unless you know the person you're telling really well and can judge their response.
I think it is impossible to end religious persecution- as The Mists of Avalon shows, there has always been and always will be hatred as long as there are multiple religions. The best we can do is try to stop it.
All I can say is- you'd think they'd know better. At one time, Christianity was also discriminated against.
As the wheel turns, sometimes we are at the top and some times we are on the bottom. It seems to me that once again we are going up. Never fear, for there ARE understanding people out there.
| Hmmm......i Think The Really Operative Way To Look At This Question... ||Jul 9th. at 10:50:29 pm EDT|
|Aedh Rua (New Richmond, Wisconsin US) ||Age: 35 - Email |
Hmmm......I think the really operative way to look at this question is: how can we end religious discrimination AGAINST US. There is about zip we can do about, say, Chinese persecution of Falun Gong, Tibetan Buddhists, Christians, or whoever, except not buy Chinese goods, which I recommend heartily, but not in any real belief that it will be effective. Same goes for the Iranians, Sudanese, or whoever else is currently massacring a religious minority. Some day, Gods willing, we will be in a position to do more, but that day is not today.
That established, what can we do? As I see it, there are several factors working toward the end of persecutions of Pagans:
1. The Growth of Paganism: The bigger we get, the easier it is for us to raise the money we need to defend ourselves, the more education we can do, the more activists we have, and so on. Eventually, we will just be too big to take on. If we keep growing at out current rate, not that this is likely, we will be the majority by 2025 or 2030. At that point, the shoe will rather be on the other foot, won't it?
2. The Organization of the Pagan Community: Paganism has traditionally been very individualistic, not to say chaotic and disorganized. Here, again, we are becoming better able to organize ourselves, and we need to become still better so as to respond to threats as they occur, and to engage in the education needed to prevent those threats from arising in the first place. Like it or not, legal action costs money, and as do education and public relations. We need to support the organizations which make this possible.
3. Education: The more we can inform people of what we are all about, the better. The more we can reach out to other religions, the better. There are many people who are very lukewarm about their religion; probably most people are this way. These people, and those who belong to more liberal faiths are possible allies against persecutors of any religion.
4. Butt-kicking 101: As I just wrote, education of non-Pagans as to what we are really about is a Good Thing. We need more of it. There is, however, a segment of the Christian population who will not listen to us, not matter what we say. These people are convinced that we are evil, and they are determined to mess with us. Fine. The way to make them stop is to convince them that we will literally ruin their lives if they try. Now, getting shot can ruin your day, but not nearly as totally as can a pack of hostile and clever lawyers. This is why big, high profile lawsuits may well stop a lot of persecutors in their tracks. The ones who are sued will be put out of business. The ones who see what happens will think twice. We don't want to get a reputation as lawsuit-happy, but if the fundies think about us with a little fear, "ooh, don't mess with THEM, they'll ruin you....", so much the better. Scorched Earth rules.
5. The Decline of the Religious Right: This is happening, whether they want it or not. Many of the leading donors to the Religious Reich were from the WWII generation. You would think that they had learned better, and that it was clear to them who they were supporting, but no matter. They are dying off, as all generations must. As they do so, they leave their money to their more liberal, or at least apathetic, kids. Fine for us. The result is that most RR organizations are getting by on something like half of their budgets of just five to ten years ago. The Christian Coalition, Promise Keepers, a lot of these groups are on their last legs. You just can't defeat demographics. This, by the way, is why Dubya is so important. He is literally the fundies' last chance. If they can't win now, then they don't have a prayer of taking this country.
6. Charmed, Buffy, and the Craft: You don't like these portrayals? Well, yeah, they are a bit fluffy, but they are the reason that Witchcraft is the chief interest among teenage girls. Shit, I don't mind a little hype if it takes us from a hundred thousand members to a hundred million, and that is where we will be in twenty years, thanks to the media. Likewise, the negative attitude toward newbies must end. I have been Pagan for about 20 years. I know that newbies can be irritating. But be nice to them, teach them well, for all of the cynical, power-political reasons if not for any others. It used to be easy to persecute "blood drinking Satanists". But persecute the sexy, fashionable, young Goth grrl and Goth boi next door? A totally different matter, and a change in image which we owe to fluff media.
7. Make Nice: This is really part of "education". Like it or not, we are each a walking portrayal of Paganism. Now, we don't have to be totally establishment because of it; Goth is hip, these days, after all. On the other hand going around waving about your Atlantean Crytal Power Wand, and basing every other conversation on the psychic spiders being sent to you by your enemies does nothing for the cause. In short, try to look, and act, like the kind of responsible person who wouldn't be caught dead making hideous sacrifices at the dark of the moon.
8. Self-Policing: An extention of the above. We need to control the really very small criminal element in our community, and EVERY community has its criminal element. This includes a certain number of "witchy witches" who engage in "forbidden" practices, but mostly includes the Dirty Old Man set, who seem to use Paganism as an excuse to pick up young girls. These jokers have to be dealt with, somehow. They are just a bit too numerous. Why, I know of at least five without even stretching my brain, and could think of others if I tried.......
9. The payoff: If we follow all of the above advice, then the fundies are in a WORLD of hurt. I would go so far as to say, but not promise, that if we follow my little prescription, then our growth will continue at its current rate. In 30 years or so we will BE the majority, and able to remake the world in our image. At that point the persecution will stop. Further, if we follow the above advice, we will be a disciplined, responsible, civil community able to give the world very much good. The fundies do have one point. America, for better or worse, is decadent beyond belief. The real proof of this is not, however, in people's sexual behavior, but in the abundant disrespect that important Americans, from Janet Reno to Pat Robertson, have for the democratic system of government and for democratic institutions. We, the Pagans, have a more-or-less democratic community. We, the Pagans, have civil and democratic institutions. The fundies do not. Their institutions are redolent of totalitarianism. They cannot restore Western culture to greatness. We can.
| I Think That There Two Distinct Problems Here. First, The General Public... ||Jul 9th. at 11:06:58 pm EDT|
|Big John (South Amboy, New Jersey US) ||Age: 40 |
I think that there two distinct problems here. First, the general public has a distressingly inaccurate picture of what paganism is about. This leads to fear and religious discrimination. The second problem is just how cruel children can be to each other and the simple fact that school administrations just don't care.
Some time ago, there was a couple I knew pretty well. They were educated people with children of their own. I was over one night when they told me about a coven of witches who were holding ceremonies down the block. At the time I knew very little about paganism. The conversation was pretty dark. They really believed that these were dangerous people. That their children could be in danger. Even that the value of their property could be reduced if a potential buyer knew about them. Seriously! I was not there at the time but I heard that some of the neighbors called the police. The police told them that they weren't breaking any laws and there was nothing that they could do.
Even back then this scared me. Even more so today. All of their fears were based on nonsense that they heard from various places. Despite that fact these were educated people, in modern times, and in a technically advanced country they still focused on dark images of witchcraft that they probably saw on an old movie at 2 AM. And I'm sure they'd probably consider themselves open minded.
It was this incident that prompted me to learn more about paganism. Fortunately, the internet was just starting to get some public notice at the time so I started doing some research there. Am I'm still learning now.
My point in all this is that most people won't go out of their way to learn about something different. Paganism already has two strikes against it because of the lies that were spread in the burning times and because of the distorted image that the media paints. On the positive side there is the internet. Where a great deal of information exists and is available to anyone who wants to take the time to look. But, I'd like to see more on the television and in the news.
As to Tempest Smith's story it truely breaks my heart. And if it weren't for people like Wren we never would have heard about it. The mass media almost never publishes a story like this. But, I don't think her religious beliefs are the only issue here. Children are often intolerant of anyone who is different. Her religion was just a convenient focus for their cruelty. She could just as easily have been fat or a different race or spoke differently. Many parents don't want to hear that children are cruel to each other, or that suicide is becomming more common among young people. Even more important parents don't want to hear that they are often the problem. Children are often a reflection of their parent's attitudes. If the parents are intolerant, abusive, and judgmental how can you expect their children to be anything else?
| I Really Wish I Knew What It Would Take. Education Is The... ||Jul 9th. at 11:12:46 pm EDT|
|Tana (Leicester, North Carolina US) ||Age: 42 - Email |
I really wish I knew what it would take. Education is the only answer that keeps reverberativing over and over in my mind. An "in your face" kind of attitude has some value, but ultimately it has bad vibes of its own. The Tempest story is a real tragedy. I was very upset when I read it today, as this is the first I've heard of it. I know if Tempest had been my child, I would have been devastated with grief beyond belief. It made me mindful of something in my life which pales by comparison. It caused me to think back about 7 years ago when "satanist" fever was sweeping San Antonio, and even the police force was being "educated" in the ways of "satanists". My landlord discovered my altar, tools, and other Wicca things, and I found myself rudely and instantly evicted one day when I was away from home. I received an anonymous phone call that informed me that all my household goods were sitting out on the lawn next to the mobile home I'd been renting. Well, I can only say that we must educate and keep our faith, and be on the lookout for potential violence. We must also make young people and others aware of support services, and that they are not alone. I think people should not hesitate to file EEOC complaints when they have workplace problems that their bosses won't resolve. I had my boss discipline a co-worker for constantly trying to convert me to her mainstream belief system. Be vigilant. I also believe we should ally ourselves with other Pagans from other backgrounds, such as Hindoos, and I think an alliance with the Buddhist community might be beneficial as well. I wish only the best for Tempest's mother, and hope this type of tragedy never happens again.
| Tempest's Story Is Truly A Tragic One And My Heart Goes Out... ||Jul 10th. at 12:07:08 am EDT|
|Amber Spires (Lancaster, Ohio US) ||Age: 20 - Email |
Tempest's story is truly a tragic one and my heart goes out to her mother. Even though I am not a parent myself, and frankly have NO maternal instincts, I sobbed for an hour after hearing her story. My heart ached for Tempest and her mother's loss.
I have been pretty lucky where I live in terms of religious freedom. I graduated from a private, Catholic school two years ago, and I came out of the "broom closet" at school my senior year. No problems at all. I do live in a conservative, Mid-western, Bible-waving town, but those who find out about my religion don't push the whole fire-and-brimstone-damnation conversion bit.
I am allowed to wear my Pentagram necklace to work, I don't have to tuck it in.
When we get new hires at the restuarant where I work, my fellow employees make sure that the new hires know that I am a witch. They sort of brag about it. When people first find out, they make little snide, jocular remarks. I laugh along with them so that they know I have a sense of humor, but I make sure that they are aware that it is a valid neo-pagan, nature-based, god-and-goddess-oriented religion that is protected by the U.S. Constitution. It's amazing how many of them pull me aside later and sincerely ask me about my religion.
I have been very fortunate as far as my community is concerned. I still get the occassional "damnation threat", but nothing major. If a situation gets too heated, my friends are right there with me (and most of my friends are devout Christians). Many of them don't really see my religion as an issue. When people pull my friends aside and ask, "Is Amber a witch?" My friends respond with "yeah, of course." They don't see it as a big deal. When it comes down to the wire, they are there to defend me (never physically, of course).
When I first started working at the restuarant three and a half years ago, there was only one Wiccan. Now, we have five (one of which is a manager) and more keep coming to me asking about the religion. I share with them what I know, but tell them that I am not the end-all-be-all authority and tell them where they can go to gather more information. Most of them aren't looking to convert, necessarily, they just want to know more about it. It's that knowledge that they attain that helps promote tolerance.
When they meet me and the other Wiccan's employeed with the company and they realize that we are normal and fun individuals, they change there perception on what being a "witch" actually means.
Those of us that work at Damon's don't dress in all black, gothic, or Renaissancce attire. In fact, all of us shop at B. Moss, The Gap, Express, Abercrombie and Fitch, American Eagle...We dress like "preps".
The best way to promote tolerance is to spread knowledge. To let people know that we are not evil, that we are just like them. I think all of humanity would be better if we just keep in mind the words of the French philosopher, Voltiare:
"I may not agree with a word you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"
We are not going to brainwash you into converting to our spiritual path, that is not our intent. We don't expect you to adopt our religious path. We do expect you to respect our spiritual decision, though.
We just have to remember to stand strong and not back down in defense of our rights and the rights of those who will come after us. It's all about educating those around us. We are children of nature, not the spawn of Satan. Once others realize how "normal" we really are, our religious beliefs are no longer an issue.
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