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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: 28,360,310  

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Reponses: 41

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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. Reverse Sort 

I Think The Main Problem Is That Schools Seem To Have Become... Jul 14th. at 12:29:54 pm UTC

Phoenix Caladrius (San Antonio, Texas US) Age: 33 - Email

I think the main problem is that schools seem to have become completely tolerant of teasing in general. My son, who is now homeschooled, was teased unmercifully by the other kids in his middle school - not for our religious beliefs, but because he is a special needs child. The nature of his condition leaves him at a loss as to how to respond properly to the taunts of his peers. During the year and a half that he attended the middle school, my son underwent a dramatic transformation from a friendly, playful child to an angry, hostile, depressed, and suicidal person I could barely recognize. Even medication for the depression wasn't enough to counterbalance his personality after the abuse he'd received. Many times during this period I approached the school personnel, who told me that they wouldn't intervene unless the comment or assault had been committed directly in front of a teacher. And when it did happen in front of one, I was told that, since the teacher was looking in another direction, again nothing could be done. My son (and I)as repeatedly told to "just deal with it" and that "we can't make the other kids like you." When my son, who is very small for his age, was cornered by five girls and beaten up, the school's response was that my son was equally responsible, because he hadn't run away - despite the fact that there was no way he could've gotten away. The resource teacher told me that her observation was that the other kids teased him openly in the classroom, and the teachers chose to overlook it. At one point, my son was even called into the office and reprimanded because another student (falsely) claimed that my son had threatened to "put a curse" on him. And we weren't even pagan at the time! Gradually, I came to realize that the same "blind eye, deaf ear" attitude we were encountering is widespread. No wonder that the suicide rate among teens is so high, or that sometimes the victims attempt to take the law into their own hands! The teachers and administrators they are supposed to be able to turn to have abdicated any attempt to teach students that, even though they may not like another student, everyone has a right to a harrassment-free life. I fear for the children, like Tempest and my son, who are being driven to destruction by the trauma of constant harassment - for any reason. And I fear for all of us when the purpetrators reach adulthood thinking that they have the right to do exactly as they please, regardless of rules or decency. I realize that my son and I were some of the lucky ones. I had the luxury of being able to choose homeschooling, and my son slowly recovering from the trauma he experienced. My heart goes out to Tempest's mother, and to all the other kids, not as lucky as my son. How many more kids will have to die before our highly educated school leaders realize that "disliking" is not the same as "harassing"?

It Has Been Said That There Are Two Types Of People...those... Jul 14th. at 4:11:24 pm UTC

Maureen O'Danu (Independence, Missouri US) Age: 34 - Email

It has been said that there are two types of people...those who wish to control the actions of their neighbors, and those that have no such wish. There are several keys to ending religious discrimination.
1) education: I can't count the number of times a fellow pagan has been asked to outline his/her specific beliefs and was unable to enumerate them for the asker. If we can educate ourselves about our own tenets, and communicate them to those who don't share those tenets, we will begin to seem less "scary"to most.
2) It is necessary to "de-mainstream" discrimination and intolerance. This is already beginning to happen in some groups and some regions of the country, but here on the buckle of the bible belt, intolerance is praised as "righteousness" and tolerance reviled as "compromising with evil". We will never be able to change the minds of fanatics. We shouldn't try. Rather, we should be good neighbors to our neighbors, and let our actions speak against their words.
3) We should, perhaps, rather than rejecting mainstream society, integrate into it and allow the mainstream to be affected by our ideas. This has happened and continues to happen, but the pace can always be improved.
4) We should and must always speak up loudly but rationally whenever injustice is served, not only on members of our faith, but on people who are discriminated against for other reasons.
5) We should lobby vociferously against Bush's scheme to allow faith based organizations to proseletyze with their hands out for government cheese. However, if we fail (and we probably will), we must push and elbow our way into line for some of that cheese, in order to make sure that the government is not able to "delegitimize" our religion.
6) Finally, and most importantly, we need to be good neighbors. Keep the yard up, take out the trash, offer to pitch in with community efforts, invite the neighbor's kids over and send our kids to play with theirs, and quietly, with dignity and compassion for your neighbor's worry, answer their questions about the effect having you as a neighbor will have on his life. Assure him that you are not out to convert him or his kids, as you have no wish to buy *his* religion. Then offer him the excess zucchini in your garden.

How To End Descrimination? That's A Hard Question To Answer. I Was... Jul 14th. at 4:28:56 pm UTC

samantha Erickson (ruckersville , Virginia US) Age: 18 - Email

how to end descrimination? that's a hard question to answer. I was the only pagan in my high school for some time. It was a frightening exsperance I found many of my friends whom I had thought understood me thinking the same things about me as everyone else. I knew that I had to do something. I began to put wiccan sayings up on my locker.. like an ye harm none do what ye will. most of the time they where ripped down it wasn't easy to keep puting them up... the worst part of the exsperance was when my dram teacher said I was a satanist and set the rest of her crew to harras me and deface my personal property with crosses. that ended with me, tears in my eyes confronting her and demanding to know why she insisted to do this to me... I had posted another flier outlineing my beliefs to her trope and some very mean things where written on it. I suppose she was scared of my firceness but all she said was she was sorry and didn't know I took it that serously. my senor year was the first in witch we had a moment of silence. I surprised a lot of people with my quient meditation I also found that two members of the drama trope had become pagan through a person who had left the school years eiler.. I also found myself surounded by younger pagans.. I was the elder in my school so to speak amd many came to see me for advice. I think the key to ending discrimination is to be open minded ourselves. we shouldn't try to protect ourselves unless it is nessisary... and I don't think I ever one brought up the burning times.... it can sound as though we are blaming others for that terrible time when it is blameless now those of the burning time have paid thier price already. I think that discrimination should be fought with a quiet resistance and when we are attacked be ferice but kind.

The Key To Tolerance Is Education. But How Can We Educate People... Jul 14th. at 8:52:02 pm UTC

Epiffanie (Orangeville, Utah US) Age: 24 - Email

The key to tolerance is education. But how can we educate people about who we are if they close their minds and refuse to listen? People have preconceived notions about Pagans and are unwilling to let go of them.

Where do they get their notions? I think the majority get their ideas from the media and from movies like "The Craft" and "The Blair Witch Project." So many people actually think that if they see something on t.v. it must be true. I don't think we will ever be able to change that mindset, but perhaps we could take some steps to ensure a more accurate portrayal of Witch's, Wiccans, and Pagans by the media. If people see it on t.v., they'll believe it.

I, myself, am not entirely sure how to go about doing that. Perhaps we could protest when we are portrayed by the media in a way that is inaccurate and demeaning and provide them with more accurate information on which to base their portrayals. Also, it would be great to see more programs like that segment about Wicca that was on "Religion and Ethics" on PBS a while back. They interviewed some respected members of the Pagan community and I thought it was a fairly well done. I have no idea how to get more of that kind of thing on t.v., but if it could be done, I think it would make a world of difference.

The Main Thing We Need Is Education. Not Only The School Way... Jul 14th. at 11:39:30 pm UTC

David Martin (Montreal, Quebec CA) Age: 17 - Email

The main thing we need is education. Not only the school way(aka the Traditionnal Xian way), by filling our heads with various notions without making sure that we understand them, but also through real-life practice. Not only could this apply to religion, but also to cultures (as I remember some of the posts on the Chinese/American plane crash question) and all groups in general. If we are to fit in society, we must understand that all majorities are formed with minorities, as everyone is supposed to be unique. The key to reducing intolerance is education, but when basic education is badly supplied, how such a philosiphical question can reach everyone. As an example, in Canada, Quebec has the highest rate of university students, but still has about a fifth of its population who are functionnal analphabets. Without this basic skill(reading), they, have hardly been educated, and then mostly orally, which reduces their range of thoughts, and self-education is hard for them (lots of this education is self-education, like political consciousness, racial/sexual/religious tolerance, and requires a lot of reading to build one's opinions without being completely clueless). Another defect of education is the lack of ressources. Serious educationnal ressources are hard to find, and harder if your source is already unreliable (I wouldn't have lots of confidence in books proposed to me by a fundamentalist catholic priest), and they sometimes fall in propaganda (as is the case with lots of book on politics and religions).

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