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: 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.
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| 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.
| How Fares The First Amendment? Compared To Other Things In This Country... ||Jul 6th. at 12:54:54 am EDT|
|Perrin (Denver, Colorado US) ||Age: 24 |
How Fares The First Amendment? Compared to other things in this country it fares very well. I have not gotten a ticket for flipping off the video cameras the cops are putting up on street poles, I do get bad looks but as yet no tickets on that. I dislike what is hapening in the workplace though. I think it should be OK to talk about adult things that are worth while to us, but only if there are no minors in the room. I also think that it should be noted that this is one of the few countries that have this as a law, in most cases it is not. I do emjoy it, but I do wish the "political correctness" would go away, and stay gone. I also think that other people have the right not to listen to you if they don't want to, and I think that others forget this sometimes, and we have problems then. I also think with that in mind that people should be careful of what they say, as some one may oblige them, IE. if you go around saying "Screw You..." then some one eventually will, and you may not like it.
I would also like to point out that some people like myself should just keep their mouths shut and wait for the lawyer, which is why I did not respond to the last two questions. Also a small note, while it is good to get in touch with the past, ghosts do not always make good lawyers.
| I Think The First Amendment Is Faring Pretty Well, All Things Considered... ||Jul 6th. at 1:18:27 pm EDT|
|Propylaia (Washington, District of Columbia US) ||Age: 32 |
I think the First Amendment is faring pretty well, all things considered! Our guaranteed right to free speech is doing exactly what it was meant to do: provide a means by which differing opinions on such sensitive topics as religion can be aired openly, as seen in all the previous posts as well as in GW's faith-based initiative. The fact that so many have spoken out against this proposal and motivated many others to act either to defend or attack the ititiative is proof that freedom of speech is alive and well in America today.
I don't know that our freedom to practice our religion is necessarily at stake, but I'd say our freedom to practice openly and without public condemnation is for the simple reason that we as Pagans make up a very small number in a society whose structure is based on an anti-Pagan Judaio-Christian morality.
But Christianity is being watered down extensively in this country mostly because of the much-condemned Political Correctness movement. That movement makes it unacceptable for an individual to renounce publicly another religion, to call it "wrong, " or to announce that its adherents are destined for hell--which is exactly what "good" Christians did up until about 30 years ago--and which any "good" fundamentalist will still do today. Like it or not, Political Correctness has made it possible for Pagans to practice (more) openly and with less general harassment.
So I would submit that, while we seem to be gaining ground in terms of acceptance and freedom of open expression, we cannot pause to rest. We as a religious minority need to be constantly aware of what is going on politically, and we need to inform our representatives of our views. I think that's the best way to avoid waking up one morning and finding ourselves collectively tied to stakes!
| The First Amendment Fares Pretty Well Last I Looked. Of Course The... ||Jul 6th. at 1:55:48 pm EDT|
|Gonzalo (Pacific Grove, California US) ||Age: 52 |
The First Amendment fares pretty well last I looked. Of course the citizens could use some help. That right is there for us all period but if it is not used and used responsibly then it becomes nothing. Friends we have to talk about the things that matter to us, all things not just the popular ones, without fear of contradiction. When you voice a thought that is true to you it is a truth and should be spoken. Only when we allow oursleves to be talked down to or not face up to possible ridicule is the First Amendment in any danger. I have an abiding faith in the people of this country to do what is ultimatly right. Even if it is to out talk or out shout a fellow citizen who tries to put down an honest ideal. Those from with out are not a real danger to free speech, then we all unite to defend that right. The real danger is in its not being used enough here.
| How Fares The First Amendment? Do You Think That The First Amendment... ||Jul 6th. at 3:35:04 pm EDT|
|Sagehawk (Somewhere) ||Age: 42 - Email |
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?
The government wins this one hands-down by stating that Witchcraft/Wicca/Paganism, etc. is NOT a religion. We are not even covered.
What do you currently think about the Bush administration's faith-based initiative and do you think that it will go forward?
The real question is who gets how much and why? The mere fact that itÕs an issue is a step back in time to the crusades. The churches fighting over the dollar. ThatÕs what charitable organizations are for and they get my donations. Once money starts changing hands between church and government, the lines become blurred.
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?
Well, this question is moot since ÒweÓ are not recognized as a religious organization in any shape, way or form. We may have arrived to the show, but we still canÕt sit at the table.
| Well... I Am Glad The Amendment Exists. But As Much As It... ||Jul 7th. at 11:32:18 pm EDT|
|Rain (Hubbard, Ohio US) ||Age: 39 - Email |
Well... I am glad the amendment exists. But as much as it is proported to protect these rights... it seems it is a bit of a rough ride to get it recognized all the time.
I do think that there have been many petty suits abusing this amendment and that is in the last five or so years. It truly shakes any credibility in utilizing it for a defense.
I personally no matter how mucky I got really used it. I tended to fight the good fight with calmness, information and a grand sense of humor. But had I needed it... I am not as sure as I was five yrs ago it would be a wise thing to do.
As far as Bush....... I am sure several of said it already, but, I do know religious organizations fund and o help with some social problems and are oft under funded.....But to have this validation in the political pecking order is a dangerous thing to give any religion and exempt those that 'W' find less then what the definiton is. I think that in some way this will in soem local areas validate the already dim view of alternate religions small towns some time s have. I mean if the pres says we are no ta religion.. well hell that is it then....and fo rthose who live in secret ... it will bring home the chice tween what is right in the moral sense and what they can live with and still work, have a home, and go unnoticed.
| So Tell Me...when Did A Government Ever Control The Soul? Ah... ||Jul 8th. at 3:09:05 pm EDT|
|Rephaim (perry, Arkansas US) ||Age: 50 - Email |
So tell me...when did a government ever control the soul? Ah, but that is the issue isn't it. While the First Amendment is wonderful in it's conception, it is not the foundation. Souls do not change through paperwork and social mandates. Amendments are only ink on paper and little else. The only concern with Faith based funding, is funding.Who can get the biggest slice of the money pie. Is the soul concerned with gathering loot and followers? No. Truth finds followers on its own. As for religious discrimination, only blatent seekers of attention can be discriminated against. Discrimination has no effect on those who work quietly, living and telling the truth, one listener at a time. Bush and all other social authority, both liberal and conservative, are only fleeting and virtually ignorable gnats in the air. What they do, will change and soon be only faint memories. Look for yourself, those before the current authority are gone, just ghostly vapors of laws and agendas who's time passed.
| I Live In Quebec City So I Know All Too Well What... ||Jul 8th. at 3:28:41 pm EDT|
I live in Quebec City so I know all too well what it is like to have my rights
attacked by the governement.We were tear gassed and pepper sprayed so that our
local politicians could profess their loyalty to unfettered capitalism and get photo ops with Dubya and other disreputable persons.
At the same time however I also saw how people can stand up to the bastards and win if they stand together.We had here just about every faction of progressive people imaginable, who took on the state and did not let ourselves be silenced.We for once forgot our differences and took care of eachother while
we tore down the wall of shame.Whether we were straight or gay, women or men, Wiccan or Christian we turned their private party for the rich and powerful
into a celabration of freedom and solidarity.We fed eachother we danced and marched together as one familly and taught each other just how really strong we
are if we just stick together.
As a Wiccan my favorite part was when I joined a small group of Wiccan women who had as myself been driven away from the wall by the tear gas and had regrouped a short away to decide what to do.
These women were a very ordinary looking group of people in their 40s and 50s wearing blue capes with yellow stars and moons and carrying little blue banners.I asked if any of them were friends from my old chatroom and was disapointed that they were not but I hung around and ended up marching with them through the streets chanting the Earth is our body.
We were fewer than 10 people but when we reached the Montmorency Dufferin road
we formed a huge circle with all kinds of different folks and danced in the middle of a riot, just below the security perimiter.
The scene was surealistic as we had the cops above us lobbing tear gas into the crowd while the black block and very angry local residents who had just been driven from their homes by the gas screamed at the cops and threw rocks at their tormenters.In the circle however people were smiling at eachother and the good energy was very powerfull.
I lost track of the women after I went to recuperate from pepper spray and didn't see them again until 2 days later after things had settled down.I asked
how they were enjoying their visit to our fair city and then mentioned that I heard that Starhawk was in town.This resulted in their cracking up and my getting a hug from the woman I had thought was Starhawk but I hadn't wanted to do the starstruck fan routine on.I chatted with her for a while and I am glad to say that she is as nice as she had seemed to be from her books.While I do not believe Wicca needs a great leader of any kind I found her and the other reclaiming collective sisters to be very good examples of what Wicca can really be.
I think that if we really try to put our Magick into practice and refuse to be
pushed around we can work with people of many different paths in life and we will not have to rely on politicians or even a Bill of Rights to protect our freedoms.We may still be comparitivly few and isolated but we are stronger than we think and their is nothing we can not do if we believe in our selves and those around us.Afterall the Goddess did not create us to be little nobodies but rather to create Magick and to heal and create.
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