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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Nov. 17, 2002   This Page Viewed: 20,419,771  

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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 

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

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).

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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"?

I Believe That The Problem With Intolerace Still Lies In The Age... Jul 14th. at 9:15:41 am EDT

Cloud_Dreamer (KansasCity, Missouri US) Age: 17 - Email

I believe that the problem with intolerace still lies in the age old problem of ignorance. It's not to say that more people now know and respect pegan religions, however it has been my experiance that the average person knows so little about us that there views are easily influenced by television and the movies. Ironically I believe that this media institution is one of the few insturments we could have of reversing age-old predjudices. For if it has been disney's portrail of the "wicked witch" in the wizard of oz, and a dozen other movies, that has been the mortar holding the bricks of hate in place, then whom else better to open the eyes of the average John and Jane Doe than these institutions. It is true that to anyone that wants it, there is much information to be had on the truth of wicca, so to speak, we must realize that it is only those who have no prejudice who are open enough to do the research. My answer is that we, the pegans of the world should, in a peaceful manor write to companies such as disney and sony and nameless others asking simply for a clerification of errors which they, frankly may not have been aware of.

If I May Be "radical" Here For A Second. Perhaps The Answer... Jul 13th. at 6:00:19 pm EDT

Sofia (Dull-luth, Minnesota US) Age: 30

If I may be "radical" here for a second. Perhaps the answer is not tolerance or acceptance, stricly speaking. Perhaps the quickest way is for everyone to just leave everyone else alone. When people ask me what I do to educate, I say "Nothing, " because frankly I have been completely out for several months now, and I must say that I have never been persecuted. Most of my Christian friends have asked me questions, but they've never put me on the spot. Those who didn't approve bolted the other direction and I never heard from them again. The ones that I would have to explain endlessly to without really hearing me (including people in my own family) don't know. Not because I am afraid or ashamed but because we weren't close anyway, and, so, frankly, I don't think that it's any of their damned business.
I agree with what some have said about knee-jerk reactions. I think *all* of us have been guilty in the past of that to some degree or another. To be quite honest, the only group of people I don't like are the Fundamentalist Christians, because they have had the nerve to come onto *every* message board that I am on with their "drive by proselytizing." Can I say that I hate them? No. But I don't like them. They're rude, vain, greedy, and a poor example of what Christianity is supposed to be. So what do I do? I leave them alone. What they do is their business as long as they don't threaten me or mine.
As for tools to use: I just simply talk about my religion as anyone else would. I talk about the Pagan festivals I attend the same way a Christian would talk about going to church or a Jewish person would about going to temple. I don't flaunt it, but I don't hide it. True, there are behaviors that go on at festivals that you wouldn't see at an average church or temple or mosque, etc., but I also treat these as matter of fact because they're no big deal to me. It may be shocking to others if they ask, but I find using humor usually solves a lot of that.
Anyway, that's my rambling for this week. Hope I wasn't too off the topic.

Going To A Catholic School, I Knew That The Torment Would Come... Jul 13th. at 11:34:22 am EDT

Shannon (Doylestown, Pennsylvania US) Age: 15 - Email

Going to a catholic school, I knew that the torment would come. But I had hoped that those christian morals supposedly instilled in my classmates would have taught them acceptance. I was never so wrong in my life. I was tortured and ridiculed every day for being "different" I knew what was going to happen before it did, I could tell what people were thinking. I was a frightening freak to narrowminded 5th and 6th graders. When I read about Tempest Smith, all those memories came flooding back to me. I also got to the point of suicide, and I tried many times, but I never took my life. What many administrators think of as kids being kids is hateful and cruel to the tormented students. I always hoped that there would be an end to it, but I see that that's a foolish thing to think. As long as there is indifference and hatred, fear and ignorance, there will always be the child in the corner, crying alone. Blessed Be.

Enlightenment. You Would Think In This Post Millennium Era, With Trillions Upon... Jul 13th. at 9:24:15 am EDT

Kimberly S Beaupre, aka Mockingbear Wolf (Milton, New Hampshire US) Age: 31 - Email

Enlightenment. You would think in this post millennium era, with trillions upon trillions of gigabytes of information available about Pagan religions, people would no longer think we are evil. There are thousands of books, hundreds of magazines, newsletters and pamphlets. But still people are not enlightened. There are very public Pagans who live exemplary lives and are well loved by a diverse cross section of our society. But so many people still believe we are evil because of the propaganda of a few mainstream, public, extreme religious conservatives. Christians see other Christians declaring us evil and believe it must be so because Christians donŐt lie.
Some Pagans are a part of the problem because they have become too oversensitive to even the slightest, mistaken slur against Pagan religions. Knee jerk reactions do no good and do not teach the unenlightened anything except that they were right about us.
My belief is that no matter how many good deeds we do, how loving and peaceful our ways and how gracious our responses to the venomous lies against us- we will be discriminated against until those who preach the hate have become enlightened. The big question here is how to enlighten them? That is an answer I just do not have.

I'm Doing My Best To Keep From Making Jokes Referring To "crazy... Jul 12th. at 8:20:44 pm EDT

Lynne-Renee (rural, StL, Missouri US) Age: 29 - Email

I'm doing my best to keep from making jokes referring to "Crazy Christians." Just because I've been physically and of course, verbally attacked one-on-one and from a union of congregations (high school was a bitch), doesn't give me the right to make myself feel better by putting someone else down. Cripes! I'm going to be 30 soon and this dawned on me within the last 12 months.

If anyone out there can relate to the attacks, please relate to the intent to STOP the cycle. This would be some kind of Passive-Aggressive behaviour isn't it?

Otherwise, let me say, in my area Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and Jews (not that any live here) are looked at with disdain or worse. I might have felt the same, at least about J. W.'s, if I hadn't been embraced by the local community. Odd, while I don't know all the inner workings, I've been to Kingdom Hall and spent *years* in friends' houses. They're not weird. They're a strict group of people, yes. But on the most part, so gentle.

My Point: I love and accept them because I was accepted by their community and
any questions were answered. It's all about dispelling the fears of those who just don't know the truth. If they know anything, it's from a movie (at best 2% correct) or from a propagandist who was *against* other's beliefs. For those who can, be out. When confronted, face people with lovingkindness and truth...I'm still working on it.

What's It Going To Take? Honest Cold Fact: A Lot More Than... Jul 12th. at 5:39:39 pm EDT

MrLeprechaun (Pietermaritzburg) Age: 27 - Email

What's it going to take? Honest cold fact: A Lot More Than We Are Doing Now.
Tempest was something that was just waiting to happen and do you know what, she
won't be the last. Unless the Pagan, Wiccan and Witchcraft communities don't
wake up to their treatment of others with different viewpoints to themselves (within Paganism as well as without) and to the treatment of the youth, there
are going to be a lot more Tempests.

Most Pagans, Wiccans and Witches will not hesitate to stand up for and adult pagan but just let the same thing happen to a teen pagan and boy does the list
of helpers suddenly shrivel. Try to start up a conversation within Pagan forums and chatrooms about things which a certain group which now dominates the discussion of pagan issues and you will get a whole bambardment of accusations (and very often threats). The truth is that Neo-Paganism and Wicca has become mired in A Dogma that fears Any discussion that might come up with a reasonable alternative path instead of seeing that alternative as an advantage to debate
important issues and grow spiritually. What right do we have to point fingers and give lectureson Tolerance when we battle to cope with Tolerance
of "dissidents" within our Communities? If we want to be given more
Tolerance (lets be honest here and admit that some people will never
give us that because of their personal belief systems contradicting with ours) then we will have to begin to act the way we want to be treated and be prepared to stand up for our own no matter what the age or position of that person is.

Gods know i am one of those who have learnt some hard lessions on Intolerance , not only of others towards me but also of me towards others. One of the hardest things is having to put your pride on one side and to admit your faults but it is about time that all of us did that if we don't want more youngsters feeling the way Tempest did.


Greetings All! As Much As I Hate To Admit It, We Pagans... Jul 12th. at 5:09:29 pm EDT

Asherfox (Teslin) Age: 26

Greetings all!

As much as I hate to admit it, we Pagans are our own worst enemies when it comes to prejudice and religious discrimination. So many of us come from other religious backgrounds and left them due to largely negative experiences that have left us scarred and bitter. We find healing and peace within Paganism to a degree but due to human nature, we drag all our old hurts and angers with us.

I was blessed to spend manyu years deep within the Christian faith in a "lay-Protestant, non-denominational church". I taught Sunday School in the mornings and was a part of Music Ministry in the evenings, attended Bible Studies on Mondays, and Youth Group on Wednesdays, as well as being an active member in the Inter-School Christian Fellowship club in my high school. After high school, I spent two and a half years as a missionary travelling throughout North America, working with all denominations, from Roman Catholic to Seventh Day Adventist, Methodist to Southern Baptist and anyone else who would let us in the door.

And yes, at the age of 21, I left the Christian Church and fully embraced the Pagan side of myself that had lain dormant since early childhood (as well as my own bisexuality). At first, I was very angry and bitter at the Christian Church as I had been rejected by those I had called friend every time I tried to express who I was inside and stopped trying to be who I was told to be. But with time, I moved past all that and have learned to look at my time within the church and the mission field as a very important time in my life.

It was there that I was repeatedly exposed to other ways of embracing faith, the mecahnics of religion and the different faces of the Divine. I came to see that although a member of the Salvation Army church has a specific set of rules that is embraced in the search for the Divine and is completely different from that of a Nazarene or a Four-Square Pentecostal, they still seek to find God.

So where am I going with all this? Well, I feel that until we start looking within our own Pagan ranks that same way, embracing each other irregardless of our differences in approach to the Divine, we will not find acceptance from those who seek God outside of Paganism. When we stop infighting and burning each other in flame wars and begin the long process of healing and growth, then those outside will see us in a different light. The instances where we are seen as jokes, or dangerous individuals, or whatever, will begin to decrease. The tragic occurances of violence in the schools or blatant prejudice in the courts and the media, etc, will decrease. And those we once assumed and treated as enemies will reveal themselves to be our staunchest allies.

In short, if we wish to be treated a specific way by those outside of Paganism, we had best start treating others that way, both inside and outside of the family. Changes begin at home.

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