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: Nov. 17, 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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| Bullies Will Be Bullies, Whether They Are 13, 33, Or 73. I... ||Jul 10th. at 6:43:17 pm EDT|
|Iko (Chicago, Illinois US) ||Age: 37 |
Bullies will be bullies, whether they are 13, 33, or 73. I think the Tempest Smith story deals more with a school district allowing kids to pick on an easy target and less with discrimination against Pagans. How many of us were harrassed in junior high or high school for being different? I was far from knowing I was a Pagan at that time - but I was still harrassed by the "popular" girls. I have no doubt that if I had been been openly Pagan at that time I would have received harrassment for that, but I was target for reasons that have to do with social politics. My religion to these girls did not matter, I was a Christian just like they were - though I attended the Episcopal church and they were all Methodists, Lutherans or Baptists. I was not alone. Every "dominant" clique had to lord it over someone in order to maintain their dominance. The "Jesus freaks" got as much harrassment as the "geeks." I have no doubt that Tempest's school could have done MUCH more to protect her from the bullies, BUT I think many school districts could do much more to protect the most vulnerable kids from those who generation after generation seem to get off from the age of 11 to 18 by feeling superior to just about everybody else. Unfortunately Tempest did not realize that this would pass, I remember feeling the exact same way when I was 14. It is such a hard age. Of course Tempest's religion DID play a part in her harrassment - my true belief is that it was just something else that made her stand out as different from those mean spirited, small-minded, kids who are more than likely the offspring of mean spirited and small-minded adults who did the same thing in junior high and high school. These kids learn that by attacking the differences they see in other kids they can feel OK about their mundane, cookie cutter lives. The same way their parents feel when they attack those in the world who are at all different than what the perceive to be the norm.
If we want to be treated fairly we are going to have to better and stronger than any of our critics. We will have to take the high road ALL of the time. If we do not want to be called freaks we are going to have to act and dress like we are not freaks. I do not mean we cannot wear religious jewlery, or religious dress - but there comes a point where such jewlery and dress crosses over from being an expression of our faith and becomes nothing but clown outfits. If you want to dress like "the official witch of Salem" be prepared to be treated like Disney character.
All discrimination much be faced head on. We DO have organizations that will fight for your religious freedom rights if you are truly being discriminated against. But we need to be very careful and make sure that what is happening is truly relgious discrimination before and not "cry wolf." If you are being harrassed TELL somebody, and if they don't listen keep complaining. But complain to the right people.
As for Tempest, I am so sorry. My heart breaks for her and her family. The school district should pay a very high price for what it allowed to happen to her. But every school district everywhere should be held accountable for every act of bullying that is allowed to go unchecked.
| I Dont Want To Sound Too Pesimistic, But I Think It's Going... ||Jul 10th. at 6:17:37 pm EDT|
|KiraDiana (Lansing, Michigan US) ||Age: 15 |
I dont want to sound too pesimistic, but I think it's going to take a lot for things to really change. It is very difficult for most people to except anything that is any different from the things that they are used to. I think the most important thing right now is for all pagans who can be to be "out". I think one of the biggest causes for discrimination is ignorance. To most people witches are evil is not a stereotype, the them it is a true statement. Most of us were raised with that perspective, and the only way it is going to change is if those people are educated. I seriously think that a lot of people would be more opened to it if they could see that there are NORMAL PEOPLE who are pagan. I think those who influence our opinions the most (like the medai) need to be educated perhaps even more than the rest. If people can stop delivering stereotypes to the general public, than the general public wont be so quick to except them. But no matter what, some people just wont change, and we have to except that. I also firmly believe that anyone who is upset about religious discrimination should take an active role against it. I have seen it first hand. At my high school, there was a problem concerning a "cult movement". A lot of people started wearing pentacles and reading books on wicca, and a few students who did'nt even know what it was, complained about being offended. I was told that several people were called down to the office because the school was seriously worried. I cannot believe that people have the intention to discriminate, but I think that the problem is ignorance. I believe that we can definently make a huge difference, but it will never be perfect. I think all people, including pagans, need to be less critical of each other. I think that some times we consider some things discrimination, when in reality, they really are'nt.I think we could all be a little more opened sometimes.
| Personally, I Don't Think There Really Is As Much Religious Discrimination Against... ||Jul 10th. at 4:37:08 pm EDT|
|Amber "Heathen" Davis (Portland area, Oregon US) ||Age: 20 - Email |
Personally, I don't think there really is as much religious discrimination against pagans as some would like to make it sound. People just have to remember that there are a relatively small amount of nutcases in every religion. Christianity has its share, as do pagans, buddhists, hindu's, muslims, etc etc. We're all human, none of us are immune to stupidity. For the most part, the Christians I know are very cool people. My beliefs aren't an issue to them, nor are theirs to me. Spirituality and religion is a personal matter, and no one has any business telling someone what they should believe, no matter what religion they follow.
I am completely out of the "broom closet". I've never had any major problems. Sure, some people will be a little nervous or weird about it at first, but they usually figure out real quick that I'm a decent person and I don't eat kids, sacrifice stray cats or act like one of those bimbo's on The Craft. If people dislike me for any reason I don't jump to the conclusion that its because I'm a witch, like some people do. In my opinion, many people are too quick to scream persecution. I get really irritated when I hear people talk about how persecuted and hated us witches are blah blah blah "haven't we had to put up with enough since the burning times?" Stuff like that. Hate to break it to ya, but few (if *any*) witches were burned during the "Burning Times". It was just christians killing other christians. The innocent people who died denied vehemently that they were witches, and still calling them witches to this day would be a terrible insult to them, I'd imagine.
Another thing that may help people of other faiths understand us better is if *we* ourselves would be more educated. There's a saying I've heard several times--"Ask ten pagans, get 20 different answers." And that fits, sadly. If you ask 2 Wiccans the history of their religion, one will probably say that its one of the oldest religions around, the other will say that it was founded in the 1950's by Gerald Gardner. No wonder some people are confused about paganism. Then there's always the folks who think that Wicca and Paganism are one and the same...Sure Wicca is a Pagan religion, but that doesn't mean that all Pagans are Wiccans. I'm not Wiccan, yet when I tell people that I'm pagan, they assume that I am Wiccan. And some Wiccans seem to think that they and only *they* have the right to call themself witches. That just isn't true. Before all us pagans can help others "understand" us better, I think we all need to get on the same page ourselves.
And further more.......If pagans in general are going to talk about how "open minded" they are.....then some people *really* need to act more like it. I've seen people sit there and talk about how open minded they are, then in the next sentence say something about "stupid christians". Then *they* have the nerve to whine and cry about how persecuted *they* are. Well yeah, if they go around telling christians that they think they're stupid of course they're going to get a snippy reply. Dish out only what ya can take folks. Thats the way it goes. Not all Christians act like Jerry Falwell and company, so don't treat them like they do. I know many pagans are ex-christians, I happen to be an ex-christian (baptist to be exact). But that doesn't give us the right to pee all over their parade. If they're happy with their beliefs and they aren't hurting anyone, let em be. And if you happen to run into someone who just won't understand your perspective and all they want to do is shout out the ten commandments to you, just ignore them. Yeah, its annoying..but ya know what? Most other christians would be just as annoyed with that behavior as pagans would. And for the love of the Goddess *don't* sit there and scream at them that "everything they do will come back three fold" after telling them that you, as a pagan, don't *have* to follow the ten commandments. It sounds a bit hypocritical. They believe in the three fold law about as much as you believe in the ten commandments. I know, its a no-brainer, but I've seen people do that kind of thing. Anyways, I think this little rant has gone on long enough. I hope I haven't ticked anyone off, that wasn't the intent at all.
| As Long As We're Still Free To Believe As We Choose, Others... ||Jul 10th. at 3:53:23 pm EDT|
|Alumenios (Danvers, Massachusetts US) ||Age: 26 - Email |
As long as we're still free to believe as we choose, others will be free to think we're deluded (as many of us believe others to be). It's the other side to the same coin. As long as people are allowed to have opinions, there will be discrimination. The question is, do you want to take it lying down? Would the people who are holding you back be willing to get as well as they give? I quite unashamedly say I am 100% biased, not in favor of other pagans, but in favor of those with open minds. But would closed-minded people have me burn pentacles on their lawn, blow up their mailboxes, throw bricks through their window bearing messages like "Dionysus loves you", or scream "Devil worshiper" out my car window and hastily drive away? Sorry, not so much. Discounts and jobs are the best way. I've been wondering lately, though, is there a way we could disinclude those people from our prayers and workings for the good of the planet? I realize that isn't a very positive thought (since if we didn't include everyone then the planet wouldn't benefit very much) but it's a thought. I think short of civil disobedience, marches on government or other discriminatory organizations, and similar actions that there's not much else to do. When I was forced out of grad school by a discriminatory professor, there wasn't much way out of it, except to spread the truth. But most of the time, there really isn't much that you can do.
| Although I Truly Believe That Educating The General Public (non-pagans) Will Solve... ||Jul 10th. at 10:09:31 am EDT|
|KelŽ (Crown Point, Indiana US) ||Age: 26 |
Although I truly believe that educating the general public (non-Pagans) will solve many problems, we also need ot educate Pagans and wanna-be-Pagans. I'm mostly talking about those who ALWAYS dress in black and wear a ton of "mystical amulets", and talk constantly about magick and run around screaming "Look at me!!! I'm a witch!!!". There is nothing wrong with being "out-of-the-broom-closet" (I personally have never hid my faith in public) but some people go overboard. Most non-Pagans do not go around advertizing their faith, and those that do have a very bad reputation, even among Christians (ie Jehova's Witnesses, certain Baptist churches).
Also, some Pagans need to quit their whining about how they are so persecuted. Yes, there is discrimination, but I believe that some Pagans bring it on themselves by immediately assuming that Christians WILL discriminate against them. It's not discrimination if your employer asks you to dress neatly, take off most of the more obnoxious jewelery, and leave your 2" pentacle at home, as long as they are not letting your coworker wear a 2" long cross with a dying Jesus on it. When EVERYONE cries "Discrimination!", it takes away from those who are truly being discriminated.
| I Feel That Education Of The Public Might Be More Of An... ||Jul 10th. at 9:30:10 am EDT|
|Sue (Spring Hill, Florida US) ||Age: 44 |
I feel that education of the public might be more of an answer. Whe was the last time an article on witches, wicca, or paganism written for the regular Saturday religion section of the newspapers?I feel that if more of us were able to demonstrate to the public that we are really very much like everyone else, in that we are Mothers, Fathers, teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, etc. Maybe society as a whole would be a little more tolerant. After all, we have to tolerate the religious right's billboards, commercials, the door knocking and preaching.
"In your face" is not the answer.As my husband says, ignorance breeds fear, and that's where the trouble comes in.Especially here in the Bible belt, religion is taught based on a vengeful, punishing Supreme being, fear is taught, it helps keep the masses in control. We don't subscribe to that view of a Supreme being, therefore, there is no fear, we know the consequences of our actions, and have to accept our responsibilty for it.To anyone who subscribes to the dogma of a controlling God, that's terrifying.
We need to watch out for the articles that blame witches for things that happen in neighborhoods, and answer back when accused unjustly, don't accept it lying down.
A Pagan pride day would be wonderful, providing enough would be willing to come out of the broom closet.
| I'm Young, So Not Many People Take Me Too Seriously, I'd Think... ||Jul 10th. at 2:04:13 am EDT|
|Raven Dawn (Napier, New Zealand) ||Age: 17 - Email |
I'm young, so not many people take me too seriously, i'd think this would be a major cause of discrimination. In adults people can easily assume that you chose to be like that or some other such story, i guess that varies per person. But as a teenager, people read much more into it than even i'd think possiable. Let me say, i come from a Trad family, here in New Zealand, theres not too many pagans, let alone teenage pagans. So when i stepped out of the closet so to speak, all at once, a hoard of problems came up that i never thought of.
Problem #1: Immediatly, the teachers and councellors targeted me for every little disturbance in school, weither it be a locker break in or a simple fight on the field. It doesnt matter if i was there or not, they still came to me. So when i finally asked why, the awnser i get was fairly straight forward 'Well, you're a witch right? So obviously your family mistreats you, thats the only way you would be how you are right? So we need to look out for you causing trouble' and when asked how and what i did the next awnser was definatly laughable 'We know you used magic to make those boys fight just now, there is no other reason they would is there? It's simple logic if you look at it' BAM...right then i saw the first in a long, long line of reasons why pagans are 'evil/nasty/bad' Enough to say, it was hard not to start laughing there and then, and try to explain that, that is not what we do. But alas, teacher always knows best, since then, and years of telling me how evil i am later, they all gave up, decided i was a lost cause and that they should just keep an eye out so that i don't hurt other kids (as if i would :P). Now, this in itself would normally be bad enough, but this problem doesnt stop there, no way, the councellor talked to the entire family to make sure i wasnt being abused, and they just awnsered that my auntie had been talking to me overmuch lately (she being the oldest witch in family after the death of my grandmother...and parents being close to fanatic christians...i can almost hear the fire!) so, i realised i had a little trouble on my hands with this, but that could be delt with at a later time, and another problem. Here i was thinking, it can't get any worse, i was proved wrong, yet again! The very next day at school, i'm hauled up in front of the assembly, pointed out to be a 'Pagan heretic' and therefore 'Evil', and based soley on the fact that all witches are evil ala 'Snow white', the discrimination of the children starts, simply enough, with locker grafitti, didn't bother me, but the threats did, once more i ignored them. I know the 'An ye harm none' applys to life as a general rule, but when the football team trys to attack you after school, i draw the line and defend myself...and get a trip to see the principal for starting a 'scuffle' with my 'powers'. Small enough display there, in the end, i managed to get transferred to a different school, where although i am out of the closet and the discrimination still applys, it's not half as bad. But if you people think adults have it bad, think of us kids!
Problem #2: Family: Long story behind this one, i come from a Trad family here in NZ (as i've said before :P) Now, i and my sister were raised by my aunt and grandmother because they both agreed we were different (or to be different) from, my parents. My parents both being very firmly rooted into christianity and thinking my aforementioned relitives were 'Evil heretics' made my life a large problem for a long time. I think the first time anything major occured was when i was burning candles outside and bathing in the moon. Mother walks out and demands i stop that 'Obscene pagan ritual to do bad things' at once. Totally ignoring my protests that all i wanted was to clense myself. So mother awnsers 'If you want to clense yourself properly, you had best get to church, only a priest can clense you!' which leads onto more questions about priestesses and the church, all of which were ignored with the reply 'Such is gods will', with a grin i awnser, perhaps a little wrongly so for the situation, 'Which god mother'. In a huff mother strides inside and i'm left to my musings, in peace so i thought. About what i gather to be a half hour later, the local priest walks out and throws holy water on my head, when i was more or less asleep! With a splutter, i wake up and see the man in my room, with a groan (which im sure was evil :P) i fall back down and try to sleep, only to have this strange man put a cross on my forehead. I threw it off and asked him, impolitely, what he thought he was doing, 'Clensing the devil from me' was my awnser, nice eh? After an hour or so of praying, he tells my mother that he will be back tomorrow, when he returned the next day, i was down by the lake sleeping :P
So you see, discrimination doesnt need to come from any source, school, people mind, storys or the church. It's part of being human, some people just cannot accept anything different from themselves. Surely you say, we can try to educate them? Of course and rightly so! but that doesnt mean they will understand or listen does it? No harm in trying though...but whenever things about witches or pagans are in papers, magizines or TV, it always traces itself back to we children, most teenagers don't really care too much what they do to other people, and as a result, will be much crueler than the average adult. Another problem? I think so, but as an ending to itself. These are just a few problems, some people have them, some dont, but surely you've all thought about it? How adult pagans show themselves, directly affects those younger...and that my friends, is a discrimination of age. We should be judged not by who or what we are, but by what we contribute to society, if we all did our best and helped where we could, wouldn't we stop discrimination in all but those who dislike us soley for ourselves?
| One Major Problem In The Pagan Community Is The Fear To Come... ||Jul 10th. at 1:54:26 am EDT|
|Angel Jenkins (Steger, Illinois US) ||Age: 21 - Email |
One major problem in the Pagan community is the fear to come out. More now than ever pagans everywhere are coming out of the broom closet, but i think we need to toughen up. Just as the Homosexuals have had to fight to come out of their closet, we need to do so also. The US was founded on the idea of freedom, its time the pagans took advantage of it. I think that we should organize parades in major cities, sort of a Pagan Day or a religious freedom day. I am trying to start a pagan study group (open to everyone) at my college, but lots of students are afraid to come out. I live in Chicago, and right now, we are doing pretty good. In the south suburbs, we have a pagan dinner once a month, most groups, no matter the tradition, celebrate festivals together. We have a very tight networking in the northern half of the state. As for the southern half, I am not sure. I think that action is needed if we are to every discard the image of the green hag. Also I think that there should be more done to educate teens that are interested in the craft but under the age of 18, there are a lot running around, dressing in black and threatening to hex half their schools. Possible or not, it sends negative vides out to the community. I beleive we need to fight, but with words not swords.
| 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.
| 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.
| 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?
| 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.
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