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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| I'm Only Fourteen, So I Have No Clue How Being Pagan Affects... ||Jul 9th. at 9:05:32 pm EDT|
|Silver Owl (Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas US) ||Age: 14 |
I'm only fourteen, so I have no clue how being pagan affects your career or anything like that. All I know is, if you try to come out of the closet @ school in the Bible Belt it is NOT good. I think that, at least if you're in a largely religious area, the best way to keep the peace is to keep quiet- unless you know the person you're telling really well and can judge their response.
I think it is impossible to end religious persecution- as The Mists of Avalon shows, there has always been and always will be hatred as long as there are multiple religions. The best we can do is try to stop it.
All I can say is- you'd think they'd know better. At one time, Christianity was also discriminated against.
As the wheel turns, sometimes we are at the top and some times we are on the bottom. It seems to me that once again we are going up. Never fear, for there ARE understanding people out there.
| Interfaith Work. That's What It's Going To Take. Getting To Know The... ||Jul 9th. at 3:29:19 pm EDT|
|Sue A McCullough (Oakland, California US) ||Age: 42 - Email |
Interfaith work. That's what it's going to take. Getting to know the people of your community who practice another religion, and giving them a chance to get to know you as a person.
My coven's High Priestess is actively involved with the local interfaith counsel, and she's pulling in the talented folks in our coven to help them get a web site up.
They also are running a food kitchen for homeless people, and have land they want to turn into an organic garden, both to feed their clients and to teach them a skill, organic gardening. That's the part that I'll be working on, helping them set up composting, getting the garden planted, teaching other volunteers how to plant, weed, maintain, and harvest.
Our coven is showing our support for community work, not talking about it. This is what will gain Pagans and Witches the acceptance, and maybe someday even the respect, of people of other belief systems.
We need friends and allies. We can't do this alone.
| You Ask, "are There Groups We Can Align Ourselves With?" Yes! My... ||Jul 9th. at 2:46:52 pm EDT|
|Emerald (Fort Lauderdale, Florida US) ||Age: 20 |
You ask, "Are there groups we can align ourselves with?" Yes! My first recommendation is to align yourself with a non-denominational politically-active church like the Unitarian Universalist Church. In my area there are three Unitarian Churches, and two of them have pagan groups, which are part of a decades-old national alliance of groups known as the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. Find Unitarian Universalist Churches in your area (and believe me I've found them even in the Bible-belt, so they're probably in your area too) and join the CUUPS group or start one. At my church, we've done Wiccan and Druid stuff during the Sunday Services, even though most of the congregation is Humanist. I believe there are even UU Pagan Churches out there, but I've only heard that. Become active in the UU Churches, get others to come and be active, join the church and become Deacons and Board Members and Presidents and even Reverends. There are so many sub-groups to the UU Church that in addition to being a non-denominational liberal-minded church it also serves as a political force working for the interests of its congregants. And don't worry if you're gay, bisexual, or transgender, you'll be welcome in the UU Church, they even have a gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender group called Interweave. And another thing about UU Churches is that from my experience they usually put more into their lands than into their chapels, and usually the pagans are the only ones who really got a lot of use out of the lands, so they'll let you do things like put in fire circles and labyrinths and maypoles, whatever you can convince them to let you do.
Another thing to do to improve understanding between religions is not to breed these conflicts ourselves. If your parents or siblings would freak out about it, then you have to really ask yourself whether you want to come out of the 'broom closet' with them at all, after all you don't have to climb up on a mountain and declare your religion for all the world to hear, it can be something that only you know and if you're following your path correctly it will still be fulfilling. Avoid pentacles in front of others if it would cause needless hassle. When someone else says, "Thank God, " or something to that extent, don't immediately feel forced to throw in, "And Goddess, " or "Thank the gods, " just because you don't like that they have chosen to honor and believe in the existence of only one god. Do not, do not, ever, make cruel Christian jokes, or dishonor the validity of their belief system or disrespect the strength of their convictions. I have a Christian mother and sister who'm I love dearly and who were unbothered by my choice to honor the old paths, and I know pagans who have also maintained their affiliation to Christianity. So if you're mocking Christians you're mocking your fellow pagans, and you may be discouraging the aid of possible allies from within the Christian community. Enough of the Christian bashing! As if the shameful deeds of the Christians were any worse than the shameful deeds of the organized followings of every large religion in the world. I've got news for some of you, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucionism and all the Eastern religions so many people have come to glorify are as corrupt as Christianity, maybe more so (you think the Chinese never launched an inquisition? or that the Hindus never fight Holy Wars? or that Taoists never say that other religions are wrong simply because they disagree? get real. if anything, those things happen far more often in the Eastern religions than in Christianity). Let's get right down to the nitty gritty, if you want to change the ideas that have been spread about us, start by not repeating the patterns of your oppressors, and then begin to display your beliefs in whatever way you safely can, perhaps simply by expressing an eco-consciousness or in some other simple way, it's not necessary to freak people out to show them what you believe. Most people can watch a Druid ritual or a Wiccan ritual or a Norse ritual, not being told what they're watching, and not freak out at what they see, but if you come to them and shout, "Hey, wanna go watch our pagan/heathen ritual?" what do you expect them to do? You know they're gonna get weird images in their heads. The gentle approach is the best way.
| I Think It Comes Down To Education And Through Education, Understanding And... ||Jul 9th. at 12:52:22 pm EDT|
|Kit (Austin, Texas US) ||Age: 23 - Email |
I think it comes down to education and through education, understanding and respect. A lot of discrimination -- religious and otherwise -- comes from the fear of the unknown. When we meet a person who is radically different than us, we wonder about them. Sometimes though, we find an answer in stereotypes, or misinformation. And some people use this purposefully do their own advantage. It has been a long tradition to accuse the opposing religion of horrible crimes like eating babies. The Christians got it in their time, and now it is often directed at us.
So we have to educate the Christians (and others), and they have to be willing to learn. At the same time, we also have to be as open as we always claim to be, and not think less of someone because their path in this lifetime is a different one than our own. Too often I hear Pagans disparaging those who choose Christianity, other minority religions, or even differing traditions within our own.
| As A Pagan Parent The Most Important Thing I Can Do Is... ||Jul 9th. at 11:38:37 am EDT|
|Jennifer Morningstar (Bonshaw, Prince Edward Island CA) ||Age: 28 |
As a pagan parent the most important thing I can do is to go to the school principal and explain exactly what my religion is really about, and then extract a promise that each teacher in the school will be educated with the material I have left for them. Another good idea is to get involved personally with the school, for example, help out on a sports day, or be on the home and school association, they won't think you're a weirdo if they see you working alongside them for the good of the school. Also try organizing a multicultural week, to promote the greatness of diversity. If you're still not happy try making a presentation to the students at one of their assemblies. Perserverence is key.
| Growing Up Roman Catholic In The Missouri Bootheel In The 1950s, I... ||Jul 9th. at 11:35:41 am EDT|
|Choriambic (Baltimore, Maryland US) ||Age: 51 |
Growing up Roman Catholic in the Missouri bootheel in the 1950s, I faced a lot
of discrimination. The Lutherans and Protestants felt we were superstitious and incapable of thinking thoughts/holding ideas outside of what was sanctioned by the Vatican. I heard the ripple that argued if Kennedy won the presidency, the Pope would be over here to run the country. An idea that was a serious threat in some quarters back then, though it seems ridiculous today.
The Baptists thought we were amoral because the Germans, Irish, Scots and Polish that principally made up our parishes enjoyed their drinking and their cigarettesŃjokes argued these were the few things the Church seemed not to condemnŃbut the Baptists felt it sinful.
For us, there was an ever greater mystery about what went on in those Revival tents, which we associated with them.
In short, I grew up amidst a lot of crazy perspectives on what the other religions stood for, in a time when an exchange of communication that could dispel that ignorance was yet to come.
Just now, as I finally have accepted I'm a witch, always have been, but can define my religion and all its aspects as frankly drawing from my upbringing in many ways (grottos, shrines to Mary, May processions, etc.), I've still had a hard time not shrinking from speaking the term 'witch' or wearing a pentacle. Why? Maybe some past life memory (there are a few I have recalled), but moreso, when I studied yoga in the 70s, my former corporate exec husband used it as an excuse to 'replace' me with someone who still confirmed to how I'd been before I'd change to that weird group. (Now even his company uses its hatha informed stress reduction methods.)
Today I can easily claim the old Catholic upbringing, the yoga, but it's a little dicey admitting, also, to being a witch. What changed it for the other two previous spiritual practices? I can suggest two main events: the advent of persons who represented the individual groups as having a global focus where spiritual issues were concerned (JFK, Martin Luther King, Pope John). I'm sure everyone can add many more names to this list.
But also, during the end of the '70s, a day when some ad or another for something connected to yogic practice came up in an ad and a friend yelped, "that's it, we're in the culture." I was offended by the way I felt the ad downgraded the practice. He advised: "It puts it out there. Once Madison Avenue chooses you as part of the culture, you are IN!"
And, yes, I guess from there on it was a roll of sorts that makes 'yoga' a word many toss around as one of those used to put a notch on their 'positive social standing' list.
I know how the first group managed to have their impact -- they became seriously involved in politics or politically charged activity. I've read several announcements over the past 5 years of a planned Pagan/Wiccan walk on DC, but none have materialized, or possibly just not been covered. (This, I learned from friends active in environmental issues often takes those who can pull strings to get the notice.)
I haven't a clue what makes Madison Avenue hop on the wagon beyond marketing surveys and projections for sales in an area that makes the venture lucrative. Then they just hand it over to some hot ad firm like Leo Burnett and let them do their 'magic' to make it something the average person should "want" to embrace and show that association through buying lots of trendy things.
The goodness of the group in responding to moments of persecution will always be baseline for its health within in the culture. But what I suggest, if I'd read this question correctly, is exactly what I believe, because I saw it happen, occurs to allow a group to become enfolded within the 'acceptable' things that make up a culture.
Know any good wiccans/pagans/witches who work for major marketing/promotion groups? Encourage them to tease their bosses into finding entrpreneurs (like Whole Foods, which began back during that 70s period and is now a HUGE corporation) that they may want to encourage! As well as encouraging those who may consider running for office or putting forward politically active issues in a BIG way!
| Religious Discrimination Will Never End. There Are Too Many Religions Out There... ||Jul 9th. at 11:21:22 am EDT|
|Daven (Nashville, Tennessee US) ||Age: 33 - Email |
Religious discrimination will never end. There are too many religions out there that are of the opinion that their own way is right, and if they are right, everyone else is wrong. Thus, it will always be a matter of exclusivity.
Since the beginning, man (and woman) has wanted to be part of something that makes them feel special. Because of that drive to be unique, to be lifted above their fellow people, there is a need to create an us-them mentality.
Religion tends to foster this attitude.
This not only happens in the Christian Community, but it also happens in the Wiccan/Pagan/Islamic/Hindu/Judaic communities as well. What is never stated is that if one is right, all others are right as well.
Many will disagree with me on this point, but it is fundamental to dispelling the us/them mentality. Even though the religious/philosophical path that you have found for yourself is correct, it is ONLY correct for YOU and YOU ALONE. Another path is just as correct as any other for other people.
This is not to say that all religions are the same, far from it. There are vast differences between the religions and the beliefs and the faith and the dogma of the various religions. But if the goal of a religion is to bring peace and comfort to the soul of the practitioner, what does it matter if they are Asatru or Shinto or Buddhist or any other flavor of religion out there?
Unfortunately, in an effort to gain converts some religions have started going "WE ARE RIGHT!!!! THEY ARE WRONG!!!!! Wouldn't you rather be right than wrong? Join us, and be RIGHT!!!!" and casting aspersions on everyone else.
The reason this is happening is because of the subjective nature of the material. There is no way to prove one group right or wrong, and weak willed people fear public ridicule, so they would rather join something that might be right than to be totally wrong.
Sadly, the only cure for this state is for everyone, the whole planet, to grow up and mature and to loose that fear of being held up to ridicule. We all need to grow up in such a way that we are secure in ourselves. We need to learn that we are all worthy of love and that we are right for ourselves.
This is not a question that has a yes or no answer. Or any one right answer. It's like asking what numbers are contained in "infinity". The answer is "all of them", "none of them" (no numbers in the word), "123456789", "uncountable" and many other answers. This is a subjective idea, like "right and wrong" and "Love" so there is no one true way or answer. All the answers are correct in different ways.
"And this above all, to thine own self be true. And it must then follow as the night the day that thou canst then be false to no man."
| Children Can Be So Cruel, And Sadly, The Adults That See This... ||Jul 9th. at 9:51:28 am EDT|
|Ciarrai (Somewhere in Somerset County, New Jersey US) ||Age: 33 - Email |
Children can be so cruel, and sadly, the adults that see this just let it happen. It takes me back to my RC High School years where we had one Jewish female student that went to the RC school b/c the public schools in the city I was raised in were rated very poorly in the state and her parents wanted for her to have the best education (as did mine, except it was easier for me b/c I was brought up Catholic). She always stood up when we were supposed to pray in the morning, she did take the religious classes that were a part of the curriculum without complaining that she shouldn't have to because she was Jewish, but yet there were some boys that felt a need to throw pennies at her. She never "told on" anyone, but I bet she had a lot of tearful after school afternoons.
Adults have to take the responsibility to make sure that these things just don't happen -- to anybody! The parents need to take the time away from her/his Palm Pilot and talk to the kids about the other kids at school, what's going on, and guide them accordingly. The adults that are supposed to be held accountable for these kids while they are at school need to treat each and every one of them as if she/he was one of his/her own. Gimme a break, the teachers see what's going on with these kids all day -- whether they agree with what a child believes, looks like, dresses like, whatever -- they are responsible for these kids during a great portion of their waking hours! These PTA meetings shouldn't focus just on the bake sales to help purchase a new bus for the football team! It should be an interface between the parents that have the kids that come home crying every day to find out why the adults that are being held responsible for their health, education and welfare are blantantly ignoring their responsibilities! There is some serious psychological damage being caused just by going to school.
As far as the workplace is concerned, sheesh, if I only knew. I'm still knee deep in study and I haven't even self-initiated/tried to hook up w/ a local coven yet because I am a firm believer in the year and a day theory. However, I had no problem sponsoring TWV with my own name. That is until I found out through someone that was doing a search on an Internet browser that typing my name in brought them right to TWV sponsor page. My heart went in my stomach, and I wanted to blast myself for even having an anxiety attack over this. So I took on a "craft name" or to be even more honest an "alias" because as everything that I am reading tells me, I am not ready to have a battle of wits b/c right now I am truly unarmed. I don't want to "do battle" with anyone over this. But the thought of what could happen to me at my job frightens me; yes, I said it, it does. I've been putting time into a top Fortune 500 company since I was 19 years old and I am bound and determined to keep it that way until I can retire. I really don't know what the consequences would be. Of course it wouldn't be ethical to discriminate against me but it would be make me feel more warm and fussy inside if there were someone else first. Who knows, maybe I might have to become the Pagan Pioneer (when I have the knowledge and the wisdom). But I must say that I have worked with people from all around the world, and I have, amongst many others, have been able to be sympathetic toward people of different cultures than that of myself.
As far as divorce and child custody goes, I don't know anyone that has had that problem, but divorce is ugly - PERIOD. In the State of New Jersey, there's no way to be nice, unless you want to wait 18 months and have a no-fault divorce. Of course I didn't want to wait, but I wanted to have an amicable divorce, so I had to site "mental cruelty" and begged my ex not to bother reading the paperwork (he didn't - Goddess bless). But I'm sure that people have a FIELD day with Pagan spouses and parents, even they themselves are Pagan, and lie and say that he/she isn't a Pagan anymore, or that he/she never knew that his/her spouse was a Pagan (yeh, right, big surprise!) just to look good in the courts. We have to make sure that the Pagan cases that go well are put into the books and marked as statutes so they can be referenced for other Pagans. I do believe that judges try to enforce the law. We need to find out how to put favorable Pagan cases in all of our States family law books!
I can see how we could be a part of the problem (blaming Christians, etc.) But I think that we all try to be a part of the solution. I find that most of the Pagan Website and Organizations that I sponsor have "helpful hints" of ways to have productive discussions with people regarding Paganism, not defensive agruments.
| Part Of The Cause Of Religious Discrimination And Discrimination In General Is... ||Jul 9th. at 5:38:02 am EDT|
|Angie (Montoursville, Pennsylvania US) ||Age: 22 - Email |
Part of the cause of religious discrimination and discrimination in general is lack of knowledge, to feel superior and wanting to get something thru any means possible such as custody of a child. And yes I know some of us discriminate too. I've met Pagans who blame everything on the Christians. It goes both ways and we're only human. I don't believe that discrimination is ever going to completely go away. Everyone would have to give up their petty differences and that doesn't always happen. However, things are getting better. People are learning more about us and are becoming more accepting.
| Being A New Wiccan I Can Only Say I Have Been The... ||Jul 9th. at 1:17:49 am EDT|
|MagickHydra (Stratford, Connecticut US) ||Age: 21 - Email |
Being a new wiccan I can only say I have been the target of a little discrimination,
But being a human I can say that its going to take a lot of work,
for people to get past their petty differences and finally realize
that we are all of one common human race; white, black, wiccan, christian,
only by tolerance and understanding can we, as a people and community, show
that by example. think about it, for 2000 years, christians and jews
have been warring over a tiny piece of land in the middle east.
these are the kinds of people you have to convince first that
all religions are a correct way of being one with spirit.
Be this way, be a peaceful being and you can show people that spirituality
is not for everyone to see. It never has been, it is for you, and you alone.
It should not be something people can use against someone.
It will take a lot of hard work, but it will be worth it, so another tragedy
like the loss of a beautiful young life will never have to be ended
All of our love to you Dannessa,
Peace be with you in your journey-
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