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Stand Up for Pagan Religious Rights or How I Spent My Independence Day 2007

Author: Oracle DancingGoat/ Shelly O'Brien
Posted: September 2nd. 2007
Times Viewed: 3,532

I think about Pagan rights all the time. As a Pagan bringing up three daughters up as Pagans, I let people know we are visible and out there. They get questions about their pentacles. I get the adult version, people talking all "around" me but not much "to" me.

Because of the person that I am and because I feel pride, I have taught my daughters pride in their faith. We feel no shame whatsoever in what we believe and my daughters and I do not hide in any capacity.

I also strongly believe in the codes and tenets of our faith. Personal responsibility is at the focal point of our lives and choices. In keeping with this ideal, my good friend Heidi Gleber and I started Fingerlakes Pagan Pride (FLPP) four years ago. We started FLPP for two main reasons:

1) We wanted our community to know what we do, who we are, and that we are here as good neighbors and citizens because we are Pagan, not despite it.

2) We are parents of Pagan children. We want them to have a better experience being Pagan amongst the general public than we have.

We have found that in the time we have hosted FLPP, it has worked here in our community. We have seen a real change in attitude and tolerance by the general public in our community. Not everyone in the community likes us, which is fine and is their right, but they no longer see us as threatening. Most people now understand who we are and are willing to work with us in tolerance.

That is all we have asked of the community.

Even though I work on Fingerlakes Pagan Pride, it only happens once a year. There are 364 days beyond that in which my family and I deal with the kind of intolerance and outright discrimination that goes with being openly different. Being the outgoing person that I am, I jump at any opportunity to gain our rights and illustrate what true Pagan ideals are to anyone who takes the time to listen or look.

The week before the Pagan Religious Rights Now Rally in Washington, conducted in front of the White House on July 4, 2007, I contacted the group at their Web site and asked what I could do to help. I was thinking at the time, a donation of money or possibly forwarding their press releases to our local media here.

Caroline Kenner, the event’s organizer, emailed me and asked me if we would hold a public Ritual here in Canandaigua. She asked to use the same Ritual that they would be using, possibly at the same time they were holding theirs, to represent their group and message and further their cause.

At first I was stunned – I was not expecting such an exciting task to be set before me.

When I recovered from the surprise a minute later, I said of course, I would be delighted.

I spent the next week getting the things together to accomplish this, the most important aspect of which was finding friends who would be a part of this Ritual. I started with our own group and a lot of my friends and groups that we regularly work with. Many had to work that day, which is understandable.

But to my surprise, many others were too afraid to be "that public" – and still others were too busy with family to take an hour out of their day to be a part of this.

Now, I realize not everyone's ideals and personal commitments to their faith and to the Pagan-rights cause are as passionate as mine. I truly live my faith everyday and so do my children. Our actions and outlook are very much a "we are all connected" view. Our actions, be they said or acted on, create change whether we realize it. We walk our talk personally, spiritually and magickally.

This event was about Pagan rights, which is so important to our spiritual community. Here we had the opportunity to actually help in a small way. It was and should have been important to all Pagans.

Every Pagan I know wants to have the same rights that everyone else in the "mainstream" enjoys. Pagans want to be able to wear their jewelry and talk about Circle or their holidays openly. Pagans complain about discrimination and outright bigotry by some from the general public.

Yet from my experience on Independence Day, I found the majority of Pagans I rallied could not come out and support their rights for fear of being seen. And for a cause so important to our very way of life, most could not afford a small interruption of their personal time on a holiday.

How does anyone expect to be accepted and have the same rights as everyone else if they remain silent, unseen as complaining victims?

Then I wondered, where were the other public sister Rituals to support the Rally on the 4th? I know that I could not make it to Washington, because of financial restrictions. But I was more than able to organize a sister Ritual here and invite the local Pagan community and the local media. Why did I not see others doing a public Ritual, since all towns and cities have a town or city hall, or a county complex?

When I submitted our assembly and Ritual to WitchVox, I expected to be one sister Ritual among many. I was very surprised to see that this was not the case. I expected the idea to germinate and public Rituals sprout in other areas around us after I had posted what we were doing in Canandaigua; they did not that I know of. This grassroots approach to change was a chance to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, to make a difference.

Where was everyone?

It is actually quite easy to put a public assembly together. Everyone has the right to voice his or her opinion publicly and also to assemble publicly. It is one of our fundamental rights according to the Constitution. The only reason that the police could be called to act against a group is if the group harasses others, is loud, is littering or if it becomes a general nuisance.

To assemble for a period of time and become public for a cause is easy. Announce a time and place, telling your friends and associates and if you wish call the media. The media might actually show up and spread your cause to the people who did not know you assembled or could not get to your event.

To be sure of your rights and your town or city's policies on public assembly just call or stop down to your local town, city or county complex. Ask what their policies are on public assembly just to be sure that you are following their law to the letter and you will have no problem with your own assembly.

The sister Ritual that we held on the Fourth at 2 p.m., in front of the Ontario County Court House, went very smoothly. In prep time I spent about two days total and about $25. I bought small American flags and patriotic-colored altar cloths as well as the offering and other small accessories for this Ritual.

What I spent was not even necessary - it just added a patriotic touch to our American Pagan gathering. The Ritual could have been done with no props or tools at all. I choose to do so to honor the Pagan military service men and women and our country since it was Independence Day.

We were 25 people strong that day, in the rain. The energy that we sent to our brothers and sisters at the Rally in Washington was palpable and powerful. Everyone said that it was a beautiful tribute and Ritual. We were all very moved.

My oldest daughter, who is 8, was there beside me and held the Torch of Illumination while I used my besom to Cast the Circle. She also performed the offering. My good friends stepped up and were proud and responsible in their response to be a part of this Ritual.

Some came from family get-togethers or from other obligations to be a part of this. Some worked on this before hand to make it possible. Some of our friends and individuals from local groups came to be a part of the Circle itself. Those who were now part of the physical Ritual and I were very appreciative to all that helped or came to the actual Ritual. It is not one person but many that accomplish anything.

Those of us who were now a physical part of the Ritual were all worried about turnout as our local Pagan community is not the most - shall we say - cooperative with one another. It was also predicted that it would rain that day. One of my good friends who was to call West said that no matter what happened it was most important that we just did this, because of what it was and what it meant.

She ended her thought with, 'it will and should be what it is supposed to be'. She also said that 'on Independence Day she would not want to be anywhere else'. And I totally agreed with her.

This wasn't about an individual, one group or us, but about all of our rights as Pagans. We were there to support the Rally in Washington and to support the rights of our Pagan service men and women, and American Pagans everywhere.

So, in the rain, 25 Pagans created positive change, not for just us but for every Pagan and person in this country and around the world. We stood up for what was right and did what our part on the front lawn of our local center for justice. We quoted many people and documents that day including five of our presidents. But one quote still sticks with me:

"Freedom of Speech, freedom of Faith
Freedom of Religion,
Freedom to stand up and fight
For what we believe in!"
This is a quote from the chorus of the song "Symbol", from the CD Red, Alabaster, and Blue by Celia.

On Independence Day, in the rain, we were there doing what is most American: Standing up and fighting for what we believe in.

For more information on the Pagan Religious Rights Rally please visit their Web site:
http://www.paganreligiousrights.org/
Or contact Caroline Kenner:
caroline@paganreligiousrights.org

For more information on Fingerlakes Pagan Pride Day Please visit:
http://fingerlakespaganpride.com/





Footnotes:
Pagan Religious Rights Rally
http://www.paganreligiousrights.org/

Fingerlakes Pagan Pride
http://fingerlakespaganpride.com/



ABOUT...

Oracle DancingGoat/ Shelly O'Brien


Location: Canandaigua, New York

Website: http://fingerlakespaganpride.com/

Author's Profile: To learn more about Oracle DancingGoat/ Shelly O'Brien - Click HERE

Bio: Shelly has been an Initiated Witch since 1987. Was Ordained as a Universal Life Church Minister on March 21, 1990 and she founded the Wiccan Church of Caldera the same year. Shelly has been a community leader and Pagan advocate in the media and her community since 1989. Shelly continues to teach and conduct many workshops, classes, and seminars on Paganism and Pagan related issues. Shelly is dedicated to positive public awareness of our Pagan community. Shelly resides in Canandaigua, NY with her husband and three children.

You may contact Shelly at shelly@fingerlakespaganpride.com




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