The Chicago Tribune takes a closer look at Witch School’s recent move to Rossville, IL and finds a troubled town deeply unhappy with its new Pagan neighbors.
“Things were already going downhill in this small farming community when the witches arrived. Area factories had shut down. So had the local high school. A suspicious fire had gutted much of the downtown. The use of methamphetamine was destroying families. So when a group of Wiccans from out of town moved into a storefront this summer and erected a sign advertising “Witch School,” it was only a matter of time before alarm bells sounded and tempers started to boil in this village of 1,200, about 125 miles south of Chicago near the Indiana border.”
It seems that anti-Witch canvassing, regular prayer meetings, and even an anti-Pagan billboard reading “Worship the Creator not Creation” have all emerged since Witch School’s move here from Hoopeston with dreams of building a new “Salem” in the Midwest. But it may not be the Salem they were hoping for.
“‘Remember the Salem witch trials?’ resident Adam Marganski said. ‘That’s what is happening here.’ … more than 150 people filed into the shuttered high school Wednesday night for the meeting, Andy Thomas, youth minister at the Rossville Church of Christ, said residents had a spiritual responsibility to drive the witches out. If they didn’t, he said, young people were in danger of being pulled off the Christian path … ‘They’re trying to make us scapegoats,’ [Don Lewis] said as he slipped into the meeting unannounced.”
On Wednesday, another meeting was held concerning the “Witch problem” featuring speaker Robert Kurka. While Kurka presented a message of tolerance instead of hostility, this new truce seems fragile at best.
“When the meeting was over, many of the opponents appeared calmed. They vowed to turn down their anger and increase their prayers. Lewis was pleasantly surprised. “It seemed like he was trying to uphold the peace,” he said. But it was unclear how long the peace would last. When a local pastor approached Lewis shortly after to say he would pray for him, the exchange between the two men quickly heated up. It looked as if a fistfight might break out. Then Lewis decided Kurka was right. He turned and walked away.”
It remains to be seen if something like Witch School can survive in a small Christian town already troubled by economic and social problems. While tolerance should be practiced (and enforced) on all sides, one has to wonder if such ingrained hostility will ever allow the enterprise to truly flourish.