Hate Crime?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 14, 2007 — 7 Comments

Is displaying a gallows-hung witch in Massachusetts a religious hate crime? That is the accusation by Kelly Lynch towards a home-owner in Chicopee. According to Lynch, the display is a personal offense to religious Witchcraft and not an innocent Halloween display.


The Halloween display in question.

“To many, it’s an innocent Halloween decoration, but for Kelly Lynch it’s offensive. “We don’t harm anyone, we worship god, we are not evil, and we don’t cast spells, ” says Lynch. Lynch is a witch. She has been studying witchcraft since she was a child, and says it’s her way of life. “We are just like Christians, Muslims, we have our own religion, ” adds Lynch. That’s why when she saw the life-like witch hanging in someones front yard she went straight to the home owner’s door. “He told me to lighten up, it was a Halloween decoration, I know it’s his constitutional right, but I want it down. To make that your only decoration…it’s kind of odd, ” stresses Lynch.”

While building a full-size gallows to hang a fake witch in a State that hung 19 men and women on the charge of witchcraft is certainly in bad taste, I’m not sure it is a “hate crime” in the manner Lynch suggests in her interviews with the media.

“But Lynch says it’s no laughing matter. She says it’s a hate crime against her religion “Look at Louisiana, it’s the same thing, what if a black family burned crosses, or nooses it would be the same thing, ” says Lynch.”

I know that for many Wiccans the Salem witch trials have become a hugely symbolic and emotional touchstone, but comparing a Halloween display that was likely erected with no intended malice towards those who identify as Witches with the very real history of lynchings, racism, and discrimination faced by African Americans can only be described as naive at best.

One could fairly make the argument that the display is insensitive, garish, and offensive. You could organize your friends and protest if you like, but Chicopee isn’t Jena, and a hung fairy-tale witch isn’t the “same thing” as hanging a noose on a black teacher’s door or a burning cross on a black family’s lawn. To say it is diminishes the struggles of racial minorities in our country, and takes attention away from the real issues our religious communities do face.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Keith

    “‘We don’t harm anyone, we worship god, we are not evil, and we don’t cast spells,’ says Lynch. Lynch is a witch.”Um, apparently not. Not by that definition, anyway.

  • Kathryn Price NicDhàna

    A point of context, that is mentioned above but may not be clear: The hanging “Hillary witch” is not part of a larger Halloween display. According to those who’ve gone to this man’s house in person, it’s the only “decoration” in his yard.

  • Dr. Blizzardo

    Most wiccans I know have enough self-esteem not to be bothered by this–if I were a Christian, particularly an American Protestant or a European Catholic, I would be intensely insulted to have my religion’s not-too-distant pasts barbarity and superstition laid so publicly bare.Not a hate crime–just a reminder that Christians are all intolerant, barbaric butchers (or vote for them) hiding behind a doctrine of peace and understanding.Brilliant ploy, bloody execution.Bravo for reminding us what hypocrites they are–how about a torture chamber from the Catholic (not just Spanish) Inquisition? Who, if you look it up, only closed down the Holy Office of Inquisition just a couple years ago. Enlightened spiritualism? Hardly.

  • HR Mitchell

    Something I miss about the witches and pagans of 30 years ago is that most of us could still laugh at ourselves. As a friend used to put it, we take our Craft seriously, and ourselves not at all.

  • Jarred

    I’m all for laughing at ourselves, and there are a number of jokes and sight gags involving witches that will give me a chuckle every time. But I just don’t see the humor in this decoration.Maybe someone like Gary Larson could come up with a great caption that would add a bit of humor to the whole thing. But until then, I just don’t think it’s funny as it stands.

  • lisa in salem massachusetts

    i support this home owners right to be offensive(as any human on a noose is offensive in my opinion) however i would find the censorship of this even more offensive–hate crime? maybe so by definition—-where is the line drawn? and who do we trust to create the line?

  • HR Mitchell

    In a moment of synchronicity:Hanging Dummy Removed After ComplaintsBy DINESH RAMDE GREENFIELD, Wis. (AP) — A dark mannequin hung from a noose as part of a homeowner’s Halloween display drew complaints from members of the local black community, prompting the homeowner to remove it. … “They have every right to put it up, but I think it’s commendable of them to respond as they have, being considerate to the people who were offended,” [Wendell J. Harris, the education chair for the Milwaukee chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] said.’