Update: Hate Crime?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 3, 2007 — Leave a comment

Back in mid-October, I mentioned a controversy brewing in the small town of Chicopee, Massachusetts. There a local homeowner hung a “witch” (though some claim it was supposed to be an effigy of Hillary Clinton) by a full-size gallows noose, prompting a local Wiccan to claim it constituted a hate crime against her religion.

“But Lynch says it’s no laughing matter. She says it’s a hate crime* against her religion … She says it’s not only a hate crime against her religion, but offensive to the entire community. “It’s depicting death. I wouldn’t destroy a cross or bash a religion or race,so I don’t expect that to happen to me,” adds Lynch.”

The Halloween display in question.

Lynch organized a small protest outside the home sporting the witch. Emotions seemed to run high, causing police to be called to keep the peace.

“At one point the protest got a little heated, and Chicopee police were called to East street, but in the end both parties stayed on their own sides and continued to stand up for what they believe. “It is strong, strong dislike and hate for a person and a specific religion that is known all over the United States,” says protestor Melissa Mercier … “Witches have rights too, under freedom of religion,” adds Lynch.”

Then on Halloween night, someone decided to take matters into their own hands, and burned the faux-witch down.

“The witch hanging from a noose outside a home on East Street in Chicopee has been burned at the stake. Neighbors say when they went to bed last night, the witch was intact, but this morning, it was found burned on the ground. The halloween decoration stirred controversy when a group claiming witchcraft as their religion protested outside the home. But neighbors say whoever set fire to the witch went too far.”

So now the question is: who burned the witch? Lynch? A supporter of Lynch’s? Random hooligans? Some conspiratorial-minded folks have even suggested the homeowner did it himself. But whoever burned the witch, one thing is clear, thanks to this action the issue isn’t going to go away now.

“One neighbor says he wants to put up four more witches for next year’s Halloween season.”

It seems that any positive outcome from this situation has been lost. It will now become a show of solidarity in the neighborhood to hang witches, and what most likely started out as something not aimed at modern Pagans could very well evolve into the thing Lynch feared. Wiccan effigies on suburban lawns.

* The hung witch in this instance isn’t a hate crime in any legal sense of the term. A “hate crime” is a very specific thing. It is the intentional use of threats, violence, or intimidation against someone because of their race, religion, orientation, or creed. So far there is not a shred of proof this man hung this witch in order to threaten or intimidate Pagans. He may be a rude insensitive jerk, but that isn’t against the law.

Jason Pitzl-Waters