Paganism? Not In Our Neighborhood!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 29, 2008 — 7 Comments

In Warminster, PA, just twenty miles north of Philadelphia, a modern-day witch-hunt is emerging. Local resident Rick Fire, a licensed social worker, recently had his home rezoned to allow for limited grief counseling. This seemingly innocuous request has rallied around 70 residents of Warminster to protest the rezoning. The reason? Fire’s involvement with the Pagan-friendly interfaith church Ecumenicon Fellowship.

“Some of Fire’s neighbors, however, say they were not made aware of Fire’s intentions to offer grief counseling at the house, which sits at the corner of Street and Lowell roads, at the entrance to the Wellesley Hills subdivision. But they’re also concerned by information they found on the Internet that seems to link Fire to groups involved in paganism, witchcraft and various alternative sexual lifestyles … ‘We’re here to protect our children, and our residential neighborhood,’ said Debbie Kozlowski, who lives on the 500 block of Winchester Road … ‘We don’t want that in our neighborhood,’ said Ed Kozlowski, of the 500 block of Winchester Road. ‘Would you feel safe with your son or daughter standing on that bus stop (outside Fire’s home)?’”

Since Fire is acting completely within the law, the outrage vented against the Warminster board of supervisors did nothing to change the zoning board’s ruling. The anti-Pagan mob tried to enlist the supervisors to their cause and was met with defensive equivocation.

“‘The decision is very, very limited,’ [Township solicitor] Savona said. ‘If Mr. Fire engages in any activity that is outside the scope of that decision, then he is in violation of the zoning ordinance, and the township can and will prosecute those violations. If he breaks any laws, or commits a crime — if there’s evidence of that then the township can and will prosecute those violations. What we cannot do, what we must not do, to any citizen, is begin to take anticipatory measures based upon what we think may occur, when there is no evidence that it has occurred’ … Savona advised the residents that they had 30 days to appeal the zoning board’s ruling in Bucks County Court. The residents, who said they had a petition with 70 signatures, then demanded that the township join them in an appeal, an action the board seem hesitant to undertake. ‘The laws are very specific in certain areas,’ said Supervisors chairman Frank Feinberg. ‘Our hands are tied.’”

I’m trying to think of a word to describe this situation other than “an outrage” and keep coming up short. That a religiously bigoted mob can engage in this behavior openly, trying to intimidate Rick Fire over private matters, is shocking. What happens if the intolerant mob loses its (no doubt forthcoming) appeal? Will bricks be thrown through his windows? Will the threats against his life begin? Will his 13-year-old son be safe? How long can Rick Fire and his family live in a neighborhood turned against him?

I can only hope that the Pennsylvania Pagan, esoteric, and interfaith communities will rally behind Mr. Fire and his family. If the mob succeeds here, it will only embolden them elsewhere. We can’t let hate and fear-mongers like the Kozlowski’s succeed in their witch-hunt.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • THE Michael

    OK, yes, I suspect there are some sort of right wing Christian cliques involved in this BS, but I really wonder why this particular gentleman had to pick out the worst possible lanquage to discribe what he’s into? I mean, c’mon, based on what was printed in this article, as pagan and free-thinking as I am, I’d think he was a wacko too! For once I would like to see pagans in general begin to think rationally about what we “put out” there in the real world and start to fine tune our messages so that they don’t sound so damn rediculous. I think advertising his service as a “pagan-oriented grief counseling service” for people who are already pagan-oriented is fine, but to advertise himself as a grief counselor, THEN adding some wacko language on top of that does NOT do ANYBODY any favors as far as not attracting the attention of the “rightous” idots who just can’t wait to lynch somebody if given half the chance. Just get REAL for once, people, and we wouldn’t be having these problems!

  • Jacqueline

    1. He has a right list interests that sound “ridiculous” on the internet without being accused of being a danger to neighborhood children. 2. You’re right, Michael. And if women just didn’t wear provocative clothing, we wouldn’t have sexual assault. Except that that’s not the cause of sexual assault, nor is saying silly things on the internet the cause of religious intolerance and witch hunts.3. How you and I would or would not like our fellow Pagans to express themselves has nothing to do with their right to practice their faith, say silly things on the internet, and yet not be harassed and hounded by their scarily intolerant neighbors.

  • dawa-lhamo-9

    I would like to reiterate your #3, Jacqueline. Harassment is harassment, no matter how many silly things someone’s posted on the internet. I’m entirely unimpressed with their singularly unoriginal and intolerant “Oh, think of the children!” argument.

  • Yvonne

    Apart from the “spiritual hustler” bit and the fact that he spells radical with a k and noise with a z, I can’t see anything particularly wacky about his self-description.These people who are attacking him are scarily bigoted and I hope that they lose their appeal.

  • moonsilverlove

    I posted a petition if anyone cares to look at it and perhaps sign. No matter how he presents himself to the public, the public has no right to deny him his spiritual freedom inside of his own home. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/RickFireFreedomOfReligion

  • Jason Pitzl-Waters

    In regards to the above (now deleted) comment. I don’t tolerate slanderous accusations and innuendo of this sort from “anonymous” posters.

  • Jason Pitzl-Waters

    Ms. Witherspoon,You obviously have some deep feelings about this issue. But your letter seems to be a personal one directed at the Fires, so I suggest you send it to them personally, and not use my blog as a go-between. Also, just because you add your name to the post, which I appreciate, doesn’t mean the post’s content is now acceptable. It is still littered with personal attacks and fevered innuendo about what happens behind closed doors.I suggest you do some deep prayer over whether your post was truly in the spirit of Christ, and if your intentions in writing it were really as noble as you imagine. Any further attempts to post the same letter again will be deleted.