An Ethics Statement: How to Start

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 20, 2010 — 36 Comments

I’m going to stray a bit from my normal routine, and propose an actual initiative for our community to undertake. Considering recent cases within our community concerning the sexual abuse of children, and the larger context of news-making abuse cases within non-Pagan faith intuitions, I feel that a voluntary statement of ethics put forward and enforced by Pagan leaders, groups, event organizers, media outlets, and organizations could go a long way towards fostering an atmosphere that would support victims, discourage would-be abusers, and potentially avert some cases of abuse. I understand that any undertaking that attempts to gain the support of any sizable percentage of the larger Pagan community can be fraught with drama, dissent, and backlash, but I feel this is something worth the effort, and the process will have The Wild Hunt’s support at every stage.

Every stage of this process, so long as I am a part of it, will be opt-in and voluntary. No group, individual, or legal entity will be strong-armed into participating, or demonized if they feel they can’t sign on to the finished product. Coalitions that bring lasting change aren’t built by guilt or coercion, but by bridge-building and compromise. We will gladly stand by and partner with those who opt to develop alternate faith or group-specific ethics platforms, so long as they are created in the same spirit of protecting the innocent. Further, the finished statement will exist as its own entity beholding to no single faith, group or individual, and anyone will be able to “sign” or “opt-in” to it at any time so long as they support its tenets.

Stage One: Crafting a draft statement. We will start with a relatively small group working together, with ongoing input from the larger community, to create a first draft of the ethics statement. Pagan author and professor of philosophy Brendan Myers has volunteered to host and help guide this stage of the process. If you are interested in being a part of this process, please join his message board, and take part. I urge folks from various faiths, traditions, professions, and walks of life, to participate. I thank Brendan for stepping forward to shepherd this initial step.

Stage Two: Feedback on draft. Once a rough draft of the statement is complete, it will be posted here, and at other Pagan media outlets, for feedback. All constructive input will be listened to, and responsive changes and revisions will be made accordingly.

Stage Three: Posting of draft, and creation of ethics statement web site. Once complete, the final ethics statement will be posted at its own web site, and all who wish may then sign on to the statement. All participating organizations and events will be prominently listed, web badges and printable materials will be made available, and an outreach committee will be formed to encourage wide adoption of the statement. The site will remain politically neutral, and will not advocate for or against any tradition, group, or individual in a conflict.

That is my suggestion for moving forward. If you want to discuss this, and get on board with this process, please visit Brendan Myers’ site to get things started. I hope this will be the start of a productive and proactive step to address this issue within our interlocking communities.

Jason Pitzl-Waters

Posts

  • Kevin

    I'v got an idea! How about "Don't break the Law!" and then just end it there? Why do we need this?

    • The law is often inept and sometimes wrong in certain cases.

      • Kevin

        There aren't many places that allow rape these days…

        • But "don't break the law" is much wider in scope than just rape.

          • Kevin

            Oh I see you need something that is more confining….. Say 10 commandments of Paganism?

        • … I didn't say always. Pay attention.

  • I hope so too, lol.

  • Kevin

    So why are you trying to make more laws? Even if they are made by ourselves…

    • The proposition is not to make laws, but to make a statement of ethics.

      • Kevin

        To make a statement on what constitutes a good little Pagan?

  • Q: Does this address a real problem or need within the Pagan community?

    A: No.

    • Sarenth

      Then what do you think will.

  • Unfortunately i don't belong to any pagan group, it's just me and my girlfriend for now, but i would definitely support something like this.

  • Kevin

    Bottom line: What would this do… That isn't already covered by law?

  • Pingback: Blog o’ Gnosis » Blog Archive » Toward a New Pagan Ethics()

  • Best of luck with this, I fully support your efforts!

  • That's a reasonable description. Thank you.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Doctors, engineers and other professionals have existing professional associations that can establish ethics boards which in turn can compose codes. We're trying to do this from the roots up.

    • kevin

      So your going to make societies norms constitute individual ethics even if they fall within the law? Just so its a little easier to sell to the public? Thats pitiful!

  • I think this is necessary, and a great idea. There are many reasons why saying “Don’t break the law” does not address this, and there are also plenty of examples of perpetrators who are happy to rhetoric that they aren’t breaking the law if it’s a religious matter. I’ve had a Wiccan priest (self-ordained, not in a lineage) try to insist with me that when I explicitly did not consent to the Great Rite at a ritual we were sharing that I was being too Catholic and too unhealed from my own past trauma. I am a lesbian ex-Catholic Celtic Reconstructionist priestess who had no interest in a Wiccan Great Rite, and who can see huge differences between my reactions to real intimacy before and after some significant healing experiences, which he completely invalidated in his own narrow view.

    I myself was confident enough to continue to refuse, but our resulting inability to work together ended up splintering and dissolving the small coven we had managed to bring together over 2 years, in a relatively conservative area where building a new one would be a huge, difficult undertaking.

    This kind of b.s. is damaging to the image of Paganism as a spiritual path, especially as a path that supports spiritual growth and individual consent and autonomy. And this is not the only incident I have heard of in which one Pagan uses some form of religious righteousness to pressure someone else into inappropriate sexual encounters that they don’t actually consent to. And putting it all on the victims by saying something like: “Well, then the people being pressured need to stand up to it; there’s no need to drag the rest of us into it” undercuts support for the victims while actively lending support to predators to keep doing it, knowing that only the victim will likely bear the blame. Plus, many who do stand up to it also end up deprived of a religious community. Establishing clear boundaries as a religious community would address this much more effectively and compassionately.

    I fully support this effort. Thank you so much, Jason, for having the courage to take this on.

    Beannachtaí Geala (Bright Blessings)

    • kevin

      What "Embellishments" of the law do you need?

  • Kevin

    would that be easier?

  • kevin

    Whats un-pagan about being an Anarchist?

  • This is what I Just posted to the COG NPIO Reports Blog – ( http://covenantpio.blogspot.com/ ) ,

    “What I am about to say is an editorial coming from me – Greg Harder -your National PIO. My suggestions are not official COG policy as yet, though I would urge us to strongly consider providing clear support for the following:

    I agree with Jason Pitzl-Waters from The Wild Hunt blog about the need for a clear and widely agreed to statement of Pagan ethics as it relates to sexual abuse – especially regarding children. So I will quote him extensively here so that you may understand why I see this as an important issue for us in COG and the greater Pagan community. He has a very important and influential Pagan blog, and I believe that we as an organization should be at the forefront of offering assistance and support for the effort he is describing. I would urge our members to go to his site and read the complete post and the comments generated, and offer whatever assistance we can. As of right now he already has 71 comments listed : the great majority supporting the general idea. As your National PIO I cannot stress this enough for the safety and integrity of our community.

  • Pingback: Magick for the Real World()

  • Pingback: Pagan Ethics « Magick for the Real World()

  • Pax

    Those look like some fabulous etiquette tips, maybe you should start a blog with such tips and ideas in it?!

  • Cilla

    It’s easy to say “Don’t break the Law”, and leave it at that. The problem comes when the perception of the lawmakers changes in a way that is not in your favour, because their own information gathering does not include statements made by Pagan groups to the effect that they do not condone nor believe as a religious principle, in acts of violent, non-consensual sex with anybody. If you do not stand up and declare that you do not do this, the general public will assume that you do condone it. People in general are not well informed about Paganism and earth-based religions, and we all know that where there is a mystery, there will be scandal, whether it is true or not. We will all suffer!
    IMO the reason that there is a need for a clear cut, easily researcheable statement on Pagan ethics in regards to sex with minors is not to “make new rules” for the Pagan community (I should hope any genuine Pagan would not commit so heinous a crime) but that the general public needs to be informed of our genuine stance against this.

  • It really is essential that people refrain from implying that anyone is condoning or enabling sexual abuse, as Pax does above.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Bookhousegal is absolutely right that this sort of nasty stuff can arise within our community. I've been around two such incidents.

  • I don't think anybody is proposing a "Pagan InterPol."

  • Anytime a person is charged with committing a crime, let alone convicted, it is already a public matter.

  • Pingback: Blog o' Gnosis » Blog Archive » Toward a New Pagan Ethics()

  • John

    c-c-c-combo breaker! =3

  • Pingback: The Wild Hunt » An Ethics Statement: Public Comment Period()

  • Pingback: Witches Brew » Blog Archive » International Pagan Values Month, June 2010()