Indulge me, if you will, to talk a bit about Brunswick, North Carolina. You see, Brunswick and this blog have something of a history. Way back in 2006, the Brunswick County Board of Education in North Carolina was on track to approve a controversial and vaguely-worded policy that would allow for the distribution of religious materials on school grounds. Legal threats didn’t seem to faze them until Llewellyn Worldwide offered to distribute free books on Wicca and Paganism to school children. Faster than you could say “Galloping Gideons”, the Brunswick board backed down from their plan, and someone fortuitously caught that delicious moment in a photo.
Since then, the Brunswick board would pop up occasionally to threaten a ban on Harry Potter, or attempt to inject Creationism into the curriculum, and I’d get to run that awesome photo again. Good times. So imagine my reaction when I learn that the Brunswick County Commissioners are considering ending public invocations due to fear that they might have to include Witches in the mix.
Brunswick County’s commissioners could be dropping their traditional prayer before public meetings. The consideration of changing from an opening invocation to a moment of silence comes after a StarNews report on a late-night board meeting in which commissioners vehemently opposed Commissioner Charles Warren’s request to allow outside clergy to pray before the board meetings. Traditionally the commissioners have given the invocation. Commissioner Phil Norris, who is also a pastor, said Wednesday that, after much thought on the issue, he now thinks the board should hold a moment of silence instead of the prayer. “I think, after thinking about this for some time, the way I see the Constitution it provides all of us with freedom of religion or freedom to not have any religion,” he said. Norris’ original reaction to Warren’s request was: “If we do that, do we have to invite witches?”
If you think that’s something, take a gander at the actual transcript!
Commissioner Charles Warren: Mr. Chairman, I’m basically, I’m still trying to keep the community involved in our board meetings and things of this nature. So I’m recommending that we invite different clergies, priests, rabbis throughout the community to come in and do our invocation of services.
Commissioner Phil Norris: If we do that do we have to invite witches and uh…
Commissioner Marty Cooke: My godson has a witch who’s his mother in law…
County Attorney Huey Marshall: We’ve got the largest monestary of Buddhists between DC and Atlanta
It gets even better after that, with one commissioner threatening to walk out if a Buddhist is allowed to do an opening prayer, and another more than willing to waste tax-dollars on a lengthy lawsuit over the matter. It remains to be seen what the Brunswick County Commissioners will end up actually doing, but with a recent court room loss for sectarian opening prayers in North Carolina, they may have to go silent if they don’t want to endure the Buddhists and Witches (and a lengthy court battle). This not only shows what some religiously conservative-dominated local governments truly feel about religious diversity, but also shows the unintended power modern Pagans hold in places like Brunswick simply by existing.