As I mentioned in my May 2nd post, there’s been some local opposition to a Pagan festival being held in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, including some questionable statements by a local law enforcement official, a newly formed “concerned citizens” group, and rumblings of protests and missional activities by some local Christians.
“No one in Livingston Parish wants any witches here, and it IS our right, and our DUTY to make the experience of anyone attending this gathering as educational as possible. We are praying for the salvation of all the people in attendance. We are also gathering people to bring the gospel to these attending. We hope many people will learn about the true Lord while they are in our parish. – Longtime resident of Livingston Parish, anxiously waiting to meet all of you!”
This situation has sparked a statement from James A. Harry, the attorney representing the Louisiana Alliance of Wiccans and Gryphon’s Nest Campground (owned/run by Cliff Eakin, the man who successfully challenged Livingston Parish’s anti-fortune-telling ordinance). I reproduce the proclamation, in full, below.
Once again, the headlines in Livingston Parish, Louisiana are ablaze because Wiccans are standing up for their right to choose to follow a religion that isn’t Christianity. This time, however, the problem is not with the Parish leaders, but rather some extremist[s] who appear to claim to be Christians. They have attempted to stop two Pagan festivals scheduled in Livingston Parish through a program of defamation of Wicca and Wiccans and they are apparently calling others to take acts that appear to be designed to terrorize the festivals and their speakers. Presently, each of the Pagan festivals will now be forced to provide security for these events, and it is thought that turnout will be low or non-existent as a result of the actions of these defamers.
The festivals that have been attacked are the Gryphon’s Nest Campground Grand Opening scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend. The other festival attacked was the Annual LAW Festival set for May, 8, 2010. LAW is a non-profit organization which has just received 501(c)(4) tax exempt status by the IRS, whose purpose includes protecting the legal rights of Wiccans. The organization grew from the support received by local Wiccan groups, including The CPWC and the Coven of the Gryphon, in the fight against the Livingston Parish Anti-Divination Ordinance, which suit resulted in victory for the Wiccan community. Subsequently, LAW has retained legal counsel for individuals whose religious rights or problems have been at issue in the Court system in Louisiana and those individuals have had problems in Jefferson Parish, St. Tammany Parish, Livingston Parish, and Ascension Parish.
As the attorney who will be representing both Gryphon’s Nest and LAW in the planned suits against the extremists referred to above, I urge pagans not to post messages on the Internet regarding any of the matters described above. Such postings will not help my clients.
Instead, I urge you to write your elected representatives to create laws that will protect Wiccans’ values and to add stiff criminal penalties for those who commit terrorist acts to promote their religion at the expense of Wicca. Please feel free to contact LAW to obtain sample letters to send to your elected representatives and to help you identify your elected representatives. LAW can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Further, I urge you to help both Gryphon’s Nest Campground and LAW to mitigate its damages by attending the festivals.
Furthermore, the problems faced by residents of Livingston Parish, Louisiana are not unique to this community. The work done here sets precedents in the rest of the country. On behalf of my clients, I beg our National Leaders, our Founders, our Authors, and all those who can garner the attention of other Wiccans to rally to our aid by contacting me through LAW’s email address above. Wiccans have made excellent progress in obtaining the respect and tolerance of the government here. If we stand together, we can show everyone that we will not be whipped by the bible belt.
James A. Harry
Attorney at LAW
So there you have it. Taking the advice of LAW’s attorney, I urge all who want to support the Wiccans and Pagans in Livingston Parish (and surrounding areas) to coordinate with them on the matter. I will, of course, be keeping an eye on press coverage, and have been in contact with local organizers should they need to get the word out to the wider Pagan community.