News Roundup

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  June 26, 2010 — 1 Comment

Funding Cut for Stonehenge: For 20 years, Druid leader King Arthur Pendragon (no, not that Arthur Pendragon) has been campaigning for improvements at Stonehenge. This week it was announced that the coalition government is cutting funding for a visitor center.

Tourists are often shocked at the state of the centre and amazed that traffic is allowed to roar past so close.

Last year Gordon Brown promised £10m towards a £25m scheme to build a glass and timber centre and to shut the nearby A344. The scheme was expected to win planning permission soon and the project was due to be completed in 2012 to coincide with the staging of the Olympics in the UK.

Last week the government announced the funding would be pulled. English Heritage, which manages the site, said it was “extremely disappointed”, arguing that transforming Stonehenge was “vital to Britain’s reputation and to our tourism industry”. It said it would try to find the funding from elsewhere.

Pendragon, Rollo Maughfling, archdruid of Stonehenge and Britain, and Peter Carson, head of Stonehenge for English Heritage, all expressed disappointment, but say they will continue to campaign for improvements at one of England’s most treasured and sacred places.

Pentagrams and Free Speech: An Arizona woman is going head to head with the local courts over a feud with neighbors that led her to paint an upside down pentagram on the side of her barn and landed her in jail for five days.

Stacy Brown says the symbol has personal religious significance, but seems to admit she painted the pentagram to annoy her neighbors in their ongoing feud. The pentagram is only the latest thing Brown has painted on her barn, following upside-down crosses, an expletive, and images of Bettie Page, which were deemed unacceptable. She was ordered to remove them. Brown says she believes her free speech rights are being violated.

Court records show Brown also received an injunction against harassment in March, ordering the neighbors to have no contact with her, not to photograph anyone or anything on her property or pet any of her animals.

Brown said she eventually allowed some of her shelter volunteers to splatter paint over the pentagram as a way to celebrate the end of the school year. She said she was also tired of the tension with her neighbors and was ready for the pentagram to be gone.

But a couple of days later on May 26, Judge Pro-Tem Craig A. Raymond sentenced her to five days in jail, to begin immediately. She asked for 24 hours to arrange care for her dogs and a child who was with her, but was denied.

“He did not listen to me. … He put me in jail for a pentagram that wasn’t even up. I was not allowed to present any evidence.”

When her neighbors presented photos of Brown’s pentagram, they were apparently in violation of Raymond’s own order in March not to photograph Brown’s property. “I don’t know if he even realized that,” Brown said.

The Florence Reminder called Raymond seeking comment, but it was Deputy Court Administrator Stephanie Jordan who returned the call. Asked if a religious symbol on private property was constitutionally-protected speech, Jordan replied, “You would think so,” but said there was more to the judge’s decision. I was more about Brown “being in continual violation of the order,” than just the pentagram itself, Jordan said.

The American Civil Liberties Union in Arizona says the judge may be correct on this one, but Brown says she intends to pursue the matter.

Priest at Witch Camp: Mark Townsend isn’t your average priest.

During the time I served as a vicar, I naturally began to use my own magical illusions as a tool to evoke wonder and awe – and to try to get people to think twice. I did this because many Christian folk seem to me to be living largely disenchanted lives. Perhaps it’s all the dogma, the rather stale services, and the general heaviness of establishment religion that closes so many people to mystery and wonder. Pagans, on the other hand, are radically alert to the magic of life, the planet and everything around them. They use symbol and ritual in such a way that connects powerfully with the human soul and makes sense not just to the mind, but to the heart and imagination, also.

Townsend is an Anglican priest recounting his experience at Pendle Witch Camp. He’s also a member of OBOD and has written a book called The Path of the Blue Raven where he talks about his encounters with Paganism. Another book to add to my very long reading list. Have you read it?

Ten Commandments at Courthouse: Here at the Wild Hunt blog, Jason has reported in the past on constitutional issues regarding the installation of religious symbols on public lands. This week, commissioners in Madison County, FL voted against installing a marker of the Ten Commandments outside a courthouse.

The religious group claimed that the ten commandments statue was an “acknowledgment of history marker with historical truths.” Opponents felt that it was not right to have religious guidelines erected at the courthouse.

The ministerial association wanting the statue said that it would pay for the construction and installation of the statue, and that there would be no cost for the county. As to possible legal repercussions, the association told the county commissioners that various Christian liberty groups would defend the county at no charge.

‘Lord’ Out of Diplomas: There’s been quite a bit of discussion lately about America’s move toward a post-Christian future. This week, one New Haven, CT high school made a small, but significant change. For the first time since anyone can remember, the high school diplomas were printed without the phrase “in the year of our Lord.”

It’s a small change that could easily go unnoticed, but Superintendent of Schools Reginald Mayo feels it was a necessary one.

“It’s a religious thing,” he said Tuesday. Then, regarding the deleted language: “I’m surprised it took this long for someone to notice it. We certainly don’t want to offend anyone.”

This will be the first year without the language. For example, diplomas from last year state that the diploma was awarded “this twenty-fifth day of June in the year of our Lord, Two Thousand Nine.”

School districts across the country are facing various challenges to graduation traditions.

One Nation Campaign: Meanwhile a new billboard campaign from the North Carolina Secular Association is challenging the “under God” part of the American Pledge of Allegiance.

This ad campaign is intended as a consciousness-raising effort to point out how every U.S. citizen who doesn’t believe in a monotheistic god is being “officially” marginalized, disrespected, and discriminated against by the insertion of “under God” in the Pledge, by the supplanting of our former de facto national motto–E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One)–with “In God We Trust,” by language in certain state constitutions (like the one in NC) which restricts anyone that doesn’t believe in a monotheistic god from holding public office, and in many other ways.

We believe the evidence clearly demonstrates that our Founders intended to establish a secular government, one that separated church from state. We believe the kinds of officially sanctioned marginalization and discrimination covered above is unconstitutional, that it violates the intentions of the Founders, and that it is fundamentally unfair.

The Pledge of Allegiance was composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892. It has been modified four times since then, with the most recent change adding the words “under God” in 1954. Here’s a clip of children in 1945 reciting the Pledge before that addition. It’s been challenged many times, most recently in March when an appellate court ruled that the words were of a “ceremonial and patriotic nature” and did not constitute an establishment of religion.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    I suppose it depends on the particular Bettie Page image…