Quick Notes: Death Threats, Custody Cases, and Polygamy’s Harm

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  July 18, 2010 — 51 Comments

A few quick notes for you on this Sunday.

Death Threats Against Sacred Source: Back on the 10th, I reported that Rajan Zed‘s Universal Society of Hinduism, and the Forum for Hindu Awakening were protesting several Hindu statues made by Sacred Source, claiming that they were “denigrating” to their gods and their faith. Since then it seems that Sacred Source has been receiving death threats via e-mail.

“Since then, the company has received about two dozen unhappy e-mails, said Liana Kowalzik, who owns the company, Sacred Source, with her husband. About half of those were threats, she said. “How hard you pray and how hard you try, you shall not escape, the days are coming, when each part of your body starts decomposing while you are alive,” one angry person wrote. Wrote another, “I want to kill you at least cut your tongue for doing this. Regards.” Kowalzik said she won’t be swayed by the violent messages. “Who are they going to threaten with death next if I cave?” she asked.”

There has been no response or statement from Zed or the Forum for Hindu Awakening condemning these death threats that their media exploits have seemingly spurred.  According to a post on Sacred Source’s Facebook page made by Liana Kowalzik, the threats are being forwarded from the Forum for Hindu Awakening site. The FBI and local authorities have been notified.

So far, there’s been no sign that this cause is being taken up by other national Hindu organizations. Neither the American Hindu Association, or the Hindu American Foundation, have mentioned the controversy or issues in an official statement. As for Rajan Zed, it should be noted that he doesn’t speak for all Hindus in America, and some Hindu groups have never heard of him outside his press clippings. In fact, some Hindus are alternately amused and annoyed by Zed’s ongoing media antics. Meanwhile, Zed’s getting the Global Civil Rights Hindu Jewel Award at the 1st annual California Hinduism Summit, organized by, you guessed it, the Forum for Hindu Awakening.

Religion and Custody Battles: An ongoing fear for all religious minorities is having their religion and beliefs used against them in divorce child custody hearings. There, misinformation and bias can become life-wrecking, forcing some Pagans deep into the closet, cut off from their religious community for fear of losing custody.

“Katie fought for her marriage with an attempt at joint counseling, then she fought for her faith in court, now she is reduced to just fighting daily to keep her child. Could she have taken a chance that the judge would be open-minded enough to view her religion as “real” and benign? Sure, but the risk was too great. She gave in.  Katie left the coven and she no no longer goes to festivals or meets with other Pagans. She prays alone, in secret. Her husband was, and continues to, pushing hard for full custody to save his little girl from the evil inside her mother.”

The only solution for people like Katie, forced into the closet because she doesn’t have the resources to fight,  is to build the resources within our communities for all the individuals who don’t win the ACLU intervention lottery so they can fight. For those working in the judicial system to come out and fight the prejudices that make judges think a Pagan religion is less moral and healthy than Christianity. To build on the precedents set in cases like Harrison v. Tauheed, where a Kansas appellate court ruled that a mother’s religious practices are inadmissible in a custody dispute. Until the day comes when vengeful ex-spouses stop using our faiths as a weapon in custody hearings.

Polygamy’s Social Evils: I’ve reported before on the upcoming Supreme Court case in B.C., Canada that is looking to decriminalize the practice of multiple marriage. The family behind the case is a polyamorous triad, and a local Wiccan (among others) has filed an affidavit in support of decriminalization. Now the defense is filing their own affidavits, with one scholarly paper essentially saying that legalized polygamy would cause far more social harm than the harms of limiting religious freedom and freedom of expression.

“Increased crime, prostitution and anti-social behaviour. Greater inequality between men and women. Less parental investment in children. And, a general driving down of the age of marriage for all women. These are some of the harms of polygamy (or more correctly, polygyny, since it is almost always men marrying more than once) that are outlined in a 45-page research paper by noted Canadian scholar Joseph Henrich, filed Friday in B.C. Supreme Court.”

The government plans to go the “Muslims and Mormons” route in order to show that a decriminalized, let alone legalized, multiple marriage would cause massive social ills. Consider this a preview of what will come should a similar movement try to challenge the laws of the United States. Can we have healthy, legal, multiple marriages without also empowering the abusive patriarchal excesses of fundamentalist Mormons and other polygamous-friendly sects? If this becomes a high-profile issue, how will various Pagan groups, many of whom have endorsed, or at least tolerate, poly marriages, react?

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Jason Pitzl-Waters