Quick Notes: Asylum From Witch-Hunts, Vandalism in Alaska, and Sarah Palin

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 6, 2010 — 42 Comments

Just a few quick news notes for you to start your Monday.

Asylum For Witch-Hunt Victims: A Nigerian woman in Britain is fighting deportation on the grounds that she will be hunted and killed as a witch in her country if sent back. Cynthia Owie came to the UK in 2008 with her infant daughter, shorty after the baby sadly contracted meningitis and died, now Owie says she is receiving death threats from fellow Nigerians accusing her of witchcraft in the child’s death and is seeking asylum.

Ms Owie, 33, said: “I have been threatened that I will be killed if I go back. I have been told I am a witch and murdered our daughter.” Ms Owie also claims she was treated “like an animal” at the Yarl’s Wood detention centre, in Bedford, where failed asylum seekers are held before removal. Her cause has been taken up by West Ham MP Lyn Brown as well as members of the Ascension Parish Church in Custom House, east London, which has been providing Ms Owie with accommodation and support for two years. Rev Chris Hanson, the vicar of the church, took the case to the Home Office last week and said the community was praying that she would be allowed to stay. “Cynthia’s case is one in a thousand,” he said. “She has gone about trying to stay in this country in a God-honouring way. I am hopeful that the Home Office will understand her exceptional circumstances. When the baby was discovered as being very ill, she was accused of witchcraft. People out in Nigeria believe she brought on this illness and we believe if she is returned to Nigeria she would be killed.

If Owie’s plea is granted it could set a new precedent for asylum seekers to the West. Would more individuals from places like Kenya, Nigeria, or Saudi Arabia try to seek asylum to escape jail, abuse, or death? More importantly, would a stream of asylum seekers affected by witch-hunts and panics force Western governments to become more proactive in using their diplomatic muscle to end the worst abuses? What do we do when the men and women accused of “sorcery” and “witchcraft” are no longer “over there” and are instead at our doorsteps begging to be spared?

Metaphysical Store Vandalized in Alaska: A Pagan-owned shop in Soldotna, Alaska was vandalized with a large wooden cross last week, the first time such an act has taken place in the small town.

“An Alaska store owner says a wooden cross wrapped to the store sign in Soldotna was an unwelcome act of vandalism that goes against her pagan and spiritual beliefs. The Peninsula Clarion reported 45-year-old Rondell Gonzalez arrived Thursday at her store, the Pye’ Wackets on the Kenai Spur Highway, and found a makeshift cross about 7 feet tall attached to her business sign with plastic food wrap. Gonzalez says she believes in spiritualism rather than organized religion. She also said her father fought and died in Vietnam for religious and personal freedoms.”

The Peninsula Clarion interviewed Gonzalez, who called the action “pathetic”, and expressed surprise that the cross wasn’t on fire. You can find out more about Pye’Wackets at their Witchvox listing. The question now is if this was an isolated prank, pulled by bored teenagers, or if it signals something more sinister.

Sarah Palin’s Christianity: Speaking of Alaska and witch-hunts, religion reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman points to an emerging debate between former governor Sarah Palin and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend about the nature of religion within the realm of politics. It seems that Palin, in her new book “America By Heart”, criticizes John F. Kennedy for his famous speech about his Catholicism. This has lead Townsend, a niece of JFK, to pen an editorial in the Washington Post criticizing Palin’s views.

“Palin writes that when she was growing up, she was taught that Kennedy’s speech had “succeeded in the best possible way: It reconciled public service and religion without compromising either.” Now, however, she says she has revisited the speech and changed her mind. She finds it “defensive . . . in tone and content” and is upset that Kennedy, rather than presenting a reconciliation of his private faith and his public role, had instead offered an “unequivocal divorce of the two.” Palin’s argument seems to challenge a great American tradition, enshrined in the Constitution, stipulating that there be no religious test for public office. A careful reading of her book leads me to conclude that Palin wishes for precisely such a test. And she seems to think that she, and those who think like her, are qualified to judge who would pass and who would not.”

While I doubt Palin would blatantly call for a religion test to high office, her allies in C. Peter Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation, who regularly engage in spiritual warfare against Pagans, and helped nurture her career, certainly would. The fact that two of the Republican front-runner for 2012 presidential elections, Palin and Mike Huckabee, have ties to Christian groups and figures (like David Barton, for instance) who would deny Pagans their basic constitutional protections is chilling. The more we insist on an unofficial religious tests in campaigns, the closer we get to real ones.

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

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • The more we insist on an unofficial religious tests in campaigns, the closer we get to real ones.

    So true, it needed to be seen twice.

    • Rombald

      Actually, I'm in favour of personal religious tests for public office.

      I wouldn't vote for a Muslim or a dominionist-leaning Christian under any circumstances, because I think allowing them to have their hands on the control of anything is just too risky. I also wouldn't vote for a Mormon or a Scientologist, though more because they are off-the-wall insane than particularly dangerous.

      I wouldn't vote for a practising Jew for any position in which he/she might affect foreign policy. I wouldn't vote for a Catholic or a conservative Christian for any position relating to family, sexuality, etc. (I also wouldn't vote for some types of feminist, or extreme gay types, for those types of positions).

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Whose left? Pagans and UUs?

        • Tea

          Also Atheists, Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus, Sikhs, Bahais, Agnostics and Satanists to name a few.

      • Tea

        "extreme gay types"???

        • Robin Artisson

          Well Tea, come on, there's gay, and then there's GAY, y'know?

          • Tea

            I guess so..lol

          • kauko

            *snaps fingers* hells yes! At this very moment I'm watching the movie Beaches, listening to Barbra Streisand, putting product in my hair, singing all of the great Broadway hits at the top of my lungs and praying to my statue of Lady Gaga!

          • Tea

            Well, you can just forget about getting Rombald's vote then.

          • Crystal7431


          • You've got mine though! 😉

        • IMBACK1966

          You know, the gays who have the temerity to want equal rights. The extreme ones.

          Tea wrote:

          "extreme gay types"???

      • IMBACK1966

        Gee, why do I suddenly hear the sound of goosestepping jackboots and people singing the Horst Wessel Lied?

  • Kennedy's speech was actually quite amazing; a brilliant piece of political rhetoric in the best sense. There is nothing "defensive" about.

  • Ursyl

    I think Palin is ignoring the entire cultural context of Kennedy's speech at that time. People were seriously (and stupidly IMO) afraid that he would (HOW?) put the Vatican in charge of the country and rule according to their dictates.

    If that comes across as "defensive" or as divorcing his faith from his governance, then maybe that's what needed to be said At That Time.

    • jmp

      Thank you, Ursyl, that's what I was thinking. In fact, I'm surprised that the speech doesn't come across as more defensive than it actually was; Kennedy was remarkably civil, given what he was accused of.

    • Even in the context of the time, what JFK said was not defensive at all – except in the sense that he was defending the very basic American principles of religious freedom and separation of church and state.

      The reason Palin doesn't like what Kennedy said is simply this: he not only used the phrase "separation of church and state", which the Palinites want to purge from the American political vocabulary, but he went further, and said that this separation is absolute.

      So it wasn't because Kennedy was "defensive", but rather because he was so clear and principled and uncompromising that makes Palin displeased.

      • So it wasn't because Kennedy was "defensive", but rather because he was so clear and principled and uncompromising that makes Palin displeased.


  • "These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues — for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers." — President Kennedy

    And he wanted to push the U.S. so we'd go to the moon. He aspired to a lot of things. And he got elected!

    Meanwhile, Palin makes a plea to wear down the wall between church and state. She's not satisfied with Kennedy presenting a reconciliation of his private faith and his public role, but wishes, bippity-boppity-boo, to portray him has having created an “unequivocal divorce of the two,” between religion and public office.

    She's trying to strong arm the directional force and tone of a nation, and we know about that can affect things. Example: How tone of public office toward minority religion affected the VA Headstone saga.

  • The only defensive thing here is that JFK and Palin are mentioned together. As if Failin' Palin could honestly and intellectually critique anything done by him. There needn't be a religious test for office, but a IQ test would be greatly appreciated by the electorate.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Asylum for witch-hunt victims is a great idea. It's a form of religious persecution whatever the religion (or lack thereof) the victim holds.

  • I doubt that Palin ever read Kennedy's speech. She was told about it, and then told what to "think" about it. I never thought I'd see a national political figure who made George W. Bush appear literate, but here we have it.

  • I could fix that wooden cross vandalism problem for the good lady in Alaska, real simple, real quick. I would make it publicly known that any wood "donated" to my store in the form of crosses would be sawed apart and used in the making of Pagan sacred images- tall, thick trunks of wood are favored by me and my kind for carving statues of Odhinn and Ingvi-Frey. I would make it well known that generous donations of planks of wood or wooden crosses would be given a very fine "de-christianizing" treatment (being washed with birch-water, bathed in the blood of sacrifices, and etched with bindrunes urging the entry of hallowed ond) before being divided and carved with hallowed axes and heavy knives into physical embodiments of the great might of the Gods. Those images would be then set up around my property and store, and given to Pagan friends in other cities and even countries, with a story of how they came to exist, and a thanks to the Christian vandals and idiots who helped the causes of the Gods.

    • Lori F – MN

      That's a fab idea. I would make sure the 'donation' was acknowledged in the paper.

  • Gaywolf

    We Humans can be a really screwed up bunch sometimes!

  • I didn't know pagans had nukes?

    • Robin Artisson

      I'm showing my disdain by quoting one of the greatest movies of all time, Dan.

    • Robin Artisson

      But apparently, Comrade Commissar believes that quoting a sci-fi movie to make a (clearly) humorous statement of disdain shouldn't be allowed here. So, the black tape has come down over my mouth. Sorry.

  • Thanx for posting this latest SP gem. The fact that this character has the audacity to criticize this speech, words that deserve to be chiseled in stone like Egyptian hieroglyphs, uttered by a man who gave his life to his country, makes me shudder to think there's even a slim chance she could wind up in the White House.

    • Thankfully, there isn't a chance in hell that she could win. I'd post a link to the accumulated poll results on RealClearPolitics–Google it—but links make your posts disappear on Wild Hunt. Although she has a very good chance of winning the Republican primary, all the polls right now have her an AVERAGE of 10.5% below Obama in an election. Contrary to what the Tea Partiers would have you think, Obama still has the support of most of the country, and wins almost every poll matchup against ANY Republican right now…but he fares best against Palin!

      • Tara_Devotee

        Agreed – Palin is too divisive and controversial, even among conservative voters. Nonetheless, her celebritician status has ensured that even if she never makes it to the White House, she's going to become a fixture at major political rallies and events as her popularity can draw crowds. So unfortunately, I think we're going to have a couple decades more of Palin's nuttery to deal with.

        And to think, people were convinced Jon Stewart would run out of material for The Daily Show after Obama was elected – if there's one thing Palin can be thanked for, it's ensuring Stewart has a nice, comfy retirement! 😀

      • Riverbend

        I hope you're right…but ya know, there was a time when I didn't think Dubya could get elected…I mean, he was SUCH a buffoon, who the hell would vote for him…? Sigh.

  • The name of the game right now is faith-based identity war rather than higher quality exploration of issues…this while the economic crisis lingers, the one pie Malthusian ethic still rules us, the middle class feels like an endangered species, and a good chunk of America votes as if it can't kiss the ass of the ruling class (conservatives!) long and hard enough.

    Supposed top political dogs? Pastor-in-chief types (like Huckabee). Men tend to rank higher than women (unless the woman is very attractive, like Palin). Of LifeWay's pastor poll, 75% perceive W as a real Christian, only 66% think of Palin that way, 41% think Obama is identifiably Christian, only 27 % think Mormon Glenn Beck is (wrong denomination), and low on the list is a woman with "amorphous spirituality" (Oprah).

    The nation has forgotten that separation of church and state was originally meant to protect religions from politics and each other. The culture war means you're supposed to be the right religion and denomination. Yet Mormons not only play along with the Christian Nation theocrat wannabe stuff, they make a point of leading the tone by making proposition 8 happen. That way they'll win theocrat points.

    Supposedly, if you understand and honor separation between church and state then your religion can't inform your sense of morality privately or in higher public office but if you're highly recognized as a true Christian, then you have a moral compass. Because pastors will tell you that everything that's true, right and moral comes from their transcendent (external) God. God forbid you're a Pagan that believes in both the transcendent (external) and immanent (internal) divine. They don't give credence to the former (as you see it anyway) and act as if the latter doesn't exist. That means you don't have a moral compass, in their book.

    Whether it's overt prosperity gospel or this pastor-in-chief phenomenon, a lot of people are making the bargain that if they're true Christians, or elect them, then things will work out and when they don't, pronto, then it's the Democrats' fault. Very binary.

    The pendulum swings. We had the 60s, now this…what's next?

    • Pax


      Things will get worse before they get better, but the pendulum will swing again.

      • Crystal7431

        There will be A LOT of cleanup when it swings back.

        • Yes, and it will, if it is to be effective in that cleanup, involve both the revival of intellectualism as well as increased social intelligences and political awareness.

  • The Handmaid's Tale, a great 1990 movie based on Margaret Atwood's novel of the same name, needs to be brought back into circulation right about now. It is essentially a logical-if-awful extension of a thinly-disguised U.S.A. in the hands of the extreme religious right, inevitable seamy dark side and all. Sarah Palin makes me think this really could happen here.

    • Robin

      That book has haunted my thoughts and view of the political and social realms of the US since I rad to 20 plus years ago. So chilling.

  • If you haven't yet, you really seriously need to watch Kennedy's speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUl6T2hQIbk

    This is what it looks like when a politician has both gonads and brains. Just five days before this speech, the New York Times had run an article on the front page about a coalition of Protestant ministers, headed by Norman Vincent Peale, who had publicly declared that Kennedy' membership in the Catholic Church was "a legitimate issue".

    So what does Kennedy do? He goes down to Texas and addresses a group of conservative Protestant ministers. He tells them that the separation of church and state in the US is absolute. He tells them that this means that it doesn't matter what religion a candidate belongs to. Period. Then he asks them if they have any questions. And the whole thing is broadcast live on tv.

    • Crystal7431

      This is exactly how Obama should have handled the Muslim accusations instead of pussy footing around and playing the game by the christian right's rules.

    • The man was a gutsy genius in some very key ways. I just saved that link in my favs.

      I want another U.S. President with this spirit and conviction regarding separation between church and state! And hopefully this one wouldn't be assassinated.

    • IMBACK1966

      I have to disagree. Kennedy may have had brains but many times he didn't use them. He certainly didn't have balls. Anyone can give a good speech.

      He got his ass handed to him by the Bay of Pigs incident. When it came to the civil rights movement Kennedy was a no show. He was out maneuvered by the Soviets during the Cuban missile crisis. Khrushchev proved himself to be the more adept politician and was responsible for pulling the world back from the closest it's come to nuclear war.

      We lionize Kennedy just because he died tragically and ignore his many failures.