Whistle-blowing Witch Fired and other Pagan News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  March 28, 2011 — 72 Comments

Top Story: msnbc.com reports on a Wiccan from Albany, New York, who claims she was harassed, treated differently, and ultimately fired from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) because of her faith.

Immediately after the complaint about casting spells, Smith’s personnel file started to bulge with disciplinary actions. A training coordinator wrote her up for having a negative attitude. A supervisor warned her for not properly checking a boarding pass. She was eight minutes late to work. She was accused of insubordinate behavior for yelling at supervisors when they told her she’d have to work a 16-hour shift because she was the only woman on duty to pat down female passengers. On April 2, the personnel specialist at Albany, Robert Farrow, sent Johansson an e-mail about Smith. It read, in full, “Hammer Time.” Johansson replied, “Not yet … not enough.”

The evidence obtained by msnbc.com is damning, and it’s very clear that she would have won her initial Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint had she hired a lawyer instead of representing herself, a problem she intends to correct on appeal. The article also interviews Selena Fox about how Wiccans and Pagans are experiencing more acceptance, and more harassment, as we become increasingly visible. Carole A. Smith experienced what many Pagans experience when their religion becomes an issue, group harassment, indifference or hostility from superiors, and  the ever-common inflating of small infractions to justify a firing. There’s more to this story, including whistle-blowing, anti-Union sentiments, and sexism, I recommend reading (and watching) the entire report. I’ll be sure to keep my eyes open for updates.

The First Amendment is Only For Christians (Revisited): I’ve discussed at some length the troubling belief held by some conservative Christians, most notably pseudo-historian David Barton, that the Free Exercise Clause in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution only applies to Christians. But Michele Bachmann’s history teacher isn’t the only prominent conservative Christian to push this theory, talk radio host Bryan Fischer, Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association, recently held forth on the topic while invoking fear of an encroaching Islam.

“Islam has no fundamental First Amendment claims, for the simple reason that it was not written to protect the religion of Islam. Islam is entitled only to the religious liberty we extend to it out of courtesy. While there certainly ought to be a presumption of religious liberty for non-Christian religious traditions in America, the Founders were not writing a suicide pact when they wrote the First Amendment.”

Fischer, it should be noted, recently came to our attention when he wrote a disturbingly ugly editorial about Native Americans (naturally, he was the victim). Fischer is also on the “Green Dragon” fear train. The problem is that Fischer, Barton, and other would-be Christian historians that are building a case to deny us equal protections are flat-out wrong. The Founding Fathers knew quite well that religious freedom also meant freedom for Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and even Pagans. Dave Hill does an excellent job of debunking the pernicious idea that the First Amendment was only meant to protect Christians, and digs up some amazing quotes from the debates that were held at the time.

“The exclusion of religious tests is by many thought dangerous and impolitic. They suppose that if there be no religious test required, pagans, deists, and Mahometans might obtain offices among us, and that the senators and representatives might all be pagans. Every person employed by the general and state governments is to take an oath to support the former. Some are desirous to know how and by whom they are to swear, since no religious tests are required–whether they are to swear by Jupiter, Juno, Minerva, Proserpine, or Pluto.” – Rev. Henry Abbot, 1788.

The idea that the Free Exercise Clause doesn’t apply to non-Christians is dangerous, ahistorical, and stupid. That people like Barton and Fischer are preaching this lie weakens the very foundations they claim to protect. The fact is that the Founders were educated and far-sighted men who understood quite well what they were constructing and its implications. These revisionists would make them all into short-sighted dolts.

The Odds Catholics Prefer When Talking to Pagans? Recently Star Foster from Patheos.com went on a Catholic television program to talk about Paganism, and found herself defending our faiths against a disdainful and ill-informed panel.

“I feel I was a bit rude, because I insisted on saying something meaningful, and a bit flustered, stuttering and off-kilter, because I didn’t expect the attitude, ignorance or topic I was surprised with. I didn’t represent Paganism to the best of my ability, and looking back, probably shouldn’t have agreed to come on the show. I should have said Pagans as a rule don’t teach minors, and if they do it’s only with parents present. I should have emphasized community and service more. I shouldn’t have let them get so personal with their questions. I should have emphasized that Pagans leave Christianity because they find the doctrine faulty and irrelevant, not only because they feel alienated or disconnected.

I’m also a bit concerned that they edited out some parts of the interview, especially where the Msgr. Harrington and I had some interesting exchanges regarding whether Pagans were “making it all up.” I know editing happens and I don’t feel I was edited to look bad, but that some of the more interesting exchanges were removed. What I said really didn’t jive with some folks on the show and some of that discomfort has been removed.”

It seem that the program’s name, “In The Arena”, is quite apt. Attack, heap scorn, and edit out the bits that aren’t convenient. More kangaroo court than informational religion program, really. Still, despite the four-to-one odds, I think Star did as good as can be expected. We also learned an important lesson about entering that particular lion’s den.

Returning to Salem’s Psychic Boom: Fox News has picked up a local story about the licensing of psychics in Salem, Massachusetts, with some wondering if there’s now too many practitioners since regulations were relaxed.

Laurie “Lorelei” Stathopoulos owns Crow Haven Corner, a business dubbed “Salem’s first witch shop.” She conducts readings in a cozy back room and believes the city council needs to keep a close eye on the growing number of psychics. “I agree with Christian [Day] as far as the free trade but I also was one of the biggest advocates of keeping Salem quaint and small and magical and the more people we let in could hurt that name,” said Stathopoulos. “Just like having a Chanel bag, you want the real thing. You don’t want the run-of-the-mill or a knock off bag.”

The article also interviews Salem shop owner and promoter Christian Day, City Councilor Joan Lovely (who floated the idea of new caps), and Barbara Szafranski, a long time opponent of relaxing regulations. For more on this issue, see my post from January, which actually goes into more detail on some of the players and history surrounding regulation in Salem. My interview last year with Christian Day regarding laws and regulations affecting psychics may also be informational.

Around the World: Vietnam recently celebrated the Goddess of Mercy Festival, Buddhists prepare temporary mass graves in Japan, families pray to their gods in Myanmar (Burma) after an earthquake shakes the country, and are the Kalasha the “happiest people in Pakistan”?

“Gul Sayed, 25, sports a grin a mile wide as she hugs me, a lone foreigner in her home. She is a member of the Kalasha, a peace-loving pagan tribe living in the remote villages that lie between Northern Pakistan’s Chitral Valley and the Afghan border. She’s dressed in a black robe embroidered with rainbow threads, a beaded headdress adorned with cowrie shells and colorful necklaces. Rumour has it the blue-eyed, fair-skinned Kalasha are the descendants of the armies of Alexander the Great. But unlike their putative bellicose ancestors, the country’s smallest minority group — numbering around 3,000 — prefers to make love, not war. Proud of their warm, caring, crime-free culture, these could just be the happiest people in Pakistan.

The Kalash people, like Hindus, are adherents to an Indo-European polytheistic faith. After the troubles they have experienced lately with the Taliban, I’m happy to learn that the Kalasha continue to thrive.

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

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Don

    I didn't find Star rude and believed she did a fairly god job. The questions the panel asked, however, I thought were important and pagan answers to them I think are crucial for our success. Pagan apologetics anyone?

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    I was impressed by the MSNBC report on Caroline Smith, including the side interview with Selena Fox. I seldom see mainstream media apply such serious journalism to one of "our" stories.

  • Wendy Griffin

    Given the venue and participants, I thought Star did an excellent job. We always think of what we could have done better in hindsight.I thought she made her points clearly and was well prepared for the interview. I'm sorry she felt she was rude; I certainly didn't. I felt the panel was rude (and arrogant) with their constant interruptions and the facial expressions. I have to wonder how much of their behavior was due to their reaction to Paganism and how much to their assumed privilege because of how young Star looks. The establishment has always found it easy (and in its interest) to dismiss youth.

    • Jason Pitzl-Waters

      I also think Star did well, especially under circumstances. We are full of Star Foster love here at The Wild Hunt.

      • Star Foster

        Enough to dye your hair pink for your next fundraising drive? *hugs*

    • Leea

      I also thought Star was great!! I do wish I could see this catholic panel take on Clifton, Hutton and Myers, for example. Ph.D's have to defend their dissertations; they are usually experienced in defending their point of view against criticism, unlike most of us….again-Star, you were fantastic-I'd just like to see those rather smug…people get shot down a bit…

  • http://adventuresofthekitchenwitch.blogspot.com Jenn

    I agree with Don I think Star did a really nice job of explaining a diverse and complicated topic with a rather hostile group of people. Was it perfect no, but then again is anybody perfect? I think we would be hard pressed to find anybody else who would do as well in such a situation. I know I would have been a lot more flustered!

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

    Hail Star! It takes a Pagan who is truly brave at heart to go "In the Arena". And, besides, always remember the immortal words of Gore Vidal: "I never pass up a chance to have sex or appear on television."

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ron-Ritzer/1163038428 Ron Ritzer

    One thing that I have always found awkward in regard to Wicca is referring to oneself as a witch, or asserting that you practice witchcraft. WItches and witchdraft, even in Pagan times have always been a sort of figure of fear, accusations of witchcraft have gone on since long before Christian times. It's a bit like being a Bokor in Haiti, even in the amongst practitioners of Voudon, Bokors can often be seen as a figure of fear. SO my point is, if you want your religion to gain more acceptance and you don't want people reeling back in terror, why identify yourself publicly with something that has been seen as a figure of fear for so many centuries?
    Also, and this may not be a popular view, but historically and in proper context, WItches do cast spells and do lay hexes, WIccans might not bt witches most certainly do. Watering something down and calling it something it isn't just seems like it is going to create more misconceptions.
    Paganism, ok, WIcca sure (whatever that word means) but witchcraft? I just feel like that term is never going to be something that is accepted universally the way that the term Pagan may be.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Ron, the historical fact is that Gerald Gardner was inhibited from publishing about his Wiccan religion until Britain rescinded its anti-witchcraft laws in (iirc) 1952. Paganism, Wicca and witches are bound together.

      In more recent decades a lot of Pagan women (some of them still leaders today) deliberately took the word "witch" to denote the woman who rebels, who does not meet the expectations of the norm, who speaks truth to power — with an attitude of "this is who we are; we aren't changing it and, if it bothers you, you deal with it." Pagan men who supported these contrarian women adopted the term as well.

      There is also a factor of solidarity with the victims of the Witch Craze of past centuries that cost so many innocent lives.

      So, for many reasons, this is who we are.

      • Jennifer Parsons

        I worry that this may backfire. As other posts on The Wild Hunt have shown, Pagans are not the only ones capable of magic, or, if you will, witchcraft. If anything, the New Apostolic Reformation and other Christian "prayer warriors" engage in the supernatural and magical (Okay, I'll say it: WITCHCRAFT) just as we do– though to point that out to them would lead to a righteous wave of pearl-clutching and monocle-dropping.

        By claiming word "witchcraft" for our own, I'm afraid we'll wind up with the fallout of evil and ill-intentioned and just plain clumsy magic, regardless of whether or not we are responsible.

        Yes, I'm a witch. I'm also a Pagan. But these two things are not the same; you can be one without being the other. The non-Pagan world doesn't understand this, and it makes for a lot of confusion. It also excludes people who are willing to take up this contrarian, rebellious label in our support even if they aren't necessarily one of our number.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Jennifer, I'm not sure I get your very last point.

          As to the general topic, I was explaining our history with the word. That's not the same, exactly, as a reason for adopting the word today, if it were a new decision.

          • Jennifer Parsons

            Well, my last point wasn't well-made; I was trying to point out how "witch" might be potentially taken up as a rebellious label (sort of the way the feminist movement has reclaimed "bitch," and the GLBT movement have claimed "queer" and the pink triangle). However, to my knowledge, it hasn't yet been done, really, so it's all moot. Sorry about that.

            I won't disagree that Pagans have a history with the word– we've consciously identified ourselves with it, for many reasons. But I wonder if the time hasn't come to start pointing out we aren't the only people who engage in witchcraft.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            The effort to reclaim "witch" is imho precisely parallel with the BGLT effort to reclaim "queer."

            The final point is a bit dicey. At least on this blog, the tendency is to identify with anyone in the world who is doing non-malificient magick and, as the situation demands, add their grievances to our own.

            Sorry this note is so cursory; I want to get to the President's speech on Libya.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ron-Ritzer/1163038428 Ron Ritzer

        Yes, the Catholic church and the witch laws have compounded Paganism and witchcraft with the position that these two things go hand in hand. But one can be Pagan without being a witch.
        My personal take is that if you are going to adopt such terminology and identify with such ideas, then you should be prepared for the reaction that comes with it. It should be expected that if you go about calling yurself a witch, it is going to get any number of negative reactions.
        It can't be expected that this general attitude is going to change any time soon, nor should it be expected.

      • http://www.facebook.com/christianday Christian Day

        One of the things I LOVE about the word Witch. They were always rebels. Always.

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

      The word "witch" has always had many different connotations, and the same goes for related words like "hexe" (German) and "strega" (Italian). All of these words have historically been used to refer to people who perform beneficial magic, as well as those who perform malefic magic. The only exception to this is the Latin words derived from "maleficium", such words always refer to harmful magic.

      In Teutonic Mythology Jacob Grimm devotes eight full pages to words related to witchcraft, sorcery, conjuring, potion making, charms, spells, prediction, soothsaying, incantations, etc, in Old High German, Old Norse, Middle High German, Low German, Anglo Saxon, Norwegian, Dutch, Swedish, Icelandic, Old English, Gothic, etc, to all of which Grimm provides his equivalents in Latin and sometimes, for comparison, the Greek as well. See the chapter on "Magic" in Volume III.

      • Amanda

        Well, there's the history of a word/symbol and then there's the present connotation. I think Ron has a point that present connotations should be taken into consideration. I think it's similar to the attempt by Asatruar to "reclaim" the swastika. Yes, I know the symbol's history, but there's no way in Hel I'm going to go around wearing one and then try to explain to people that I'm not a Nazi and this is a sun wheel. That's just a bit too much for me to deal with.

        Word and symbols change meanings over time, and we all know what MOST people think of when they hear the word "witch". I'm not saying that other people shouldn't use the word. That's up to them, but I'm uncomforable using it for myself unless I have an audience that I know is pagan-friendly.

      • http://www.facebook.com/christianday Christian Day

        I wish DISQUS had a like button! :-D

    • Bookhousegal

      Well, Ron, I've always considered it a bit of a double-edged thing, reclaiming the term 'Witch,' (It's not something I generally throw around in 'mixed company,' so to speak, actually. (I don't find it too tremendously descriptive of most of what I actually *do,* in most senses.

      But from that point of view, I've found that the term really is one not-to-ignore. Fact is, there will be those who treat Pagans and practitioners as such, anyway. As with other 'reclaimed' terms one of the prime benefits of it is actually *maintaining* some influence over what you're called in society and what it means, rather than leaving it all in the hands of hostile people.

      Personally, sometimes it serves as a reminder to me that some of the world's just going to be hostile, and here we are, anyway.

  • Star Foster

    You should totally set a goal at which you would be willing to dye your hair.

    • Jennifer Parsons

      My interest in the next fundraising drive is considerably increased.

      More seriously, Star, I also think you did well– you were give an extremely brief period of time to try to explain an extraordinarily diverse religious movement. I know all the interruptions would have driven me bonkers.

      • A.C. Fisher Aldag

        Nice job! I don't see where you were rude… it seems you were frustrated and holding your temper.

  • elnigma

    Regarding the airport firing.. I'm against religious discrimination, and for that I hope she wins a case against them. But regarding "reach in until you feel resistance" "pat-down" employees in TSA – work that's unethical and sexually predatory would attract bigots and bullies for co-workers and bosses.
    It's not "done for our safety". It's done for intimidation purposes.

    • saffronrose

      If it were done for safety, other countries such as Israel, would be doing it also. It's TSA Drama, not real safety measures.

  • claredragonfly

    I have to raise my eyebrows at the use of the word "hammer" to describe action against a Witch. Probably unintentional…

    • Nick_Ritter

      Are you thinking of Malleus Maleficarum?

      • Bookhousegal

        Sure don't think it has much to do with MC Hammer, do you? :)

        • sarenth

          With his new single "Can't Torch This"?

          • Crystal7431

            Oh, that was bad.

          • Veracity

            But funny!

  • A.C. Fisher Aldag

    Prediction of the day: I see a big honkin' civil lawsuit in Carole's future!

  • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com kauko

    I think one of the big problems with the discussion between Star and the panel on the Catholic show is that the panel was either unwilling or incapable of viewing religion outside of their specific Catholic/ Christian paradigm. A good example is when the discussion is on the topic of religious commandment, rules etc. It's painfully obvious that they can only concieve of anyone following a deity and religious/ ethical commandments because an almighty, transcendant god has declared that they must be followed. They were completely unable to understand how any religion could exist without that kind of concept. To tie this into the second story in the article, it's very typical for Christians to only be able to consider what follows the basic paradigm of their religion to actually be religion. It was also very transparent how the panel was trying to steer the conversation to reinforce the idea that people on become things like Pagan because they are alienated from society, thus stripping away the notion that people become Pagan because of valid spiritual experience.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ron-Ritzer/1163038428 Ron Ritzer

      At the end of the segment they quoted from various books attributed to Paul. Paul wan't quoting Jesus, he was putting forth his own agenda. That's always been the trouble with Pauline Christianity, it isn't Christian, it's Pauline.
      I also find it ironic that Christians fail too recognize that Christ was performing magick in the form of healing and miracle working. Another irony I find amusing is that Christ appealed to the alienated and the cast aside members of society that were treated with the lowest regard.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ron-Ritzer/1163038428 Ron Ritzer

        TO be specific, transubstantiation, such as we see in the Mass is a form of Theurgy. The feeding of 5,000 is Thaumaturgy, miracle working. Healing by casting out and exercising demons and malefic spirits is Goetia. So here we have Christ performing every type of magick and sorcery under the Sun, but that was ok for him, not for you and I for whatever obscure reason that no Christian has ever been able to formulate for me.

    • Crystal7431

      My mother makes this assertion all the time. She always shakes her head and says, "Someone was mean to you. If you had been treated better…you should come to my church. You'd like it.", to the point I feel like screaming. They just can't comprehend actual spiritual experience outside of their little bubble. I love my mother but I'm not sure she has any true spiritual experiences. It seems to me her religion could be easily replaced by a membership with the local garden club or Weight Watchers. And when your religion is just a social club how can you understand anyone needing ACTUAL spiritual fulfillment? Agh, so many of my comments are anecdotal. I have familial anecdotes for so many issues ; )

      • silverdragonhawk

        maybe you should invite her to observe you participate in a public circle/ritual? as long as she's respectful, that is. Maybe she'll learn something. Just a thought.,

  • Frost

    I was fired from a nursing home admin job, in 1992, shortly after 'coming out' as a witch. First, they demoted me to a graveyard shift job. Then they started faking complaints against me (yes, actually falsifying them.) Shortly afterward, I was effectively fired – they told me I was now on on-call, contingent basis, but stated frankly to me that I would never be called in – they would have others work mandatory overtime rather than do so. They smugly claimed (wrongly) that this would prevent me collecting unemployment.

    When mentioning this, later, I continually was told by others in the Pagan community, that this was impossible, as there are laws against religious discrimination in the workplace, and so it's impossible for it to happen. I explored the possibility of a civil suit, but the (several) people who would tell me in detail about how my former boss had gone around bragging that she'd fired me because I was a witch, and had been casting evil spells on her to aggravate her neck injury, flat out refused to testify about it, as they were afraid of losing their jobs and being blacklisted with other nursing homes in the area.

    Point: Religious discrimination, within or outside the workplace being illegal does NOT mean it can't or doesn't happen. It has to be proven that the reason for the harassment or firing is directly tied to religion, and if nobody will testify and there's no hard evidence to support it? It never happened, so far as the courts are concerned. People claiming otherwise are idealistically naive.

    • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe @ouranophobe

      I had something similar happen to me. My supervisor told me outright that she was "afraid to go into [my] office because of [my] black magic crap" (Hallowe'en animatronics, of all things.) She told coworkers that she was wearing opals to "ward off the evil eye", and even said that I must've hexed her car because it wouldn't start.

      It's easy to feel alone when things like this are happening. HR doesn't help – their job is to protect the company. I loved what I was doing for work, I was with a very prestigious company and I feared that if I went to a lawyer, I'd never work in software again. I wasn't sacked, but ended up quitting due to this.

      Selena is right – though we are seeing much more acceptance, we also get a great deal of hostility and harassment. Thank you, Jason, Selena, Lady Liberty League and all the reporters, bloggers, tweeters and so on that are picking up this story and getting it heard, as well as standing up for Carole. In so doing, you stand up for all of us.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Perhaps the increased acceptance and increased discrimination are causally linked rather than paradoxical. With increased acceptance comes increase visibility, and with increased visibility come increased harassment from those not yet accepting. Ouranophobe and Smith both relate an on-the-job "outness" that I did not attempt when I became a Pagan office worker in the late 1980s. I know exactly who would have been intolerant had I been that out at that time.

    • Amanda

      This is exactly why I'm not out as a pagan. It's already bad enough for me as a female in a male-dominated field (I'm already pretty sure I've been discriminated against for my gender, but there's no way I can prove it, it's just the subtle 'hiring/promoting less well-qualified men over me' thing.) If I were to come out as pagan, I may never work again!

      Also, I can't believe that there are people naive enough to believe this doesn't happen! Workplace discrimination is SO hard to prove in court, I'm sure it happens all the damn time, but employers know how to cover their asses.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mary-Switras/1660544172 Mary Switras

    Star, honey, you rock. You handled it better than many people could. You were well-spoken, experessed what you needed to, and didn't fall into any of the traps you could have.

  • http://www.hecatedemetersdatter.blogspot.com Hecate

    I think that both Ms. Smith and Star did good jobs handling the media. I've taken the liberty of posting about both stories at my blog, with suggestions for future encounters with the media.

  • anonimo

    “I told him, that's not what Wicca is. We don't cast spells. That's not witchcraft. That's black magic or voodoo or something else.

    what the? why did she lie?
    wiccans dont cast spells anymore?
    and what about the reference of voodoo with black magic? darn….with vodou practitioners being murdered in haiti, shouldn't pagans now better?

    this is sad. i dont understand the reason wiccans or maybe, neowiccans try so hard to show they are all good and light to the media and then throw any afro-diasporic religion or even satanism under the bus
    no wonder some think that paganism is a joke and that we are not well-read. her ignorant statements don't help the pagan and afro-diasporic communities at all. if anything, they add to the problem

    had it been, "that's black magic or wicca," many pagans would be furious. only because many of us are not vodou practitioners and are not affected directly by her statement does not mean we should not sympathize with other paths that are facing far more discrimination than ours, especially paths that do have connections to old paganism
    oh well…

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=671619506 Ainslie Podulke

      Throwing your own under the bus seems to be standard procedure in left wing and liberatory style politics generally- at least when it comes to the "we're normal just like you"strategy.

      • cinna

        As opposed to?

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=671619506 Ainslie Podulke

          As opposed to in what sense? I'm not understanding you.

          • cinna

            You imply that right wingers don't throw their own under the bus when it suits them. I call B.S.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=671619506 Ainslie Podulke

            My intention was not to imply anything in particular about right wingers. I actually don't know very many.

      • sarenth

        Politics had nothing to do with it until you brought it into the mix.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=671619506 Ainslie Podulke

          Ah, but politics is everywhere! Whatever. Anyway I'm a bit of a political geek. Go figure.

          • sarenth

            *laughs* This is true. Let me put this another way: I don't see this as a left/right or other political issue, but a "I throw x and y people under the bus for expediency's sake".

      • http://www.facebook.com/christianday Christian Day

        Boy is that ever a true statement.

    • Bookhousegal

      I'm pretty sure that'd make more sense in context, I'd consider it fair enough to take that in the sense of 'It's not part of Wicca to run around throwing hexes at people.'

      As for her impressions of Voudou, well, we're not the only ones who suffer from some misconceptions, and we really ought to be careful about that.

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

        Bookhousegal: "'It's not part of Wicca to run around throwing hexes at people.'"

        That's a good point. The context does imply that this is what she actually meant.

    • Wise Serpent

      I agree!

    • http://rootandrock.blogspot.com Scylla

      Some people who are part of non-initiatory and/or non-New Forest wicca don't actually cast spells. Shock and awe, but this giant umbrella cannot be narrowly defined. I'd wager non-spellworking-wicca has higher numbers than the spellworking kind, from my experience in the community. It may also come as a shock that because of the popularity of the above sort of wicca, there are a lot of people involved in it who are a tad ignorant (even bigoted) about other faiths. Some people don't even realize "voodoo" is a religion – they think it's pop culture nonsense, just like some view "witchcraft".

      Does it suck? Absolutely. But it still happens. The basic issue seems to be that she was fired after being outed (likely in that all-too-common "behind the back and off the record" way), that does not make her a saint, martyr or scholar of the VERY vast arena of World Religion. She handled herself damned well for the media position she's now in. Should someone (you know, that ACTUALLY knows her) perhaps suggest she rephrase some things? Probably.

  • anonimo

    also, judging by her statement, it seems that most people in the pagan community believe that wicca=witchcraft…since she kept interchanging both terms

  • caraschulz

    Star, you did well! When my son and I watched the interview, we kept backing up the tape and laughing at the expressions on the faces of the interviewer and the other panelists. They came off like condescending assholes – you came off as sane.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=671619506 Ainslie Podulke

      Cara, you took the words right out of my mouth.

  • John Petsinger

    FYI–as a Pennsylvania government employee, I was fired for complaining about my supervisor's public supervisory harassment to "straighten up, get back with the Roman Catholic church, and get married."

    The PA Bureau of Workers' Comp ruled that this was an "abnormal working condition" and required TAXPAYERS to replace wages lost since 1988.

    See YouTube: Christian job harassment costs taxpayers big buck$ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=im7UGqKfeiQ

    Please advise Ms. Smith that, if her lawyers want the documents involved, please contact me.

    John Petsinger

  • anon

    "…It seem that the program’s name, “In The Arena”, is quite apt. Attack, heap scorn, and edit out the bits that aren’t convenient. More kangaroo court than informational religion program, really…."

    I'd like to see them try that out on someone like our local PhD, Dr. Brendan Myers… . I don't appreciate them ganging up on Star.

  • Dennis Nock

    i agree, under the conditions i believe star did a good job . she was after all ganged up on . i can understand that some her wording choices could have been a little better , but under the arena conditions ,she did quite well.. the close mindedness , ignorrance, and contempt of the other catholic panelists was stricking and very obvoius .i'd also like to see the unedited version as well , to hear the exchanges star talked about in her commentary. quess we never will tho , our ctholic freinds aren't going to air anything that'll make them look bad , so it goes. Kilm

  • http://witchesandscientists.blogspot.com Gene

    Star, you did a good job and you did the Pagan community proud. You have nothing to blame yourself for.

  • Matt

    Excellent job, Star!

  • saffronrose

    I'm afraid that I think the TSA is well overdue for a good public examination of their internal policies. Other TSA staff have been fired for trying to close loopholes or unsafe situations, without the religion aspect of things. I hope she gets a good attorney AND the same judge on appeal, because he would help her case immensely. I have seen judges in other areas of law tear down shoddy cases and ill-considered attempts to work the system. I also hope the MSNBC report goes viral, or at least considerably more widespread than it has already.

    On the First Amendment for Me and not for Thee issue, I'd love to know how Dave's blog came to your attention. I saw the name in the blog and thoought, nah, can't be THAT Dave Hill. But it was, it was.

    I met Dave and his first wife in 1988, at a party at their home. My now-husband had known him for a couple of years at least, and while he was an alumnus of my college, he was from 7-8 later than my class. When the door opened that night, we were each wearing the same tee, but from different editions. There were several other alumni there as well. Alas, that group splintered when we all began to leave the area for other pursuits, but we've kept in touch. He's a Good Guy, and as you can tell, well-written and well-researched.

    Geez, right off the bat the hosts of the program show their ignorance, and demonstrate that their audience is likely the same. For people who are supposed to be well-versed in religion, they're asking some really stupid questions, as if they have no clue. I saw no rudeness on Star's part, but I certainly saw interruptions, disdain, and disingenuity on their part.

    Thanks for bringing all of this to our attention.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=671619506 Ainslie Podulke

    Hmm, I guess that makes me insular. Hmm.

  • http://www.circlesanctuary.org Lady Liberty League

    Lady Liberty League has been in tight communication with Carole Smith since she contacted us last year. We have spoken with her several times over the past few days. Legal counsel opportunities are coming out of the woodwork including some who told her no in the past. Selena Fox from LLL is also in communication with one of the potential law firms as everyone assesses what is next. Selena and Jerrie Hildebrand has been supporting Carole with coaching and pastoral care. LLL is supporting where we can now until the next round of decisions have been made.

    We will be updating folks from the Lady Liberty League facebook page. Join us there for updates.

    • http://www.facebook.com/christianday Christian Day

      The work you do is fantastic for all of us of Pagan, magical, earth-based, or pre-Christian spiritual traditions. I am quite sure you'll knock this one out of the park!

  • Veracity

    What bothers me the most about the TSA case is the inferences in it. Mary Bagnoli accuses Carole Smith of putting a hex on her car heater. Management steps in and separates the two women (so far so good, apparently they didn't get along before religion ever entered the picture). But did management also ask Bagnoli why she felt Carole was a threat? I see no report of anything said or done by Smith that Bagnoli quoted as a reason to consider her a threat. That leaves only one conclusion: her only reason for feeling threatened was that Smith is a Wiccan and therefore it's logical that she would cast a hex on Bagnoli for no reason, because hey, that's what witches do, right? She didn't even bother saying Smith would cast a hex on her because Bagnoli ticked her off, or Bagnoli had done something that Smith would want to retaliate for, or even that they didn't like each other. Just "She's a Wiccan and that threatens me." Management even began having someone escort Bagnoli to her car, which is implicitly admitting that yes, it is reasonable to consider Smith a threat because she is Wiccan. So now being Pagan automatically makes you a security risk?

  • Veracity

    My grandad always said that the test of fair dealings was to reverse the circumstances and see if the situation still seemed fair. So if, as a Pagan, I am working with a Christian, can I claim to feel threatened because my coworker is Christian? Hey, at least I have a precendent – it's historical fact that some Christians have persecuted some Pagans to the extreme degree of torturing and executing them, right? And what if this Christian is witnessing to me and tells me that I'm going to hell? That would sure as hell feel like a threat to me! Can I sue for physical stress and mental anguish? Will management be willing to escort me to my car because of my fear for my safety?

    That sounds ludicrous. Yet really, that thinking is what is at the base of this thing, and the idea that anyone in management would act in a way that would re-enforce the message that Pagans are inherently dangerous to Christians just based on the very fact that we profess a different faith… that sort of precedent setting sets off major alarm bells for me.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HJUUKATAW4WNQUM3GNUSCU3UPM Vidfootie

    I also think Star did well, especially under circumstances. We are full of Star Foster love here at The Wild Hunt.wants more visit http://www.vidfootie.com/