Pagan Community Notes: Sacred Paths Center, Maetreum of Cybele, Touchstone Advocacy, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 1, 2012 — 17 Comments

Happy May Day everyone! Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!

Sacred Paths Center Announces Closure: Sacred Paths Center, a Pagan community center serving the Minneapolis/St. Paul area (aka “Paganistan”), sent out an email today announcing their imminent closure. Executive Director Teisha Magee cited a lack of money, resources, and volunteers as reasons for this decision.

“After much heartache, soul-searching and tears, it has become clear that Sacred Paths Center cannot continue. Our expenses are too high in this location and we are just not getting enough money coming through the door. All of our resources are tapped, and our volunteers are worn out.”

This decision comes in the wake of a rocky 2011, one that featured an emergency fundraising campaign, and being temporarily closed  pending internal and external financial audits. It seems that Sacred Paths Center wasn’t able to overcome the many obstacles towards long-term sustainability, and it raises serious questions for other communities looking to follow in their footsteps. Stay tuned to PNC-Minnesota for further follow-ups on this story.

Maetreum of Cybele Denied Tax Exemption for 2012: The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, in an ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill, New York, has been denied religious property tax exemption yet again, even though they meet all federal and state qualifications. In a public statement, Rev Cathryn Platine of the Maetreum of Cybele noted that the town has spent an estimated quarter of a million dollars to deny their exemptions.

The Maetreum of Cybele's building.

The Maetreum of Cybele's building.

“Despite the fact that the Town of Catskill offered no credible theory in court for their continued denial of exemption, I was just informed that the Maetreum of Cybele has been denied property tax exemption for 2012 meaning another entire round in this ongoing drama. The wheels of justice turn very slowly in Greene County, New York. The actual trial was split between two days last November and December but the final arguments in our court case still have not been submitted at this time. They are supposed to be due in about two weeks and then we will have to await the Judge’s actual decision after that. In the meantime we will once again have to go to the Board of Review hearing later in May and almost certainly be denied again and have to file yet another lawsuit against Catskill. Despite claims to the press for several years that Catskill did not question our legitimacy as a religion, the entirety of their case was exactly that we were not a legitimate religion under the IRS guidelines. Again despite the IRS recognition we are. We proved in court we met every one of the IRS “fourteen points” for determining what is or isn’t a church.”

As I’ve mentioned before, the law in this case seems pretty clearly on the side of the Maetreum of Cybele, but Catskill is going to wage a scorched earth legal campaign in hopes the Pagans run out of money and energy first. Acting Catskill Town Supervisor Patrick Walsh stated in 2011 that the town was already too deep into the case to give up and that significant dollars could be saved by preventing exemptions for illegitimate religions.” We’ll keep you updated on further developments. For those wanting to an make a tax-deductible donation to their $10,000+ legal bill, you can do so directly via paypal to: centralhouse@gallae.com. Or you can contact them through their website.

SAPRA’s Annual Advocacy Against Witch-Hunts Comes to a Close: With the issue of witch-hunts, witch-killings, and dangerous exorcisms very much in the news lately, I thought it appropriate to mention the work of the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA), under the banner of ‘Touchstone Advocacy,’ has been doing since 2008 to raise awareness with their “30 Days of Advocacy Against Witch-Hunts” campaign, this year held from March 29th – April 27th. In 2011, the campaign won support from a government commission, and they continue to work to protect victims of witch-hunts while combating laws that seek to criminalize “witchcraft” as a solution.

“Since 2008 the South African Pagan Rights Alliance has repeatedly appealed to all Commissions for Human Rights internationally to encourage all governments to: a. halt the persecution of suspected or accused witches, b. uphold and strengthen a culture of human rights for all equally, c. respond appropriately and humanely to incidences of accusations of witchcraft, d. make the eradication of violence against suspected witches an international priority, e. train local police to manage witchcraft accusations and violent witch-hunts in a way that affirms the dignity and humanity of those accused of practising witchcraft, f. create victim support units to facilitate reintegration and conciliation of those accused, g. adopt comprehensive public education and awareness programmes aimed at eradicating the real causes of witchcraft accusations, and h. reform legislation that currently seeks to suppress witchcraft or criminalize accused witches.”

You can receive year-round updates on their campaign at their Facebook group page.

In other community news:

- At Lewelllyn, author and magician Donald Michael Kraig (“Modern Magick”“The Resurrection Murders”) has announced that he’s writing a book about his long friendship with Scott Cunningham, the seminal Wiccan writer who authored the paradigm-shifting “Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.” Quote: “I hope you get an idea of who Scott Cunningham was. Many of the anecdotes and stories have never been published before. The stories and his magical methods pepper chapters on his theories and methods of performing natural magic, his approach to The Goddess and Wicca, and his love for the land, people and magic of Hawaii.”

- San Jose State University will be running a Pagan Studies conference semi-concurrently with the 2013 PantheaCon. Organized by Lee Gilmore (SJSU), author “Theater in a Crowded Fire: Ritual and Spirituality at Burning Man,” and Amy Hale (St. Petersburg College), “Pagans in Dialogue with the Wider World: A Pagan Studies Symposium” seeks to, quote, “focus on Paganism’s contributions to and engagements with broader cultural and religious dialogues in an increasingly pluralist world.” You can read the full announcement and call for papers at Chas Clifton’s blog.

- PNC-Washington DC covers the recently held 2012 Ecumenicon, an interfaith conference that was founded in 1987, and features significant Pagan and esoteric involvement. Quote: “The group that would ultimately found Ecumenicon realized that there was a hunger for actual religious education as it applied across all religions and particularly to alternative religions.  Ecumenicon comprises an ecumenical conference and ecumenical ministry, for those who seek such a path.”

- Is Pagan Spirit Gathering’s current home in Illinois in danger? PNC-Minnesota reports that a group of local citizens are petitioning to have Stonehouse Park rezoned back to agricultural use only (more on this here), complaining of noise and drug-use (none of the complaints are about PSG, but to other, non-Pagan events). PSG/Circle organizer Sharon Stewart is working with local officials, and hopes to obtain a special permit if the worst should happen. We’ll keep you posted on this as news develops.

- PNC culture blog The Juggler has an interview up with Pagan author Christopher Penczak (“The Inner Temple of Witchcraft”“The Outer Temple of Witchcraft”), talking to him about his career and teachings. Quote: “I think if you focus on your intention in the ritual, and then think which of these paths support that overall vision, you’ll be doing great. Avoid the “Everything but the kitchen sink mentality.” Every ritual doesn’t need every path. I think determining if it is inhibitory or exhibitory is the first step, then which paths will help in that method?”

That’s all I have for now, have a happy May Day!

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://www.sharonknight.net/ Sharon Knight

    I am so sorry to hear about Sacred Paths Center! I have performed there regularly on my way through…

    • http://www.sharonknight.net/ Sharon Knight

      And…in watching the video, I was sorry to hear that they just didn’t get the financial support from the community that they needed.  Pagans – we need to get over our crippling attitudes about money. As of right now, money is a big part of how the world works. Do we want to have any power in the world, or not? This attitude drives me nuts. 

      On a positive note – kudos to the volunteers! Alas, most landlords, grocery stores, electric companies, etc. don’t accept volunteer work in trade.  So it isn’t enough in itself.

      Want a vibrant community? Invest in it. 

      • http://twitter.com/widdershins_cat Katie B

        As a community member, it is heartbreaking here, too. I’ve personally been out of a job since 2010 and it’s starting to wear on me.

  • Jane

    He wrote that whole book just so he could use the title “Theater in a Crowded Fire,” right? Because wow, I wish I’d thought of that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Blackwell/1093460836 Christopher Blackwell

    Sorry to see Catskill is still trying to destroy The Maetreum of Cybele as I have reported on it myself severa times. They can win,The Maetreum of Cybele, if Pagans will give them financial support  to continue the court fight. Money talks and everything else walks in our country.If we won’t put our money where are mouth are then we deserve to fall.

    I am happy to see the report on the South African Pagan Rights Alliance’s 30 Days of Advacacy Against Witch Hunts which I have also kept track of and reported n several times over the years. The fact that the Witch hunts have never stopped and are getting worse shuld be a cautionary tale to the rest of us. It might take less than we would like to think for them to restart in other part sof the world, even the United States, as it is spreading beyond Africa and Asia, and as been seen even in London.Remember only a little over a dacade ago we had dozens of people sent to prison for the alleged Satanic Child Abuse Cases, despite the fact they never happened, So mondern day people are not that much different from their ancestors. Time for Pagans to be ready to act instead of only react, if we want to stay safe and free to practice what we believe.

    • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

      “If we won’t put our money where are mouth are then we deserve to fall.”
      ‘We’ deserve to win by dint of the case from Catskill being wrong in both its aims and its actual legal case.  The Maetreum of Cybele is within their legal right to ask for redress of grievances, rather than the county continuing this farce.  It is regrettable, even shameful, if the Pagan community does not support Catskill, but I could not disagree more with the idea that they ‘deserve’ to fail due to a lack of financial support from the Pagan community.  Regardless, from what I understand, the Pagan community is in support of Catskill, and many Pagans are giving what they can.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1111735383 Cathryn Platine

        A few Pagans have stepped up over the past couple of years and it is appreciated but the bulk of our legal bills we have had to pay ourselves and it has broken us financially at this point.  I realize most of us are hurting for money right now but if enough Pagans donated just ten dollars we could make a dent in this remaining legal bill.  We are almost at the end of this battle, we are winning but we have to pay our attorney to finish the fight… and we are completely tapped out.  More than half of our yearly budget has gone towards legal fees for the past several years.

        • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

          Then I will do what I can to get the word out, and donate what and where I can.

        • Thelettuceman

           Cathryn,

          Could you recommend a course of action to donate in ways other than paypal?  If it means physically cutting a check and mailing it to you, then that’ll be it.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1111735383 Cathryn Platine

            You can snail mail a check to:
            The Maetreum of Cybele
            3312 Route 23 A
            Palenville, NY 12463

  • spinningnuri

    We’ve got a petition for Stone House Park here: http://www.change.org/petitions/keep-stonehouse-park-open, the owners are circulating paper petitons within Dekalb county, and we’re doing a bit of facebook motivation as well.

  • Kilmrnock

    I gather M of C is 501C certified by the IRS. , this shouldn’t be an issue at all . Looks like Catskill NY is wasting its and Mof C’s time and money .     Kilm

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1111735383 Cathryn Platine

      Their plan all along has been to outspend us knowing we are poor.  We MUST have this court win to finish this fight and it is almost there.  Yes, we are incorporated as a church in New York and IRS 501(c)3 recognized but the town still maintains we are not a legitimate religion illegally.  If that can be done to us when we have a published theology, live as a spiritual community with a set historic guidelines for doing so, are incorporated and IRS recognized and meet the most strict interpretation of the law, what chance does another group less formally organized have?  This is an important case not just for us but the rights of every minority religion in the US.

      Catskill does not see this as a waste of money but rather a case they can win by spending us out of existence.  The area has a history of going after the exemptions of Jewish congregations in the past.  It’s about bigotry, not the law.

  • kenneth

    We should all kick in some money for this legal battle, but I’m wondering whatever happened to that Wiccan guy who hit that mega-lottery a year or two ago? He could have a law firm eat that po-dunk town simply for amusement value. For that matter, there also has to be SOME serious money folks in the pagan world. Surely in Silicon Valley or among the Burning Man crowd. Not that we should count on a few rich people to carry us, but there ought to be a balance.  I’m also wondering where Americans United for Separation of Church and State or the ACLU is in all of this. I know they don’t take every case, but seriously, how much more blatant could this be? 

  • kenneth

    As to that Sacred Path Center closing, that’s too bad, but it also ought to serve as a warning to people to finally and completely abandon the “build it and they will come” model of non-profit. Non-profits will not thrive on a dream and hard work and good intentions of a few startup folks. They are serious businesses which demand serious business plans and some professional, or at least experienced, management. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=593281991 TJ Christie

    I am very happy to see that the Maetreum’s predicament has been mentioned here in great detail.

    My daughter has attended services there occasionally, and she is welcomed with open arms for the fun things as well (brunches, Palenville Pagan Pride Day, etc.).  Because she and my grandsons have disabilities, I made a donation on their behalf.  My donation was matched dollar-for-dollar by a client of the law firm for which I work – and that client follows the Greek Orthodox Christian faith.  This got me to thinking.

    Of course, we want members of the Pagan Community to make donations, but why not also approach other groups, charities, churches, clubs, fraternities/sororities, lodges, etc. to which “truth, justice and the American way” (LOL) are important?  What the Town of Catskill is doing is not fair and barely legal, and if they were to win, their success could be used by them and any other similar entity as a landmark decision to do the same to any other minority.  Perhaps we members of the Pagan community could ask to make a presentation or short speech at a gathering, or ask to monitor a booth at a special event with fliers and a change-jar?  The Matreum is not “just Pagan” – they are a sanctuary for women, and proponents of women’s rights.  Wouldn’t this fit right in at a domestic violence event?

    Let’s enlarge our focus!

    http://wiccanwoman.wordpress.com/

  • http://www.facebook.com/zaracon Larry Zaracon Sodders

    Pagan Weekly News with Damon Leff’s Interview 
    http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pagan-musings/2012/04/03/pagan-weekly-news-36