The Limits of Christian Tolerance: Florida Edition

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 30, 2013 — 80 Comments

This June, Lake Okeechobee Resort in Florida will be hosting a Summer Solstice festival. The Lake Okeechobee Summer Solstice Festival will feature workshops on Celtic Reconstructionism, drumming, belly dancing, gardening, and runes, with musical performances by Lord Alexian, Hecate’s Wheel, and others. It is the first such festival in Pahokee, Florida, and if the local Christians have their way, it will be the last.

A view from Lake Okeechobee Resort.

A view from Lake Okeechobee Resort.

“Pastors from various churches in Pahokee attended Tuesday night’s city commission meeting to express disappointment in city leaders for allowing the event to come to Pahokee. The crowd cheered in agreement as, one-by-one, pastors from around the area admonished city officials for allowing festivals containing witchcraft and occult practices into the city.”

One by one they hurled their spite on the absent Pagan menace they wished their local politicians would repel. Pastor Brad Smith called the event “an abomination,” while Rev. Raul Rodriguez said that “we don’t need this in our town. Not now. Not ever.” Bishop Jared Hines warned that the festival was “not only detrimental to our city but to our county,” and Evangelist Lillian Brown claimed that “God cannot heal our land if we have witches and warlocks violating our community.” Violating, detrimental, an abomination, and that’s only a sample from the mob that vented itself.

summersolsticefiresatmidnight

“When I heard about this I immediately began praying. This event is not only detrimental to our city but to our county. What goes on at that lake will affect us all; it will move from the dike and into our homes.” – Bishop Jared Hines of New Destiny Community Church.

As for the local government? The best Mayor Colin Walkes could muster was that he “cannot legally stop Mr. Gray from allowing the event but I also cannot stop the community from protesting it.” Wow, way to stand up for the Constitution you swore to uphold. The only person with the nerve to stand up for the rights of Pagans was a local resident who correctly noted that “religious persecution no matter which way is wrong.” 

Hecate's Wheel, one of the musical acts performing at the festival.

Hecate’s Wheel, one of the musical acts performing at the festival.

Now, instead of simply enjoying a nice Summer Solstice celebration, organizers and attendees will have to worry about protestors, about proper security, about harassment from the locals. The irony of course is that if the situation were reversed, the noise about Christian persecution would be deafening. The forces of secularism and Paganism would be excoriated for daring to even entertain limiting the freedoms of Christian fellowship. If Pagans dared to march against a Christian event, the protestors would be mobbed with counter-protestors.

Of course, Pagans wouldn’t march against a Christian gathering, they simply want to practice their faith, and Florida has a thriving Pagan community. It’s home to the Florida Pagan Gathering, and the Everglades Moon Local Council of the Covenant of the Goddess, among other groups and organizations. Heck, The Witches’ Voice is headquartered in Florida! I hate to break it to these outraged Christian leaders in Pahokee but the Pagan toothpaste is already out of the tube. So maybe these good Christians might want to engage in some of the famous love and tolerance of their savior.

“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”Jesus

He also said something about leaving secular matters to the secular authorities. But maybe working to drive Pagans out of your town is more important than listening to the mandates of their own faith. I hope not. I hope the Pagans can have a wonderful Summer celebration, can dance around the fire, and can find their own fellowship without having to worry about the animus of Christianity.

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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