Small Town Teacher Invites Wiccan Guest Speaker into Classroom

Heather Greene —  December 29, 2013 — 67 Comments

What happens when a small-town high school teacher in Carthage Illinois invites a Wiccan woman into the classroom to speak? Parents complain. The school board gets involved. There are community meetings. Everything you would expect with one small twist. The students rally behind their award-winning, beloved teacher forcing a change in policy and ensuring the survival of their class.

Greg Hoener. Courtesy of the Hancock-Henderson Quill Inc.

Greg Hoener
Courtesy of the Hancock-Henderson Quill Inc.

Carthage, Illinois is an agricultural community near the eastern border of Iowa with a population of around 2700. Everything about the town is quite typical except for one very devoted high school history teacher, Greg Hoener. For the past five years Mr. Hoener has been teaching an advanced, senior-level elective class called “Conflicts and Mysteries” at Illini West High School. The purpose of this class is to introduce students to progressive concepts in order to prepare them for life outside of the borders of their small-town. Mr. Hoener explains:

My goal is to give my kids firsthand knowledge and experience so … they’re able to stand on their own two feet and be better prepared to make the right choices and decisions in this real world.

The syllabus consists of a variety of non-traditional topics with hands-on activities, films, field trips and speakers. In the past, subjects have included:

  • In-depth examinations of major historical events including the comparison of fact and fiction.
  • Interviews with city officials including police and fire personnel, judges, a drug task force, juvenile probation officers, disaster response units.
  • Discussions centering on unconventional topics such as the paranormal, ghost hunting, conspiracy theories, modern mythology, world religions (including faith-based speakers).
  • “Military Week” including speakers from every military branch, members of the Navy SEALs and veterans of different wars.
  • Real world safety including gun handling, self-defense tactics and the impact of driving while texting and drinking.
  • A study of famous serial killers and crimes including the exposure to worst-case scenarios and how to survive.

Over this past summer Mr. Hoener asked Lydia Gittings, a local Wiccan practitioner and Illini West parent, to speak to the students about the Occult, Witchcraft and Wicca during his fall “Paranormal” unit. As an active member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and the Program Chair of Spirit Web, Lydia welcomed the opportunity to dispel myths about Paganism within a safe and nurturing environment.

Lydia Gittings

Lydia Gittings

After several schedule changes, Lydia’s speaking engagement landed on Halloween. She spoke to three different classes covering some Wiccan and Occult basics such as the elements, energy manipulation, the aura, Tarot and the sacred circle. She showed the students an athame, a chalice and a pendulum. Lydia also explained the notion of Paganism as an umbrella term that includes a diversity of religious practices.

In retrospect she says “There were a couple of students who were visibly uncomfortable in each class… but I remained positive and kept going back to science. I wasn’t there to convert.” When a student asked about the Ouija aboard, she carefully explained the concept of spirit guides and communicating with those “beyond the veil.” However, she never demonstrated the board’s use because several students voiced apprehension.

The school began receiving complaints almost immediately. In fact one parent called the office shortly after the first class. As a result, Principal Brad Gooding attended both remaining classes. Lydia remembers Principal Gooding being “supportive” and calling her lecture “interesting.”

Over the following two weeks parental complaints were minimal. However that changed Nov. 13 when the Hancock County Journal-Pilot  printed a “letter to the editor” written by former teacher LaRae Roth. That letter became the catalyst of a community-wide outcry. Ms. Roth wrote:

No, I am not on a witch hunt. There is no need to hunt when you can simply look to your local public school to provide one … Since parents were not notified in advance, I had no opportunity to express my deep concerns in this matter and to prevent my son and his classmates from being exposed to potentially dangerous information about the occult.

image

Parent Anne-Marie Scott

Although parents had in fact been informed of class content, this detail was not enough to stop the coming storm. The complaints only escalated, originating mostly from outside the school community. On Nov. 26, four of these outraged citizens attended the school Board meeting. According to The Journal-Pilot, they voiced a genuine concern for student safety calling the inclusion of Wicca “dangerous.” Shortly after that meeting, the Board canceled the class.

However the story doesn’t end there. Over the next two weeks these small-town students and many of their parents, most of whom are Christian, rallied to defend the teacher and save the class. Anne-Marie Scott, a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, led the charge which included a Facebook page. She says:

I don’t know everything but I know enough about Paganism and Wicca to not run for a pitchfork out of fear. I know I have raised my daughter to stand firm in her convictions and to stand up for those who need defending. She knows that information is power… Kids from small towns need a little more worldly exposure to gain some understanding on diversity before they are thrust into college where there is no safety net.

On Dec. 18, the school board held its monthly meeting before a standing-room only crowd. For two hours, the Board listened to pleas and arguments from students, parents and other citizens including representatives from the Carthage Fire and Police departments and a local Christian minister. Leading the way was Anne-Marie who read a prepared speech in which she said:

As for Wicca, as is true with anything, ignorance breeds fear. Fear eventually turns into prejudice and prejudice almost always ends in violence. The only way out of that is education and enlightenment. Mr. Hoener provides that and does so in an exceptional manner … If [a parent] doesn’t want the responsibility of what this class brings then, quite simply, the child should take a different class.

At one point an unnamed speaker said, “I agree with everything that’s been said here but I’d like to hear from someone who doesn’t.” Not a single person stood up.

The very next day the Board reinstated the class with the understanding that Mr. Hoener would rework the syllabus. The Board really had very little choice. Just days before this landmark meeting Mr. Hoener was awarded $1,000 by a local CBS affiliate for the very “out of the box” class causing all the controversy.

As the situation escalated, Lydia Gittings maintained a respectful distance, watching closely from the sidelines. While she was never personally attacked, she was prepared to ask for assistance from the Pagan community. Fortunately there was never a need.

Lydia said, “This was not about me and my path. It was about the kids and saving the class.” She called the students’ response “beautiful,” adding “they saw something that they believed in” and reacted. Even outside of the classroom, Mr. Hoener managed to empower his students.

At this point only administrators and Mr. Hoener know exactly what the new syllabus will or won’t include. Neither was available for comment. Among parents, it is believed the changes will focus solely on the clarity of communication. Both Lydia and Anne-Marie stressed that Wicca wasn’t the only “sticking point.” Many class topics were contentious and difficult to swallow. Wicca was just the easiest to attack or perhaps even the “last straw.”

Will Lydia or any other Pagan ever be invited back to speak at Illini West? Before the controversy, Mr. Hoener told Lydia, “I want you back every year.” Now? Anne-Marie Scott, who has spoken privately with Mr. Hoener, says “I believe, if [Lydia] wants to, she will be able to speak again.” When asked this question, Lydia herself says, “I don’t know but I hope.”

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Heather Greene

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Heather is a freelance writer and Pagan spirit living in the Deep South. She is currently National Public Information Officer for Covenant of the Goddess and worked extensively with Lady Liberty League. She has a masters degree in Film Theory, Criticism and History with a background in the performing and visual arts.
  • T Thorn Coyle

    Heather, thank you for covering this!

  • Dearbhail

    Kudos to the teacher, speaker, supportive parents and the principal. In this case the mnemonic “the principal is your pal” rings true. :)

  • 1BritishGirl

    I consider myself a devout Christian. I see nothing wrong with having a Wiccan come and discuss their views and let’s be honest Christmas may be considered a Christmas holiday but if we believe it is based in Christian origins we are sadly uninformed. Christmas is NOT when Christ was born. I think the problem is when we refuse to acknowledge that Christians need the freedom to share their beliefs without objection too. I think that we should hear from all sides but no condemning of any. We each walk a path of freedom to choose, let us not forget that. I understand history and how and why holidays are celebrated. It does not take away from my belief in my Heavenly Father and Savior it strengthens it.

    • Tauri1

      The problem is that Christians have been “sharing” their views in the US for over 250 years and demeaning and ostracizing anyone who doesn’t share them. This includes forceably converting Native Americans and Africans and marginalizing Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and other religions. What is happening today is that the minority religions are pushing back and saying that Christianity is not the only religion in this country. Until Christians start to acknowledge the validity of all other religions, there will unfortunately continue to be strife.

      • scout

        Yes, Satan is indeed pushing hard.

        • Eices

          Oh you.

        • James Bulls

          Satan can’t be pushing that hard – after all, I’m sure he could have put a LaVeyan Satanist in that classroom if he really tried.

          • Northern_Light_27

            If he really wanted to, he’d have put in a theist, not a LaVeyan. :)

        • ChristopherBlackwell

          No last i heard, Satan isn’t pushing anything, He may tempt, but it is the person who decides whether to fall for it. Also remember Satan only does what God allows, and that God created Satan.

        • Franklin_Evans

          I had drinks with Satan just last night. He waited until I was good and drunk, falsely thinking I wouldn’t remember his words: “They have absolutely no respect for my boundaries, and my Father refuses to rein them in. Pretty soon all I’ll have left is that false connection with your religion… and the hope that you’ll continue to buy my drinks.”

          He was so drunk he missed two opportunities to capture souls. I pitied him, but I did learn something about his seduction techniques: Let them come to you.

      • ChristopherBlackwell

        Modify it more for fairness, some Christians today still try to press their religion on others. Let us not attack those that are not doing so, nor desiring it.

        As for their belief that theirs is the only one, again some Christians. All we really need is the perfect freedom for every person to choose whatever religion they want to practice and to allow everyone else the same choice. That is a matter of action, not belief.

        No one is responsible for their ancestors only for themselves and what they can actually do about anything. The only person that anyone controls is themselves.

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          Correct me if I am wrong but “The Great Mission” and “The One, True God” are two core tenets of Christianity.

          Are we really supposed to have more respect for those who pick and chose which bits of their religion are more convenient to follow than those who embrace it completely?

          • Emerjk

            Maybe not more respect, but just as much. There is no more proof of the bible than any other belief. The bible itself is not proof the bible is “truth” and neither is “because I have faith”

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Christianity is based on the teachings of Christ, as revealed through the collection of scriptural documents that is the Bible.

      • Northern_Light_27

        “Until ALL religions acknowledge the validity of all other religions, there will unfortunately continue to be strife.”

        More information needed. Specifically, how you define “validity”. Some “religions” are built around a core of harming other people (Scientology comes most forcefully to mind here)– I can’t be just to its victims (and their forcibly disconnected families) if I’m tolerant to its existence, the two aren’t reconcilable as long as the harm is so intrinsic. Also, while I recognize the legal right to practice and the moral right to privately believe for everyone, no matter their personal spirituality, that doesn’t render their outward, grouped form free from criticism, nor should it. “Validity” is just a really awkward word to use for something like this, it begs the “valid as what?” question.

        • Tauri1

          Yes, some religions ARE built around a core of harming other people, which is the main belief that needs to change. That’s what I mean by “validity”. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

          • kenofken

            The question is not about the validity of a given religion but whether we respect the autonomy of competent adults to make their own spiritual journeys, whether or not we agree with the underlying beliefs and practices they choose. If we can’t bring ourselves to extend that sort of respect to persons, not religions, then we have no basis to demand the same from Christians or anyone else.

          • Northern_Light_27

            Yes, I agree completely with that. It’s why I was trying to get more information out of Tauri because I do respect that autonomy (I’d say what you wrote is a much better phrasing of my “moral right to believe whatever you wish” and fundamentally what I was trying to get at), but I can’t go along with wording that says I need to respect the validity of all *religions*. Individuals’ spiritual journeys and what happens when they coalesce into a group with its own group dynamics and social influence aren’t the same thing and you can respect the one while being wary of the other. (I’m tripped in part, I think, on what validity means in my field, that a test measures what it claims to measure. So my first thought when asked, say, to affirm the validity of Catholicism, is to think “is it a valid expression of Christanity”, a thing that’s frankly none of my business. The broader “is it valid as a religion?” is going to be parsed differently by different people using different criteria– the ones I’d use, that what it actually does is congruent with what it claims to do and that it gives a meaningful spiritual experience to its followers and isn’t merely a means for exploitation, would flunk several religions pretty easily. I’m reminded of years past in a couple of different religio

    • Hope Childress Neudert

      See that’s the difference between Christianity and most Pagan spiritual beliefs though. Pagans share usually only when asked. They DO NOT share to convert because to us our beliefs are personal. We know that they are who we are and not to be forced or coerced about others. She made it VERY clear this was not about conversion. The very nature of Christianity is about conversion. That is how Christians believe. If they believe the bible they believe either people are Christians or they are sinners in need of saving.So sharing for Christians is actually proselytizing.

      • ChristopherBlackwell

        We are not supposed to try to convert. However most of us are still ex-Christians. Changing religion does not always change how we practice religion and there are Pagans with a lot of Christian baggage left. That will not disappear until the first generation Pagans leave the scene. how many of us as new pagans did not tell other people about our religion and some even attempted to convert others.

        Might I recommend that instead of trying to change Christians that we check and make sure that we ourselves do not do the very things that we criticize them for doing. I can assure you that after nearly 30 years of being Wiccan, i have certainly seen all the alleged faults of Christians among my Wiccan community. Now that is something we Wiccans, not to mention other pagans and heaths can do is make sure we actually walk our walk, not just talk the talk.

        Anything less is hypocrisy, another thing that we Pagan often blame on Christians.

        • Nick Ritter

          “[T]here are Pagans with a lot of Christian baggage left. That will not disappear until the first generation Pagans leave the scene.”

          If even then. There is always the possibility that some of this Christian baggage will become part of the culture of the general Pagan milieu, and get propagated on down through the generations unselfconsciously, just as by a number of people who grow up non-religious in a (still majority culturally Christian) Western culture and continue to propagate elements of a Christian worldview unbeknownst to themselves.

          This is why I have such respect for those who consciously make the effort to examine and shift their own culture, such as I see a number of Reconstructionists doing.

          • TadhgMor

            Removing Christian/monotheist assumptions from ourselves and our beliefs is absolutely crucial to most Recons I think. At best they are unnecessary, at worst that actively contradict with our paths.

            But it’s certainly not something easy.

          • ChristopherBlackwell

            At this point in time I am less worried about what Christians might do, though I may keep watch on some of the extremists. No my worry is what the various mistakes the new Pagans, Heathens, and Wiccans may pick up in the process of our own development. That is my main reason for saying worry less about the faults of the Christians, and more about whether we are developing the very same faults ourselves. That is something that we actually still have some power to change. Look at religious history and see the errors in the pst and make sure we don’t do the very same ourselves.

            One thing we can stop doing is denying things we get blamed for, simply because that reinforces the lie. Instead just talk about what we do, and believe, and stress the fact that we are e different enough that no one person can speak for the rest of us,

            We Wiccans have sorties been notorious for thinking all Pagans either act like Wiccan, or should. Nope I can assure you a Heathen might have quite a different way of responding that will having nothing to do with either the Wiccan Rede, nor the rule of three. Also be aware that not all wiccans follow it and that it has nothing to do with any other kind of witchcraft, which may or may not even involve any religious aspect.

            Of course Heathens get into their own arguments as to what is proper Heathen, as do Druids and I am sure not uncommon among the Reconstructionists.

            So we need to understand and learn to the affect there are orations of just about any community, any religion and even within a tradition. Goddess knowns we have far too much infighting and tat might be far more dangerous than anything a Christian might do to us. At some point we may just have to learn how to agree to disagree.

            But is one reason why I try to keep some ties to the other communities so that I will not be completely ignorant of what is around me. In turn the through ACTION that I publish, I put out what I find by letting each person speak for themselves. Fortunately there are some in each of the different communities that still like to talk with the other communities.

            Remember the Wisdom of Pogo: We have met the enemy and they are us. [Grin]

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            You still include Heathens as a form of Paganism when the majority of Heathens I have spoken to don’t agree with that.

            At some point, the Pagan community has to accept the break-up and quit acting like a clingy girlfriend.

            Can’t we just be friends?

          • ChristopherBlackwell

            That only seems to be true in the United States. Heathens in Iceland, Europe, Eastern Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand don’t seem to have any problem considering themselves also to be Pagan, I have interviewed them in those places. Only in the United States do Heathens seem to feel the need to be separate. Now that also may be do to the fact there are arguer numbers of heathens in the United States. So I may have to wait and see if that changes as the numbers grow elsewhere.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I live in the UK. Heathen numbers are currently very low here, but there does seem to be a notable about of distance between Heathens and Pagans. Amongst the Heathens I know (including myself), anyway.

    • Mustangofold

      Unfortunately to most Christians that I have had the misfortune to deal with it is not “the freedom to share their beliefs without objection” that they want. They want to shout down and intimidate anyone that does not agree that they are speaking the one and only truth.
      They do not want to share their religion or discuss it so others will understand their viewpoint, they want to dominate and exterminate anyone that will not convert to their version of Christianity.

      • ChristopherBlackwell

        Some Christians, not all. You tend to remember the noisily and problem ones, not surprisingly, after all they are the ones that the media does love so much. For each of them how many Christians have walked by making no tempt to change you?

        As for the ones that do give you trouble, go after them if you must, or learn how to outsmart them as I have.

        If worst came to worse, remember that our ancestors often found ways to continue their religions and beliefs under rather serious harassment. i have done ceremony in my head while traveling on trains. So religion can be invisible if need be,

        You don’t have to be either loud about your religion, nor pin a target on your back. But again outsmarting the troublesome ones is even fun as you get good at it. One ways t get people know you through what else you do. If you become a friend or someone that they come to depend on, yur religious beliefs will only be a minor oddity, not a threat to most of them.

        Again you and i can and will fight when it is necessary, but it never hurt to have Christian allies as long as we are a minority. Basic minority survival tactics is to find allies and build bridges. That is the same way the black got their civil rights, That is what many of us Pagans have been doing for years, why we do interfaith work and how pagan pride days to create safe ways for people to learn about us and break through the fear of the unknown. Remember life never has been fair, but people manage to get stuff done anyway.

        • Northern_Light_27

          Are there Christians who make a point of worrying about their “religious freedom” for whom those words don’t actually mean “freedom to bully”? Anecdata, but most progressive and moderate Christians I’ve known don’t think their freedom to be Christian is in any kind of jeopardy– the ones who agitate about it fear the loss of their hegemony, not a genuine loss of freedom to practice.

          • ChristopherBlackwell

            I would agree with you about the ones yelling and screaming. Not going to change those people but we can build bridges with the calmer ones. I think that is what this story shows,

    • Danielle Amourtrance Verum

      I like what you have to say, with one exception. We absolutely need to call a spade a spade. We can and should condemn actions taken today that violate another person’s liberty and rights, whether that person is Christian or otherwise. Any sort of discussion that does not include a honest calling out and condemnation of objectionable behavior is just fluff. And why should someone be able to share beliefs but be free from someone objecting to them? That’s also just fluff. Essentially what you’re saying, if I’m inferring rightly, is that anyone should be able to say anything they want and no one should be able to voice objection to it? I disagree if that’s you’re position. Growth and learning often come *because* of someone objecting, pointing out inconsistencies, or outright lies. Most of my personal growth over the years has come *because* someone objected to something I said, and I’m better for it. My experience with Christianity though has been that that religion tends to lose members when people start objecting to the teachings and questioning, which is why doing such is not often encouraged.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Heather, I add my thanks to you for reporting this. I was most happy to read this: While [Lydia Gittings] was never personally attacked, she was prepared to ask for assistance from the Pagan community. …of which the welcome subtext is that Pagans now have some idea where to turn when this kind of storm blows into town. ‘Twas not ever thus; in my two-decades-past personal introduction to this very general class of situation (Pagans + kids + Christians) there was no such resource and the usual “liberal” (Christian-infiltrated secular) champions of religious freedom were peculiarly AWOL. Things are better now; this sort of gumbo still happens but our response is more substantial.

    • ChristopherBlackwell

      We also have to have volunteers willing to chance it. That Wiccan took a chance and placed herself in some risk but if she had not this would not have worked it out like it did. How many of us would take the chance

      It took one brave teacher, one brave Wiccan, one brave principle and a large number of noisy of brave Christians standing up for the ideal of freedom of religion. Take away any of those people, and most of them were Christians and we would not have this blessing.

      Again this is the reason I make a point of pointing out all Christians are not one way or another, they vary just like we do. So we can work with and form alliances and others we may have to ignore except she they push to far, then we have to push back. But let us not become just as condemning as they are, the few and the vicious.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        But let us not become just as condemning as they are, the few and the vicious. If that was intended as a reply to what I wrote, you should teach a course in creative reading.

        • ChristopherBlackwell

          I think that i meant the last sentence for Danielle. But yes once I get on a roll of ideas, I sometimes forget where I meant to put it and get it on the wrong answer. Being both 68 and often tired mistakes are possible. i do have a few health issues as well.

          However creative reading is not uncommon on the internet as I have seen lot of arguments happen because of what people thought that they read, while fired up with emotion.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I must confess (and in fact did) to a bit of creative reading on this blog myself.

    • ELNIGMA

      Such help is still rare, limited to a few groups.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        But the Internet can put any Pagan in need of help in touch with it. This year the Lady Liberty League of Circle Sanctuary in Wisconsin put out a fire in Florida. I’m not really trying to change your mind, just respond. I’m constitutionally a “glass half full” guy but not everyone is.

      • ChristopherBlackwell

        But it has started to appear, I also remember that lady who was being harassed in Florida and Lady Liberty League and others raising money to put up security cameras. These kinds of support grouts take a certain size population before they happen and we seem to have reached that point. We now have groups to help those who have lost someone, we have groups that help out in disasters, run food pantries, even a few running homeless shelters.

        I am old enough to remember when we did not even have ceremonies for passages of life. So as we grow and determine more needs we begin to fill them.

        Now here is a thought how about you organizing one in your area. That is how all these groups happens someone sees a need and fills it. The biggest problem in the Pagan comity is those that still sit on the sidelines or make excusers for not giving back to the community. It need not be a lot of time at first, nor does it have to cost a lot.

        Everything starts small and then grows in time. I keep in touch with a variety of our communities, Heathens, Pagans, Wiccans, Ceremonial Magicians, Hoodoo interviewing people in the United States, Canada different parts of Europe and Eastern Europe, Australia, New Zealand and then publish each Sabbat,as I happen to be Wiccan. I do this from a middle of nowhere shop in the New Mexico Desert. So being isolated no longer means not taking part in the community any more, not since the Internet. When I started I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but over time I learned by trial and error.

        It does not take special knowledge, or years of experience, you don’t have to be famous or even known and just starting with something that interests you. You may even inspire someone else and that is how our community begins to act more like other communities. As Captain LeCard [spelling] used to say,”Make it so!”

  • Deporodh

    Excellent coverage, thanks. It’s nice to see such a forward-looking class in a small town!

    I’d love to see coverage on a broader scale of the local-to-me Catholic school adminstrator who was forced out of his position because 1, he’s gay, and 2, he got married last summer. The students are working and protesting for his return. I feel that, given the public statements made by this new and apparently sane Catholic pope, that the archdiocese involved will be overruled and “Mr. Z” reinstated.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      I wish I could share your optimism in the outcome, and I hope you’re proved right. It will be an early litmus on this pope.

    • ChristopherBlackwell

      The Students may be some of our biggest allies and often some of their parents. So lets not give up on them just because most of them happen to be Christians. [Grin]

      As the song said, “with little help from our friends.” Those of us that are open need to help search them out because they are out there.

    • kenofken

      I wouldn’t hold your breath. For all his good PR, the new pope has not changed any doctrine surrounding gay marriage.

  • Gaddy

    Carthage also has the dubious distinction of being the location of one of the most notorious scenes of religious violence in American history: the murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.

  • Charles Cosimano

    A satisfactory conclusion but it would have been a better story if the day after the class was suspended all the complaining parents had dropped dead. I’ll bet the board would have reinstated it a lot fast.

    • ChristopherBlackwell

      Ah sounds sort of like a fundamentalist view point. [Grin]

      Fundamentalist are very similar regardless of what religion they are in.

  • scout

    But if the teacher invited a speaker to lecture about Christianity, the teacher would have been dismissed, kids be happy, and parents would be upset that the teacher had this type of ideology and the board would be outraged.

    • Gaddy

      Simply absurd. This makes me think you have not even read the article. If you had, you would have (maybe?) realized that the subject of the class in question was never about someone’s RELIGION, but about conflicts and mysteries.

      If aspects of someone’s Christian faith fit into the context of that subject heading, there’s not much doubt that Mr. Hoener would have invited them to speak in his class on that subject.

      Your reactionary trolling serves no purpose, other than to get a rise out of someone. I hope you do not succeed in this.

    • g75401

      Hilarious! What is a xtian but a paranoid who needs a sense of persecution to feel complete? Last I looked, the country was 78% xtian. The sad thing, if I were to transport you, scout, to a country were xtians were really getting persecuted, you’d be another “Peter” to the cause. The sad thing, you protest so much because you know I’m right.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Have you read the article? The class included a section on world religions, including faith-based speakers.

  • PhaedraHPS

    What is particularly interesting to me is that I spoke to a high school class in a very rural area of central Illinois twenty years ago and had no problems whatsoever. Are we actually going backward?

    • g75401

      Yes, the political right has used the religious zealot as a tool for 30 years and they have an outsized opinion of their status in the community.

    • ChristopherBlackwell

      the mistake of the hippies was the idea that once the good guys won, the victory was forever.
      But look at nature and everything moves in an ebb or flow pattern.

      So in each case you have to use the correct strategy. in the ebb period you must hold and protect all that you can, but in the flow period you must advance a far as you can. To do the opposite in either case would be disastrous. Liberals and conservatives will always gain and lose at different times.

      So the liberals will have to be at least as stubborn in continuing to go after their goals as the conservatives are. Anything less is a loss for the liberals. We can learn from the conservatives on a few things.

      Ebb and flow ever stop as far as anything in nature, not even social and political things.

  • Danielle Amourtrance Verum

    Personally I want *all* religion out public areas, classrooms, courthouses, etc… Parents are rightly concerned that they were not informed that a talk was being given about religion. While I agree people, children and adults, should be exposed to a variety of ideas so as to better form opinions and views, that isn’t for me to decide for someone else. Just like I would want my children to be able to attend school without hearing about the Abrahamic god, I stand with Christians and others who don’t want their kids coming home talking about Wicca or religous practices they don’t engage in. It’s not bigotry to want that for your kids and family, it’s your right as a parent. Christianity does have a history of bloodshed and violence in the name of their faith, and it’s true that the nature of their religion is inherently about converting others. “Go forth to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” We can oppose the violence and other issues of Christianity, but that doesn’t mean we bring Wicca and other non-Christian faiths into the classrooms. *chucks two cents*

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      There’s an excluded middle here. It’s possible to teach about a religion without preaching the religion itself. It’s a bit of a tightwire act if you invite religious representatives whose basic training is to evangelize. But this teacher seems to have hit a good balance; it took a wired outsider to spark a controversy that, judging from events at the two board meetings, evoked only a protest of the ignorant. Let me offer an example of why this is a good thing from the recent historical past. During the Vietnam War, some Jewish college students came home from their first exposure to college full of anti-imperialist analysis of Israel, much to their parents’ dismay. If those students had been benignly exposed to anti-imperialist theory beforehand, they might not have been so vulnerable once they left the nest.

      • Gaddy

        It’s possible to teach about a religion without preaching the religion itself.

        True. Unfortunately, however, it is most certainly impossible to do this in such a way so as to not offend at least some people who assume otherwise.

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

          Granted, but then, a teacher is there to teach, not comfort the offended ego of a parent.

          There are plenty of people who opt to take their kids out of sex ed education, often to the student’s, their classmates’, and society’s detriment. If people choose not to act on notices and such sent home it is no longer the teacher’s problem.

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

      The notion of religion being out of all public areas is not tenable. There is no way to take religion out of public discourse. There is no putting this cat back in the bag. I believe we can learn to deal with public discourse on religion in a civil way, and discuss not only baseline beliefs, but particulars of religion.

      There’s a difference, a great deal of difference, between proselytizing and informing. So long as there is a clear mark that is kept there should be no problem.

      I live my religion; it is not just a belief or system of beliefs, but a way of living in the world. It is this way for a good number of people of various religions, belief systems, etc. Rather than say ‘your beliefs/views/ways of life have no place here’ I would rather draw this circle bigger and find better ways to dialogue about similarities and differences.

      “I stand with Christians and others who don’t want their kids coming home talking about Wicca or religous practices they don’t engage in. It’s not bigotry to want that for your kids and family, it’s your right as a parent.”

      Actually in this case it may well be bigotry, as a great many Christian objections to their children learning about other belief systems at all include the notion that Satan will poison their minds, lead them astray, etc., and that those of us who are part of other religions are evil. With all of this said, I have no notion of why you would stand with them.

      It is one thing to object to people teaching the Bible in class, and quite another to have people be taught about it, just as there is a difference of being taught Greek polytheism and quite another to teach about Greek polytheism.

      • Catie Tincon-Sun

        I have been in a situation where there is a Christian that tried to push his views onto me. congrats to the teacher and people that supported everything. I respect other religions and I don’t push my views on to other people, but All religions need to learn that respect is the most important thing.

    • ChristopherBlackwell

      Read the article, actually the parents were told in advance but apparently were not paying attention. Paying attention to what is happening in school with your children is part of parenting. Claiming they were not informed was to give them excuse and place the blame on others.

      I am not worried about religion in public paces if all religions and non followers are allowed the same freedom. It is granting only one group that i am against. Remember the class was not practicing ritual or studying deeply Wicca, Our complaints in public school has been the number of pubic schools where Christian practice is pressed on student by school employees. As government employees, representing the government they have no right to do that.

  • Lady Mina Miakoda

    I would have love to have a teacher like him. Thank you Lydia for making a stand for all of us. Some people will never stop being close minded ignorant fools (like the one parent), very sad. This is for all cultures and religions, Slavery, Judaism, the American Indians, Witch Hunts etc.., all based on ignorance and fear. Just like Anne-Marie stated: “Ignorance breeds fear,.. fear turns to prejudice…and prejudice almost always turns to violence” , and most violence comes from the religious fanatics like that parent or the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS . Very good article indeed.

    ignorance
    breeds fear. Fear eventually turns into prejudice and prejudice almost
    always ends in violence. – See more at:
    http://wildhunt.org/2013/12/small-town-teacher-invites-wiccan-guest-speaker-into-classroom.html#sthash.f1t5j5MO.dpuf
    Anne-Marie
    Anne-Marie Blesses Be

  • Syrai Ravenwynd

    Man, I wish I could take that class! I’m 46 years old and Wiccan, but I would love that class!

  • ELNIGMA

    Wow. Good going!

  • Merlyn7

    That went swimmingly – a rare pleasure for pagans. Well done.

  • http://saffronrose.livejournal.com/ A. Marina Fournier

    Ms. Scott said:

    Kids from small towns need a little more worldly exposure to gain some understanding on diversity before they are thrust into college where there is no safety net.

    More conservative religious parents need to understand this–so that they can prepare their children for the larger world, from which they may have been kept. I’ve never found that just forbiding a kid to do something, once away from home, ever worked well.

  • prairiewizard

    This “small” Illinois town has a history. The founders of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints, also know as the mormon church were jailed in the Carthage Jail and were also murdered there. For the Mormon standing up for religious freedom for Pagans is truly amazing. And I went to college in this town and learned much in the local religious groups in the 70′s.

  • scout

    Satan is not pushing. You guys are correct. We naturally are born into the ideology of Satan. So wonderful for Satan to rule over a mankind that has no ability to think.