Religious Minorities and Christian-Dominated Schools

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  January 24, 2014 — 191 Comments

For culturally conservative Christians in the United States a familiar topic of discussion is how the Supreme Court “took God out of school” and the subsequent moral/intellectual decline landmark decisions like Engel v. Vitale had engendered in American society. For decades, activists have been trying to erode legal barriers in government-funded learning institutions, hoping for a return to Protestant Christian moral hegemony in the classroom. These efforts are almost always couched in terms of “freedom,” but time and again when conservative Christians do gain unchallenged control over a school district the result isn’t freedom, but harassment and bullying of any who don’t toe their line. Such is the case at Sabine Parish School Board in Louisiana.

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“When my stepson, who has been raised a Buddhist, enrolled in the sixth grade at our local school, Negreet High, it became personal, and I could no longer turn a blind eye to the very real harms that occur when school officials violate the separation of church and state. My stepson started at Negreet in the same class as one of my children. By the end of the first week of school, he was having serious stomach issues and anxiety. We couldn’t figure out why. In the mornings, my wife would pull over on the side of the road as they approached school so he could throw up. At first, we thought he was sick and we let him stay home. Soon it became apparent that this was not a cold, but something much worse. Our children informed us that their teacher had been chastising and bullying my stepson for his Buddhist beliefs.”

Yes, as a new federal lawsuit filed by the ACLU alleges, the stepson of Scott Lane was singled out by teachers, and bullied for the crime of not being Christian in a Christian dominated area.

download“The lawsuit said Roark has ‘repeatedly taught students that the earth was created by God 6,000 years ago, that evolution is ‘impossible’ and that the Bible is ‘100 percent true.’ She also regularly features religious questions on her tests such as “Isn’t it amazing what the ______ has made!!!!’ When the Lanes’ son ‘did not write in Roark’s expected answer (LORD), she belittled him in front of the rest of the class.’ While studying other religions, she also has told students that Buddhism is ‘stupid,’ the lawsuit said.”

You see, religious freedom, for many of these Christian activists, means freedom to be Christian. In an editorial for the ACLU, Lane lists some of the ways the Christian-dominated staff threw their weight around, including distributing anti-Pagan/occult propaganda.

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“When we went to the school to meet with the principal, we saw a large picture of Jesus over the school’s main doors, a Bible verse on the school’s electronic marquee, and numerous religious posters and pictures on the walls. Religious images and messages are displayed throughout the school, in fact. – We learned from our children that official prayers, typically led by the principal or teachers, are routinely incorporated into class and school events like assemblies, and sporting events. The school even requires students to attend “See You at the Pole” each year, where they must take part in prayer and worship. – We discovered that school officials were distributing religious literature to students. For example, one of our other son’s teachers passed out copies of a book from the “Truth For Youth” program, a revivalist ministry. The book included the entire New Testament of the Bible as well as cartoons that denounce evolution and trumpet the evils of birth control, premarital sex, rock music, alcohol, pornography, homosexuality, sorcery, and witchcraft.”

The complaint, which can be seen here, came only after speaking to the Superintendent, being told that maybe another school with “more asians” would suit them, and finding that even that school regularly promoted Christianity.

“My wife and I were floored. I tried to point out that the “Bible Belt” was not a separate country and that we were still entitled to religious liberty as guaranteed by the Constitution. She would have none of it, however. She asked whether my stepson had to be raised as a Buddhist and even suggested that he “change” his faith to better fit in. To add insult to injury, the next day, the Superintendent sent a letter to Negreet’s principal, which he read to students over the intercom. The letter thanked Negreet’s teachers and principal for maintaining their religious values and influence in the school.”

Some of my evangelical Christian friends decry the idea of a “naked” public square devoid of faith, endorsing instead an inclusive model that would allow all faiths to share their beliefs in an open and safe manner. To that, I can only answer that such a policy would never work so long as demographic dominance allows “quiet” power to stifle all dissent and diversity. These Christian believers, left to their own devices, do not grow a pluralistic, multi-faith, shared utopia. Instead, non-Christians are routinely silenced, harassed, and forced into closets (or worse, forced into lying about their own belief systems). When non-Christians dare to assert rights they are supposed to have in these settings, the result is often shock, outrage, and attack. Meanwhile, Christian activists claim the mantle of oppression for any limitations put on them in the public square, ignoring their treatment of non-Christians where they dominate.

The saddest thing is that this case does not exist in isolation. Conservative Christian dominated areas are continually pushing for a “freedom” that means coercive proselytization and harassment of outsiders.  They don’t seem to understand that making public government-funded school events happen at sectarian churches is alienating. They truly don’t get it, or if they do, don’t care. If this case does anything, I hope it can smash open the hypocrisy and silence over what Christians call religious freedom, and what that would actually look like if minorities weren’t forced to file lawsuits in order to get a harassment-free education.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    Absolutely excellent post. Thank you, Jason.

  • Ouroboros

    I hate you, Christians. I hate you for the saddness you cause. I hate you for your ignorance against what youre doing to this world. You are destroying us, not directly perhaps, but you are. You see, i dont hate your god, not Jesus either. I despise YOU, right there on the other side of the screen.
    Jesus seems to be the only good one of you. This is my personal hate, not the other beliefs that are not christian and what i stand for in my spiritualistic path, so please dont take it as a gladly invitation to start a holy crusade in any form on my kin i love.

    I just want you to know, you christian there, who read this that i personally Hate you., I will promise that in less than hundred years, your church at least as it exists now will fall, in the name of true love if anything.
    I hate you, who read this. I hate you. Know that Jesus does too, if he truly exists. He cries bloody tears for your sake, you cruel collective manmonsters. ;_;

    • Franklin_Evans

      Ouroboros, that’s my “down” vote. I dislike anonymous negatives, and I really do want to express it respectfully. Your post received my tears. I understand you very well. I just can’t let your hate go unanswered by at least this simple expression of grief.

    • Michael Strojan

      Ouroboros, I write this to you as a Christian – albeit a very unconventional one that other’s have deemed unorthodox for my gnostic beliefs – your pain and anger are entirely understandable. The United States was founded on the principles of freedom of thought and conscience along with the assurance that the government would not endorse or give preference to one religion over another in civic institutions. Naturally, in a Christian dominated culture, this has very frequently fallen short.

      It is very easy to generalize one’s anger at a group or groups of people who have caused harm, but it’s also equally important to understand that what this article portrays is only a fraction of any type of representative Christianity in America. Things are changing, thankfully. In the next fifty years this type of Christianity will be relegated to the sidelines and become even more irrelevant than it is today.

      As I support my polytheist and pagan brothers and sisters, and frequently pray with them, I invite you to pray with me for the support of all civic minded people to speak up and put an end to this wonton and horrible discrimination of religious minorities and bring healing to those who have been so horribly discriminated against, defamed, and even threatened with life or bodily injury.

      Yours before the Sacred Flame.

    • Adam Gruber

      Dear stranger;
      I understand your rage. I understand your frustration. However, I hope that one day you learn the wisdom of peace. It is easy to point fingers and name faults, it is hard to try and fix it. I can hear your protest already, “how can i fix that?!” to which I will give you one of my favorite quotes. “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. If you have fault with something, lead by example. Hatred and anger in response to intolerance and ignorance will only lead to more anger. To paraphrase another great man, Hate cannot conquer hate, only love can do that. Please, for your own sake think on what I’ve said
      -Adam

      • Franklin_Evans

        Adam, I thought long and hard about phrasing my post in a vein similar to the one you chose, and decided against it. I speak only for myself and from my personal POV here.

        Pagans have centuries of reasons to fear Christians, and only recent experience (exemplified by Michael’s response) to find reasons to trust some of them… or, at the least, tolerate them enough to listen to them and respond civilly. However, we find it very difficult to extend that beyond our immediate acquaintances, for a very good reason: the story about Sabine Parish is common enough to make us hesitate. It is common enough to injure our resolve to step away from paranoia. We are still few enough that paranoia per se remains a reasonable stance for many of us.

        I have no doubt that Ouroboros will find healing. I suspect that healing has already begun in some ways. I responded to the post out of a sense of balance, and in no way intending or implying that it should not have been posted.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        I hate the phrase “be the change you want to see in the world”. People have done this in all directions, some of them deplorable. A recent example would be Anders Breivik.

    • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

      Ouroboros, so any religion can continue to exist as long as it is not Christian? The singling out and attacking of any one religion is what I cannot tolerate.

    • Alyxander M Folmer

      A paltry man, and poor of mind

      At all things ever mocks;

      For never he knows, what he ought to know,

      That he is not free from faults.
      -Odin (Havamal stanza 22)

      If you want to take issue with an institution, or a theology, then by all means go ahead. I have no problem with that. Idea’s don’t have rights, and they don’t have feelings.
      But people do, and what you did there is not ok.
      You just displayed the kind of bigoted hate that you seem to be so offended by. So perhaps before you start throwing stones, you should get your own house in order.

    • Wolfsbane

      Ouroboros wrote:

      “Jesus seems to be the only good one of you. ”

      Posting things like this make you part of the problem, Ouroboros.

      Jesus, Yeshua was born, lived and dies a Jew, He never was a Christian. Were he alive today he would likely say, ‘Stop using may name in any shape or form with your evil, bigoted, anti-Semitic hate cult that for centuries has marginalized, persecuted and even murdered my people, That has denigrated our faith.’ I am not one of you. Not now or ever. Nor do I have any desire to be one of you.’

      Christianity is not a religion. It is but a hateful ritualized mockery of the Jewish faith. Only a fool would raise this vile thing to the level of a religion. It’s no different the Ku Klux Klan or any other hate cults that run around and demean others.

      Jews are a perfectly nice tribal people following Judaism, their indigenous religion. They don’t try and force it upon other people and convert them to it. Likewise, we Pagans are peoples who are trying to reclaim and restore our indigenous religions to their rightful place. It surely does not serve our goals one iota by participating in the grotesque and mendacious charade. This defamation of another tribal peoples faith.
      It should be plain that we Pagans ought not be a party to the perpetuation to the blatant falsehood that christianity is, in any shape or form or religion. It is beyond foolishness for us to participate in the demeaning of another tribal people’s faith. To do so undermines our ability to win their friendship, to share common ground. It does not help us win the support of another beleaguered indigenous religion to cooperate to achieve common goals. It’s just not in our best interest.

      Christianity lacks even the most basic and elemental requirement of being a religion. It had no organic connection with an ethnicity. It’s universalistic and has but one goal. To convert all peoples to it’s ridiculous doctrine. of mockery of the Jewish faith. It cheapens all it touches. That should be most obvious to every one of us.
      To that end, entertaining the falsehood that Yesuha a Rabbi in the Jewish faith, has any connection with this hate cult damages the very causes of Pagan faiths we purport to hold dear. It is not in our interest.
      There is no such thing as a christian religion. The very thing is an impossibility. It demonstrably cannot exist. Ritualized mockery cannot be a religion.

      • g75401

        Nice response….I would like to expand on it by reminding everyone that Saul started out his career by trying to destroy the movement founded by Jesus and, through his conversion to “Paul” on the road to Damascus, succeeded. The modern “christian” is more accurately defined as a follower of Paul and will more readily point out verses attributed to Paul’s epistles to describe his beliefs than anything Jesus might have said.

    • Biolochic

      I’m sorry that you’ve been through so much pain. My heart goes out to you. I hope your comment was cathartic and that you are on the path to being healed. So mote it be.

  • scryberwitch

    It’s been a while (a LONG while…) since I was in school here in the Bible Belt, but that’s about how I remember it. In one school a student broke into my locker and stole my tarot cards, then took them to the principal. The thief got in no trouble, but the principal called me in and acted like my cards were some kind of dangerous contraband. In another school, D&D books were banned for being “Satanic.”
    Seems things haven’t changed much.

    • Thefluff

      I grew up in a small town in Louisiana as well. Christian dogma permeated the school and nobody was “out” as having any other faith than that. If they were even suspected of having doubts about the Bible they’d be ridiculed and ostracized. This story comes to no surprise to me. Being brought up in a Christian home, you get told many times that Christians suffer persecution. It’s ironic how, once you get away from that environment, you realize that it’s the Christians doing the persecution in the US and not the other way around. If you try to point that out, you get a defensive response that in no way negates what you have told them.

  • https://www.facebook.com/ThePaganNaturalist Nicole Youngman

    I actually had to check to see where Sabine Parish is, as it’s not my part of the state. We have a LOT of Buddhists/Asians on the Gulf Coast (of course not all Buddhists are Asian, and vice versa), many of whom are the kids/grandkids of refugees who were brought here to escape Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos decades ago, but this is farther up the state where it’s predominantly hardcore evangelical Protestant. In any case I hope the Buddhist communities will be getting involved in helping out this kid and his family. (Totally irrationally, I sort of expect Pagan kids to have to put up with this shit, but part of me can’t help thinking “But…Buddhists? Really?”)

  • John W. Morehead

    This essay should trouble Evangelicals as it is related to Christian privilege and related abuses in our school system. I decry such things.

    Jason writes, “Some of my evangelical Christian friends decry the idea of a “naked” public square devoid of faith, endorsing instead an inclusive model that would allow all faiths to share their beliefs in an open and safe manner. To that, I can only answer that such a policy would never work so long as demographic dominance allows “quiet” power to stifle all dissent and diversity. These Christian believers, left to their own devices, do not grow a pluralistic, multi-faith, shared utopia.” Jason is referring to people like me and my colleague Paul Louis Metzger. But this response does not in my view undercut our perspective. Instead, it supports the need for our work and our viewpoint. Evangelicals must be transformed in the way in which they relate to the “religious other” so that it is more Christlike, and this must then serve as an impetus for us to work toward a multifaith public square with freedoms for all, religious (including those Evangelicals may not like) and irreligious. I contend that what the naked secular square may permit today it may take away tomorrow. Better to educate and transform so that religious freedoms and diversity can be realized. This is what the Evangelical FRD chapter wants to accomplish in our Evangelical subculture and the public square.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      I have a lot of respect for your efforts, John, but I have to side with Jason on this. You talk about an evolutionary approach beginning with a sacred public square. More realistic, I suggest, is to begin with a secular public square and make the public effort keep it that way act as an educational tool for those who don’t understand it. The action in Sabine is an example. The folks who run that school have been confronted with the reality of pluralism in a manner from which they cannot turn away; once they lose or settle this case they will never be the same again. This outcome would not be possible but for the theoretical secular public square which the ACLU is defending.

      • John W. Morehead

        Baruch (if I may), thank you for your respect for my work. It is greatly appreciated. It will come as no surprise that I disagree. Theoretically we have a multifaith public square in place now, but Christian privilege gets in the way and can result in the kinds of deplorable things that Jason writes about in this post. Rather than removing and barring everyone from the public square and making it secular and naked (which privileges secularism), I suggest we need activists and educators like myself working within our religious traditions for change (intrafaith) as well as working together across religious lines (interfaith) so that a multifaith space is truly made safe for diversity and freedoms for everyone. At FRD we contend that it is possible, and that by working to see each other as trusted rivals who can achieve a peaceful tension over our differences we can indeed cooperate for the common good. I suggest this is more realistic and has a greater chance for achieving what we both want. The naked secular square will work to keep things truly naked, and ultimately exclude us all from the free expression of our religious and spiritual lives. Let the conversation and cooperation continue!

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          John: This phrase “naked secular public square” is yours, not mine. I do not see the secular public square as naked (not that there’s anything wrong with that…) but as clothed in equal regard for all religious paths that do not deceive or coerce. That is my idea of what “secular” means, not as an “ism” that can be privileged, any more that breathing makes me an “oxygenist.”

          • John W. Morehead

            I agree that currently the public square is not naked in the sense that it keeps religions from expressing themselves freely. I use the tern “naked secular public square” to refer to the desires of some for it to exclude all religions since some, like Evangelical Christianity, exploit their privilege at the expense of others at times. I support a secular public square in the sense that their is a separation of church and state so that the state does not privilege one religion over another, and so that we all have equal access to religious freedoms of expression.

          • Alyxander M Folmer

            I think it would behoove you to define your perception of the “public square”. We’ve talked about it before, and I think you’re probably envisioning something a bit different than most people here who use the term. (which is going to make conversation difficult)
            For example, how do you feel about the scenario presented in this article, and the case it makes for removing religion from state funded schools?

          • John W. Morehead

            I don’t believe we should remove religion from state funded schools. The Pew Forum has pointed out a high level of religious illiteracy among many Americans, especially Evangelicals. Stephen Prothero’s volume on this took the case eve further and argued that is is possible to provide religious education in state funded schools without violating the separation of church and state. I support such efforts that do this and which do not privilege one religion over another. Not an easy task, but the right course in my view. Others are free to disagree, and no doubt they will.

          • Franklin_Evans

            I’ve been through that debate several times, both as a public school student and as the parent of them. The demarcation line is clear and simple: Most Christians believe that any exposure to any belief system other than theirs is a threat to their children’s souls, and I’ve seen the most objectively constructed curricula get shot down on that simple basis.

            John, this is a personal comment, but not directed at you personally: that attitude amongst Christians begs my suspicion that they are so weak in their faith, so uncertain of its hold on their children, that their very status as Christians is the real doubt here, not what should or should not be included in a public classroom.

            You may already be aware of it, but there is a benchmark on sound and objective instruction in all religions: the Religious Education curriculum of the Unitarian Universalist Association. I’ve witnessed otherwise rational and intelligent Christians loudly proclaim it the work of Satan. I see no consensus coming from that.

          • MadGastronomer

            In a country where one religion has a hegemony, especially one which deprecates other religions, it simply is not possible to teach religion in a way that does not privilege the religion that has hegemony. What you are advocating is precisely what harms children like the one in this article. You are advocating harming people. You can claim otherwise all you want, but you have no evidence that you can actually do it, and there’s lots of evidence that you can’t.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            John, I agree in principle but I see two insuperable practical obstacles.One is that Evangelicals will quickly translate “religious illiteracy” as “Biblical illiteracy and rush to fill the gap before Buddhists, Pagans etc get their boots on. Evangelical institutions are at the ready now for such an offer.The other popped up when I was taking your side over on GetReligion: Many Christian parents will violently object to their kids being taught the Bible as literature and transcribed oral history rather than as the Word of God. It would be the sex-ed wars all over again.

          • MadGastronomer

            In addition to which, who decides what religions are going to be taught? There are too many in the world. And curricula are decided on state and local levels — there’s no more to stop school boards from choosing to teach about five or six different Christian sects, plus maybe a little bit about Judaism (from an outsider’s perspective) and an hour on Buddhism and calling that pluralism, than there is to stop them from instituting official Christian prayers, which they keep doing despite it being illegal and unconstitutional. All it does is give them one more avenue to attempt to establish their own religion as the official one. Nor is there any way to make sure they teach accurate information about other religions. This won’t actually increase religious literacy in the places where it’s lowest.

        • Franklin_Evans

          John, I suspect we are in agreement, at least on pricinciple, but I would add my consensus to Baruch’s POV thus: the secular public square by definition is naked, in that it is devoid of any marks of possession by any group, affiliation or abstract entity other than the bare definitions established in our Constitution.

          I’ve long held and continue to promote the notion that our secular morality is already very well defined, but lacking in its implementation at nearly every level. The Constitution provides that definition, and needs no caveats, qualifications or interpretations.

          Perhaps “naked” is a poor choice of term. Tabula rasa works very well for me, a blank slate upon which anything may be written, requiring only the authors and their successors to maintain it. It has an infinite scope. No crowding or overwriting is indicated, let alone needed.

        • MadGastronomer

          And in the mean time, while you and your activists are working on it, religious minorities are still persecuted. Is that tolerable to you? Should WE, as religious minorities, just put up with that while you work on your fellows, people who actively want to persecute us?

          NO, we SHOULD NOT. IF you can build a truly inclusive and pluralistic attitude among other evangelicals, THEN perhaps we can consider a pluralistic and inclusive public square. Until then, you are colluding with those who harm us by insisting that we should tolerate the conditions that allow them to do so. You are no better than your brethren, for all your talk.

          • John W. Morehead

            Of course that isn’t tolerable to me. Hopefully that is evident from the comments I’ve posted here, the body of work I’ve done, and the respect I have from many Pagans and others. You should work to counter this, and we should work within our religious community as well. All I can do is set forth my proposal, encourage your cooperative efforts, and do my work within and outside my religious community. In fairness, these efforts cannot be understood as collusion with the harmful elements of my faith community. Further, I submit that it does not serve Paganism well to sit back until the change I am working for arrives.

            I am surprised and saddened by your comments, and the tone that comes with them. Unfortunately, you have exhibited the kind of problematic understandings and interreligious engagement that contributes to an uncivil and prejudicial public square. I would implore you to consider me a trusted rival rather than an enemy.

          • MadGastronomer

            I cannot trust anyone who advocates allowing religious minorities to remain vulnerable. Which you are doing. The fastest way to protect them — as has been demonstrated over and over again — is to remove things like mandatory prayer and Christianity as an official religion of a group with government authority. Your way is slow, and requires us to leave people in danger while you work. (And they ARE in danger. Children are being bullied and persecuted by peers, teachers and administrators; adults have their livelihoods placed in jeopardy.) Our way is faster, and once your work is farther along, then perhaps we can try reintegrating religions into the public square. When you say that we should wait, you are saying that the people who are hurt in the mean time are acceptable losses to you.

            I have listened to you. I have also seen what the effects of ideas like yours have in the real world, which is that people are harmed much more than if faster action is taken. YOU are not listening to US, and then you are playing martyr when we criticize you.

          • John W. Morehead

            I think this will have to be my final comment in our exchange. You say you cannot trust me, even while I advocate a religious diplomacy approach that seeks to build trust and have pointed to my efforts which has gained the trust of at least some Pagans. I continue to work toward the best for religious minorities, and have stated that the abuse of Christian privilege is not acceptable.

            I am listening, and have been for some time, as Pagans like Jason Pitzl-Waters, Gus diZerega, Mike Stygal, David Dashifen Kees, Peg Aloi, Heather Greene, and others can attest. I do not consider myself a martyr, but do ask for fair and informed criticism. But with all do respect, you have not heard me, and you are judging me unfairly because of your unfortunate biases where all Evangelicals are viewed with suspicion and contempt, even those of us with a track record of a different way.

            Thank you for the exchange. You may comment and have the last word.

          • MadGastronomer

            You say you are listening, but you refuse to acknowledge what my criticisms are, much less address them. You say that we must not exclude religion from the public square, but should wait while you slowly change the minds of other evangelicals. I say that that actively harms people, not only pagans, and not even only other religious minorities, but many groups of people, including LGBT people, women and girls, and more. I cannot trust you because you advocate letting people be harmed. You have not answered that criticism, have not shown why you think it is unfair and biased. It has nothing to do with you being evangelical yourself, but to do with the effects of your strategy. I cannot ally or even coordinated with you, because your goals and actions are opposed to mine.

            People are more important than any ideology. They must be. Any ideology that claims to value people but puts itself before people is inherently hypocritical.

            You say that you seek to build trust, but you give no reason to trust you, and distinct reasons not to, as I’ve outlined. You want me simply to trust you on your say-so, in spite of your stated intent. You are not building trust, you are just demanding it. To build trust, you must demonstrate that you are worthy of it.

            It has been the same with everything you have said. You provide no evidence that what you have said will protect the people I wish to protect in the short term, although it might, if you are successful, in the long term. I can provide evidence that your strategy is harmful to people in the short term. You make assertions left and right, but back them up with nothing at all, and have no answers for my criticisms, but cry instead that you are wounded at them, and then take your ball and go home when I continue to state the criticisms you have no answer to.

            Declaring yourself an ally, or “trusted rival,” or any other term that you like, does not make you one. You must actually act as one.

            My tone has been very polite. What you do not like is my ideas, and that I do not immediately accept everything you say at face value.

          • Alyxander M Folmer

            Actually, John has been doing a LOT.

            http://new-wineskins.org/blog/podcast/2013/03/conversation-with-jason-pitzl-waters-mike-stygal-and-john-w-morehead/

            http://wildhunt.org/tag/john-morehead

            Don’t get me wrong, I am an AVID secularist, but John really is trying to make a difference among his own folk. He’s given a lot to try and promote respect and acceptance for our community. I’m not saying you need to agree with his views on secularism, but he has gone far beyond what I would expect from any Christian to try and help our community.

            He’s a good man.

          • MadGastronomer

            OK, he did all that. He is STILL advocating something damaging. I am criticizing THIS STRATEGY because it is damaging, and I am criticizing his behavior right here and right now. Anything else he does doesn’t actually negate THIS damage. I cannot trust him because he is doing and saying THIS.

            Barney Frank may be a gay man, and he did some things in office to advance gay and lesbian rights, but he’s also transphobic and actively worked against trans rights. I can’t trust him, either, he should still be criticized for his transphobia.

          • Alyxander M Folmer

            Like I said, you don’t need to take his side. I disagree with his stance on secularism as well. All I was saying is that he really is a good guy, and he’s doing the best he can with what he’s got. I’d rather have him helping us by working for slow social change within Christianity, than doing nothing, that’s all.

          • MadGastronomer

            No, sorry, he’s NOT a good guy. He’s just a guy. He’s doing some good things and some bad things. I am always going to criticize actions like these, because they HURT PEOPLE. It does not do us any good at all to ignore the harmful actions of people we like.

            He has power and privilege by virtue of being a Christian. Yes, he should use that to help those who don’t have that power and privilege. But if he actually wants to help us, then he needs to listen to us, which he is obviously not doing. He doesn’t deserve cookies for just acting like a decent human being and considering others, and, again, he’s not immune to criticism.

            And if he stops doing the work he’s already doing because people of other religions aren’t sufficiently grateful to him, or because we criticize him, then he wasn’t actually on our side to begin with.

            You keep giving me permission — gee, thanks — to disagree with him, but telling me to take it easy on him because wow, he’s so awesome otherwise! Well, I don’t think he’s as awesome as you do, but more importantly, this isn’t just a matter of disagreeing with him on some abstract principle. He’s telling us we should not act to protect people, because his idea is more important. And that is bad and wrong, and I am not going to stop saying so just because you like the man.

          • MadGastronomer

            And really, I’m much more impressed with Fred Clark as an agent for change within evangelical Christianity. I don’t agree with everything he says, but every single time I’ve seen someone with less privilege say, “Fred, that’s harmful,” he’s listened to what they had to say. After his example, I’m just not chuffed about this guy.

            And not only does he want to get religion out of public schools, but his position on witnessing and evangelizing is less shitty, too.

          • Franklin_Evans

            The comparison to Fred Clark is illuminating. I understand your position better now. While I would engage you further on some things, it is not necessary here.

            My mutual disruption point, just to clarify, expresses my fear that precipitous actions — those being the most likely choices for accomplishing quick change — could serve to weaken both of our positions in the short- and long-term. That’s argument by prediction, of course, and I can offer no direct proof and only indirect evidence from other sources.

            Be well.

          • MadGastronomer

            “Precipitous action”? There’s a long history of strategy of how to handle unconstitutional imposition or establishment of religion. It’s not precipitous, but it is immediate action, as opposed to Morehead’s idea that religious minorities should wait for Christians to change their minds and decide to magnanimously grant us equality within his idea of the public square — whatever that may be, since he never answered the question. I have no doubt that the ACLU and Citizens United will win this fight, and strides will be made towards secularizing the Sabine Parish schools. It is work that can be done NOW, rather than waiting for Morehead to change enough minds, which is simply not going to happen. That has never been the way it works, gaining minorities and marginalized people equality. We cannot wait for those with power and privilege to decide that we are worthy of being treated with respect.

            If Morehead is serious about his position, he’ll keep his work up regardless of our work to secularize public life.

          • Franklin_Evans

            There’s violence behind your words here. If that’s a mistaken impression by me, I’ll offer my apology.

            How many conservative minds were changed overnight by Weathermen bombings, defacement and destruction of public property, in your face demonstrations of nudity? How many times must we go down this precipitous path before we learn that lesson?

            Do you know why marijuana is illegal? The evidence is clear: Hemp is the ultimate egalitarian product, and the early moguls wanting to exploit cotton, coal and lumber were the culprits, not some morality police wanting to protect their young from mind-altering drugs.

            There are two ways to change such a thing: Kick the old bums out (with plenty of blood a bonus) and replace them with our heroes, or follow the slow and gradual path.

            Do, please, further clarify for me. At this point, the only clear message I can find is that you must lead the vanguard, that violence is a ready tool, and the only justice for our oppressors is to take their thrones and oppress them in turn.

            That might work for your lifetime and my children’s lifetimes, but once the cycle swings back it will prove you wrong. Power obtained via violence can only be maintained with further violence. Power doesn’t just corrupt, it attracts the corruptible.

          • MadGastronomer

            Violence? What on earth do you think I am going to do? Throw bombs? I’m talking about legal action.

            Seriously, I was harassed by students and administrators alike in high school, because I was queer and out, and they were Christians. I got death threats. I am ANGRY, but anger does not equal violence. I get to be angry about people being hurt. It’s normal and healthy to be angry about that. You are reading ridiculous things into my words.

            Lead the vanguard? Nonsense. I’ve done a little canvassing for the ACLU, I talk about the issues online, but most of my activism is directed into other things, and I only have so much energy. I am passionate about it, yes, because it’s a big deal, but again, I think that’s warranted.

            Violence is being perpetrated by Christians against others. I want to fight it with the law. If you are afraid of my anger and my passion, that is your problem, not mine. I have advocated no violence, merely not waiting for Christians to decide we deserve equality. But this is a legal question, and must be settled legally.

            Anger and passion are not violence. What on earth makes you think it is? Where have I suggested any violence? Why do you think that “immediate action” equals violence?

          • Franklin_Evans

            Well, you have my apology, but I must also ask: How in any sane world could you assume that I wanted you to not pursue legal actions? I assumed we were in agreement at least on that much, though I cannot see in any of your posts where you specified it.

          • MadGastronomer

            I was arguing with Morehead, who was explicitly telling us NOT to try to remove religion from the public square, which in this context can only mean school. You popped up to defend him. I said that what he was advocating was wrong and damaging and just perpetuated the harm being done, and you continued to defend him.

            I did not think that you disagreed with taking legal action, nor with the need for a secular government and school system. But you were defending someone who DID disagree with at least part of that, and I was asserting that no, really, I get to think he’s not a “good guy” because he holds a position that hurts people. You seemed to want me to trust him and respect him, when he has given me no reason to do so, but right here has given me plenty of reason not to do so. You want me to cut him slack, or something, and I will not do so because he is advocating something that harms people, and also comes into our space and treats us badly. That’s what I thought we were disagreeing about.

          • Franklin_Evans

            I don’t see my posts here as defending Morehead. We’ll just have to agree to disagree on that part. I have a basic attitude about controversy and any difficult topic. Bring it on, bring it here, bring it full on and with nothing held back. It will serve constructive purposes no matter what tone it takes. If we can be convinced of sincerity — yes, I see him that way; no, I don’t want your distrust silenced or changed unearned — we will find ways to combine our energies. If we can get the honest expression of their view of us, even in its most verbally violent forms, it gives us the clearest possible view of our enemies and the evidence many who distrust us might need to relent and at least stop being our enemies as well.

            The personal part of that is a reaction. I grew up being told to shut up, sometimes followed by physical blows. I have a visceral zero tolerance for bullies of any stripe, and I will never stay silent in their presence. I will particularly not stay silent when a friend acts like a bully, though I’ve yet to have cause to stop loving such a friend. You have not acted like a bully here, others have, and I can see that my reaction to them may have colored my words to you.

          • MadGastronomer

            “John really is trying to make a difference among his own folk. He’s given a lot to try and promote respect and acceptance for our community. I’m not saying you need to agree with his views on secularism, but he has gone far beyond what I would expect from any Christian to try and help our community.
            He’s a good man.”

            “All I was saying is that he really is a good guy, and he’s doing the best he can with what he’s got. I’d rather have him helping us by working for slow social change within Christianity, than doing nothing, that’s all.”

            Not defending him? Then what on earth were you saying? What did you want me to do? Truly, help me understand here.

            As for knowing your enemy, I grew up in conservative Christian territory. I keep up on the rhetoric and the actions. I hear exactly what they say. Some of the issues I concentrate on are LGB and Trans right, and reproductive rights. I also read Fred Clark and other Christians (and some atheists and other people) who join in the fight against those who harm us. I do not need Christians in Pagan space, being rude and condescending, to teach me anything. Nor, I think, does anyone who engages in activism that pits us against Christian groups. Pagan spaces should be places where we can talk among ourselves. There are interfaith spaces to talk with Christians, and those of us who want to can do it there. This should be for us. Why is that so much to ask? Why is it so offensive to ask that someone who claims to respect us to respect boundaries like that? His personal point of view is already given space here, even. Coming here and acting like this is not respectful of us.

          • Franklin_Evans

            Gently offered: You really need to slow down. All of that was posted by Xander, not by me.

            If I’ve offered the implication of coercion, I apologize. If I’ve given you cause with my own words to distrust me, I regret it deeply. I want you to be your passion, and find ways to avoid its obscuring facts from your vision. I’m certain that I would be in your shoes right now, if not for a short list of differing circumstances, saying much the same things with much the same intensity.

            Seriously, think of me and Xander as trailblazers. We accept the risks you would not, gladly and for myself consciously on your behalf. All I ask is that you acknowledge any good we accomplish and honor it with your support.

          • MadGastronomer

            My turn to apologize. I’m sorry, I had you confused with him.

            But I cannot consider allying with someone who wants to keep religion in schools to be good work, nor work on my behalf. Someone who is actively working to harm your and your group is not an ally, but an enemy. And if that’s not the good you’re talking about, then please do tell me what is.

            Interfaith work is valuable in its way, but its effect is very limited, and it should not be placed above protecting people from harm.

            Also, some of that sounded rather condescending, too. You may not have meant it that way, but it did sound that way. Your perspective is just as likely to obscure facts from you, and has done so

          • Franklin_Evans

            Yeah. For all the years I’ve been active in cyberspace, no matter how consciously hard I work to change my tone — absent emoticons after every sentence — people will see my posts as condescending. I truly regret it, and I’m rather embarrassed that I can’t seem to correct it very well. On my own behalf, not offered as an excuse, I tend to write much like I speak, and what you lack here are all the nonverbal cues which might show that I’m not being condescending (or to confirm that I am, on those occasions where I mean to be).

            I fully endorse and support your charge to John about Christian hegemony in schools and the obstacle that represents. See also my reply to him on that sub-thread.

          • MadGastronomer

            Ohhhh, yeah. I just saw this. He spends an hour chatting with JPW, does a little reading, and suddenly he thinks it’s his place to scold us for “Pagan fundamentalism”. And, of course, for not trusting him based purely on his claim of good intentions.

            Nope, I’ll stick to Fred as my go-to Good Guy Christian. He’s earned my trust, by consistently actually acting like a good guy.

          • Hecate_Demetersdatter

            How big of you. Please go away.

          • Franklin_Evans

            “There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that cannot be examined under the harsh light of day. Denying that can only end up killing you at some point.”

            — My late mother, Holocaust survivor.

            Sending them away simply encourages them to continue their deeds in hiding. Your attitude can only diminish me.

          • MadGastronomer

            Yes, wanting them to get out of OUR spaces and stop bothering us is the same as wanting them to hide. Of course. What shit.

          • Franklin_Evans

            I’ve been treated the same way in THEIR spaces, leaving them just as ignorant of me as they were before I entered.

          • MadGastronomer

            Any minority group needs places where they can discuss issues that affect them without privileged people trying to take over the conversation. Christians have far more places to talk about Christian issues than Pagans do. Why should they come here and take up our space and take over our conversations and condescend to us on our home ground? Why should we not resent that, and wish to defend our spaces from that intrusion? Most of us have far more exposure to Christianity than we want, and, as you’ve pointed out, JPW is more than happy to post many things about Morehead. His point of view is represented here. We have the opportunity to learn about his work if we wish to. Instead, he is being condescending and paternalistic and really quite rude, and frankly that’s damaging his case with a lot of us, and doing him no good at all. His intrusion and behavior make him look bad, not good.

          • Franklin_Evans

            Granted without hesitation. I’ll just offer the opinion that if Morehead fails to learn from his experience here, can’t find ways to at least mitigate his tone and the impression he gives, then he’ll have shown me that he’s not as attractive a “trusted rival” as I first thought.

            I’ve never bought into territorial attitudes in any incarnation of cyberspace. Please forgive me for being unable to sympathize with your wanting to “defend this space.”

          • MadGastronomer

            Explain to me, then, why Pagans should not have space to discuss with each other things that affect us, without others coming and trying to tell us how we SHOULD act, based on their Christian principles? Do you also think that all queer spaces should allow straight people to come in and dominate the conversation and tell us how we should work for our rights? Or that feminist spaces should allow men to come in and tell us how best to work for liberation? Because that is what happens when we do not defend our spaces. Those who have privilege and power over us invade and dominate, because their privilege tells them that their opinion is worth more than ours, and that we ought to listen to them and do what they say just because they say it. See how Morehead and discussion of him has utterly taken over the comments on this post. That’s what happens. We are not discussing solutions to the problem of Christianity being established in school, we are not even much discussing our own experiences with it. Instead, we are talking about a particular Christian who intruded. This is what happens when the privileged come into spaces that belong to the disprivileged: they dominate the conversation, and nothing else gets talked about. This is why disprivileged groups need spaces where their voices are the most important, where they can discuss things amongst themselves without interference. It is not “territorial,” and it is not something arbitrary. It is simply an attempt to maintain an atmosphere that can be productive. No one is trying to keep Morehead from speaking, just from doing so HERE, where he is actively disruptive. (If he could manage to engage here without being disruptive, I wouldn’t care, but clearly he can’t, as most privileged people can’t. This is why communities of oppressed people say that outside allies should sit down, stay quiet, and listen in their community spaces.)

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Gastronomer, I quite agree that the issue of the Sabine school district has been diverted into a discussion of John Morehead, but I observe that you and others who object to his very presence on TWH have contributed mightily to that diversion. I have ready every comment of yours and I cannot find a clear definition of how he is so offensive. I don’t mean disagreeing with us, I mean being offensive. What emerges is that he pokes some of your hot buttons, which he does not do for me because you and I have different backgrounds. With all empathy I must say that that is your problem, not Morehead’s. I’ve no objection in principle to a Pagans-only corner of cyberspace, but TWH isn’t it. TWH is owned by Jason, and if he wanted to exclude Morehead he has far more effective tools at his disposal than mere advocacy.

          • MadGastronomer

            He’s condescending, paternalistic, scolds us for not respecting and trusting him when he’s done nothing to earn either, complains when we criticize him but will not address our criticisms, and most importantly, he’s telling us that we should not fight establishment battles, but should sit back and wait for him and his allies to change Christianity from within, which leaves vulnerable people unprotected. You may be ok with that behavior, but I’ve seen it again and again from privileged people telling me to wait for them to be ready to grant us our rights, and I’m sick of it.

            JPW can let anyone he wants comment here, but I still get to object if I want to. Many people objected to Teo Bishop continuing to write here once he reconverted to Christianity precisely because Christians in Pagan spaces are derailing and taking up space that could be given to Pagans, and he and JPW decided he should not write here anymore. How is voicing our objections in this case different? No one is asking JPW to ban the guy. Some of us are asking Morehead to leave and not disrupt pagan space, which he will if he actually respects us.

          • NeoWayland

            I’ve found that a distinct space can rapidly become an echo chamber.

            Which is part of the reason monotheistic faiths are a problem to begin with.

          • MadGastronomer

            To get an echo chamber, we’d all have to agree to begin with, which Pagans don’t, and not ever learn anything new or be exposed to new viewpoints or change our minds, which is not likely.

            Also, while spaces where people only reinforce each other’s ideas to the exclusion of all else do occur, when the term is directed against disprivileged groups, what is almost always meant is that they won’t bow down to oppressive groups’ opinions. It’s a very loaded term, as well as not applying at all.

            Asking that Christians not come in and derail and disrupt is not the same thing as excluding anyone with a different opinion.

          • NeoWayland

            Perhaps I’ve less trust in the virtue of Pagans because they are Pagans, and more trust in Christians because they are just people.

            I’m not saying it’s not difficult and it is certainly risky. There are always going to be differences. But as you point out, there are differences between Pagans too

          • MadGastronomer

            I don’t have any particular trust in Pagans because they are Pagans, I just want us to have a place to discuss issues that affect us among ourselves, without Christians — or any other group, but Christians are most disruptive because they are so privileged — jumping in and derailing the conversation. We are, yes, enough like a herd of cats on our own. Why let people who are even more disruptive but NOT part of our group make things even worse? Why is letting people like Morehead disrupt everything and add nothing useful, not even an actual Pagan perspective, is a good thing? How is that useful to us at all? Why give another platform to people who already have many platforms?

          • NeoWayland

            Ahh, that may be where we differ.

            I’d much rather go out around a campfire. Failing that, maybe an all night coffee shop. I’m not sure you can have the cyber equivalent of a temple outer court. I think people make their own space to speak and trust.

            I’ve had some really good online experiences at the old Excite clubs. But when that was over, the key people went somewhere else. It wasn’t about the space, it was about the people.

            Face-to-face beats online says this semi-hermit.

          • MadGastronomer

            Well, that’s terrific for you. I’m glad that you know where to find discussions you want to have. But online spaces let us talk to people we wouldn’t otherwise be able to, coordinate across the country or the world. It’s not just about being social (although that’s important, and many people find wonderful friendships and spaces online), it’s also about solving problems and sharing information. And many people don’t have pagans around who they can talk to in person.

          • NeoWayland

            Please don’t take this the wrong way, but “been there, done that, made the T-shirt and carry-all bag.”

            I know how special online groups can feel because I’ve been there. At the same time, there’s a lot of conditionals in cyberspace. I mentioned the old Excite groups. Excite shut them down and eventually went out of business. Some of us moved to MSN, but M$ started changing the rules. Online, your “space” is always subject to interference unless you own the domain and pay for the hosting yourself.

            That doesn’t even touch the politics or if the profiles you see online have anything to do with the people.

            I don’t agree with Moorehead, and yes, I think he stepped over the line. Do I think he should be shunned or banished to the outer circle? No. Let him stay. Let him watch. Let him learn.

          • MadGastronomer

            So have I. I’ve been online for twenty years now. And online discussions have real value for huge numbers of people, whether or not you personally value them. They’re ephemeral? So are offline groups. All kinds of things can break them up — including losing the places where they normally meet.

            And my point is that Morehead is NOT watching and is NOT learning. He’s disrupting and derailing. It’s rude. The polite and respectful thing for him to do is to stop talking and listen or to leave. If he can manage the first, then I’ll stop asking him to do the second.

          • NeoWayland

            Well, we’re going to disagree with these two issues. So if you’ll excuse me, I think I will go drink my tea and think about breakfast.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Clearly subjective issues are at work here. I don’t find Morehead condescending, paternalistic or scolding. He does support a different approach, and my disagreement with him is not only on record up-thread but comes with an argument to the effect that defending the secular public square is a superior way of securing the changes we both seek. I am firmly on your side in that policy matter. Thank you for clarifying that you don’t want Morehead banned but are merely asking him to leave. I doubt I would leave if asked in the same way, but his mileage may vary. Some of us are asking Morehead to leave and not disrupt pagan space, which he will if he actually respects us.As becomes apparent reading the thread, two different notions of respect are at work here. You think his absence would show respect; he thinks his presence shows respect. We must agree to disagree about disrupting Pagan space. I see such disruption as has occurred as rooted in the reaction to Morehead rather than his direct doing. If he were a transparent troll I would be of a different mind, but he isn’t, and blaming him for others’ reactions to him — well, we Pagans get enough of that from Christians, and I’m not motivated to reciprocate.

          • Alyxander M Folmer

            Cyberspace is not a limited resource. Conversation about Pagan issues can still take place over/around this specific debate.
            This whole topic reminds me of “The Pagan Bubble”
            (http://wildhunt.org/2013/03/the-pagan-bubble.html)

            It’s important for us to have a place to discuss our own concerns/issues, but it’s also important for us to be able to communicate with the outside world.

            That seems to be at least part of the motivation behind TWH, and simply telling the outside world to “Go Away” isn’t going to progress the conversation.

          • MadGastronomer

            That might possible be a valid point if this guy had actually had anything productive to say, or had actually treated us with respect — which does mean treating us as we wish to be treated, not as he thinks we ought to want to be treated — but instead he has completely dominated and derailed this discussion. This isn’t “communicat[ing] with the outside world,” it’s a privileged person shutting down our communication within our communities, which is exactly why we need spaces to talk about issues.

          • Franklin_Evans

            I’m sorry, but I just don’t see what you are seeing here. Point to his words and posts that shut down this thread, let alone TWH. Provide your rational support for his dominating and derailing this discussion. I agree with Baruch, and I take serious exception to the notion that anyone Pagan or not must abide by some arbitrary set of rules about what to say and how to say it.

            Everyone has ample chance to respond, argue and post here, and I don’t wish to let this hyperbole continue to pass uncriticized.

            I strongly recommend… strike that, I demand that everyone (re)read Jason’s Comment Policy under the link of that label at the top of every TWH page, particularly before Jason decides he must say that. It ends with (paraphrasing) that his is Jason’s hall, and we all have an obligation to respect his hospitality.

          • MadGastronomer

            The entire thread has become about him. That’s what happens. This is exactly what derailing is. It happens on feminist blogs when men come in and tell women how to do feminism, on queer blogs when straight people come in and tell queer people how to gain rights for LGBT people. It becomes all about them precisely because their privilege represents a threat to the community, and so people feel they must respond to that threat. It’s a well-known dynamic. I know it’s other people who’ve been using phrases like “Pagan bubble” and “echo chamber,” but perhaps you should get some more experience in activist or disprivileged communities, in order to see the pattern I’m talking about.

            As for the commenting policy, as far as I am concerned, what I am doing and have been doing is criticizing Morehead’s actual behavior and goals. No personal attacks. I think I’ve been perfectly civil. If Jason disagrees, he can tell me so, and I’ll back off.

          • Franklin_Evans

            In keeping with my lack of sympathy: Yes, disruptions and derailments happen. They are never (in my experience) one-sided. There is always an alternative to such threats, and that’s ignoring them. No, I am not denigrating anyone’s reactions. I’m just making my personal position clear.

            My demand was to all those participating on this thread. You give a fair answer to it.

          • TadhgMor

            In regards to your last paragraph…while I understand your point, I would also respond that the host has certain responsibilities as well.

            I am not implying anything concerning Jason or his policies here, I simply mean that it is not a one way street and your comment seems to hint that sacred hospitality solely rests on us. Further, you could make the case the balance was already broken, and not by us.

          • Franklin_Evans

            You make a fair criticism. I would respond that Jason retains sole privilege on any subjective view of whether the balance is broken. Further, without naming names, I observe some posts that threw gasoline on the entire thread (my subjective view, of course) and verbally set it alight.

            That view of mine explicitly points to a one-sided bulldozing of Jason’s definition of civility here.

          • https://www.facebook.com/ThePaganNaturalist Nicole Youngman

            Explain this “trusted rival” concept, please. If people of different religions are somehow “rivals” who are in some sort of competition–particularly when one of those religions has most of the cultural and political power in this country–that seems to me to preclude the possibility of mutual respect, understanding, and peaceful co-existence.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Nicole, you did not address this to me but I feel impelled to respond anyway. I accept John as a trusted rival out of emotional consistency. I am always irked when, for example, Greek Orthodox clergy refuse to participate in urban interfaith councils if Pagans are present. I am proud of Unitarian Universalist clergy who stand up to this bullying. Consistently I must at least respect Christians who go beyond mere willingness to accept Pagan presence at the table and actively seek our participation. And John, though we have disagreed now and in the past, has never given me reason to withhold my trust.

          • John W. Morehead

            A great question, Nicole. This is a concept developed by the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy (www.religious-diplomacy.org). I serve on its board and am the Custodian of the Evangelical Chapter. We have chapters in other traditions, and one is planned for Pagans.

            The concept of trusted rival was developed by our founder and president, Charles Randall Paul. From the piece at The Interfaith Observer:

            Such is the backstory of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy (FRD), a non-profit group of social entrepreneurs seeking pattern-breaking social change that will improve our lives by recognizing many value conflicts are unresolvable by any means. In
            particular, FRD aims to change the common manner of thinking and treating our inevitable religious critics and rivals. We emphasize how invigorating it is to have and to be a trustworthy opponent. We are promoting a new telos or purpose that is not tranquil world peace. It is a telos of honorable engagement between trustworthy rivals
            that expect conflicts over ultimate purpose, truth and value always to remain in play, and thus aim optimally for continual peaceful contests.

            FRD’s “Way of Openness” for trust-building conversations between those with opposing or rival worldviews is a refinement of sound social
            psychological research in group dynamics and marriage therapy. The key FRD concept that conflict is explicitly included in lively peaceful relationships derives from my study of religions, social psychology, conflict theory and, most importantly, from personal experiences in
            business and my forty-two year marriage. The invigorating experience of honestly sharing feelings and thoughts in a safe environment has demonstrated to me how humans can develop mutual trust with those who
            are different through authentic two-way openness. It includes the openness of disclosure (speaking from the heart/mind) and openness to influence (hearing with the heart/mind).

          • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

            How can genuine trust ever be built with the Evangelicals who we know want to convert us? I could have a trust-building relationship with a non-Evangelical Christian, but if I know someone’s bottom line is to make me convert, then I will never trust their actions nor their words. Sorry, that’s just how it works.

          • John W. Morehead

            That is a good question, and a sticking point for Evangelicals and Pagans. I’ve responded to this previously in an interview in the ACTION newsletter of the Alternative Religions Educational Network. Here’s an excerpt in response to the question:

            Christopher: Pagans might wonder how does this become something more than just another attempt to be evangelized?

            John: Hopefully my thoughts a moment ago painted a broader picture for dialogue than merely as another form of evangelism. Beyond this, dialogue can include evangelism, but must not be reduced to only this orany other single element, in my view. But the question of the relation
            between dialogue and evangelism is an important one that must be discussed. In recent years the Christian community has been more aware of problems in this area where concerns of colonialism, identity theft, and coercion have been leveled against Christian missionaries. Some organizations, such as the World Council of Churches, have set forth statements which warn against these unethical forms of proselytism, yet also leave the door open for ethical forms of sharing of faith concerns.

            Thisis one of the major concerns expressed by Pagans, and it needs to be on our agenda as Christians and Pagans move forward in dialogue. It is a sticking point for Pagans and Christians, arising for both groups out of
            the values of religious identity and freedom, but very different conclusions are reached. For Pagans, they don’t want to be evangelized, as previously mentioned, they just want to be left along to practice their Pagan pathway. For Christians, they feel an obligation to share the story of Jesus as persuasively as possible. How do our religious
            communities move beyond this impasse? It is true, that dialogue can include evangelism, however, Christians must recognize that evangelism can only proceed as part of dialogue if the dialogue partner expresses an interest in such matters. If not, then evangelism should not be
            practiced. Christians must be sensitive to the concerns of some, including Pagans, that evangelism is seen as a form of coercion and identity theft by those in other religious traditions. I believe it is possible to be fair to everyone’s convictions and religious traditions so that Christians and Pagans can come to the dialogue table together, allowing Christians to retain evangelism as an essential part of their religion, and yet for the Christian to concede that this is largely unwelcomed by Pagans, and therefore it should not be part of the dialogue agenda.

            The whole interview can be read here: http://aren.org/newsletter/2012-litha/index.html

            I would add that not every Pagan feels the way you do. David Dashifen Kees has stated that he has no problem with Christians who feel like they need to share their message persuasively. Another thought is that we need authenticity in our exchanges. Christians feel a responsibility to be obedient to Jesus’ call to make disciples, and it is unfair to ask them to give up that part of their religious identity in interreligious engagement. On the other side, we should not engage in this with others when it is not welcomed.

            I hope my perspective helps.

          • Alyxander M Folmer
          • Northern_Light_27

            John, I’ve seen your interest to dialogue with Pagans. I am curious to know what your group’s response/reaction would be to a Theistic Satanist. As open as you are to Pagans, or something different?

          • John W. Morehead

            I have relationships and conversations with Satanists, as well as vampires, Pagans of various stripes, Mormons, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists, and others. Paganism and Satanism usually pushes Evangelical buttons, but not for this Evangelical.

          • Northern_Light_27

            Vampires? The Sesame Street song comes to mind, one of these things is not like the other ones. Aside from including a fantasy hobby on a list with actual religions, I’m glad to see your reply. As I’ve recently read one Evangelical’s desire to see people like me taken out and shot, I’m not exactly long on trust at the moment.

          • John W. Morehead

            On vampires, it is more than a fantasy hobby. You might find the research of Joseph Laycock in his book “Vampires Today” he points out that this is best understood for many as an identity. From my past interview with him:

            Joseph Laycock: The terms “real vampire” and “vampire
            community” are commonly used by within vampire culture. When someone
            says that they are a “real vampire,” they do not mean that they are
            actually undead or immortal. Rather, this term is used in
            contradistinction to “lifestyle vampires.” Lifestyle vampires or
            “lifestylers” are usually dedicated fans of vampire fiction and enjoy
            dressing as the undead. Real vampires believe that they are somehow
            biologically or metaphysically distinct from other people. The key
            difference is that lifestylers choose their identity while real vampires
            see their identity as a vampire as essential and unchangeable.

          • Northern_Light_27

            Okay, so they’re a subculture, like “otherkin” and “otatukin”. Still not a religion, still not appropriate to put them in that list.

          • John W. Morehead

            I didn’t see a restriction on the response to religions. Identity groups and hyper real religions seem appropriate to me. We can disagree.

          • Obsidia

            Mr. Moorehead, I think your attitude is what is raising the hackles on our backs here. Who are you to decide what is an “excellent question”? Just f=ing answer the question! When you say “that is an excellent question” and when you quote scripture, you are acting paternalistic. People don’t like that. People here…Pagan people…like it when people are straightforward and simply interact instead of complicating matters with judgement and so-called “sacred scripture.”

          • John W. Morehead

            I retain the right to have an opinion about what may be a good question that can be addressed so as to share my opinion on a topic and so as to hopefully improve Evangelical-Pagan relations. As to quoting Scripture, I did so in response to a Pagan who quoted the Bible and who made a claim about Evangelicals and Jesus in the context of interreligious relationships. To explain my view as an Evangelical, and to provide a response to a biblical citation, I offered my own citations. In my view that’s not paternalistic or judgmental. It’s a straightforward answer to the question from an Evangelical perspective. We will have to disagree on why hackles have been raised here. In my opinion it has more to do with the anger and hurt many Pagans have in regards to Christianity and Christians, particularly following on the heels of a story about the abuse of Christian privilege and power in a school toward a religious minority.

          • TadhgMor

            So we’re just a bunch of angry kids to you? You think you know the causes better than we do?

            F*** off.

            I notice you don’t deign to respond to any criticism from those of us who might be considered “emotional”. If you want to maintain any credibility outside the “interfaith” world, you might want to try.

          • Alyxander M Folmer

            Actually, I kind of have to side with John here. His initial comments would have been perfectly acceptable debate fodder if they had been spoken by another Pagan instead of an Evangelical.
            Even in his posts where he is entirely positive/affirming (like agreeing with a point a pagan commenter made) he’s been getting down votes.
            We Pagans are hardly free from faults, and just as capable of making snap judgements about a person based on their religion as any Christian.
            I think most of this reaction has to do with reading an article about Big Bad Christians kicking puppies, and then a Christian wandered onto the comments section. He probably could have said something completely innocuous like “I’m a Christian, but I think TWH is awesome! :) ” and still gotten jumped on.

          • Northern_Light_27

            I disagree, and I think you either don’t know or aren’t taking into account John’s history on this site. The first time he “wandered into” the comments section he was greeted positively, with each successive trip garnering more and more downvotes as people came to distrust him. (And characterizing the kind of religious abuse (and racism) depicted in this article as “Big Bad Christians kicking puppies” seems trivializing to me, particularly in light of the fact that so many commenters here have been on the receiving end of similar.)

            Morehead has a habit of treating us like children: Headpats (“great question!”) when we show behavior he likes, flouncing and blogposts about “boundary maintenance” (or simply refusing to respond) when we show behavior he doesn’t like. He’s been told in thorough and very patient detail time and again what he’s doing wrong, and either doesn’t get it or doesn’t care. I often disagree with TadhgMor but this time I think they’re bang on the money with the comparison to mansplaining– it’s *exactly* like the male commenter who shows up on a feminist blog post on a news story about serious abuse and then proceeds to derail it to being all about him and how he’s “not like that” and how the feminists are being mean to him. (People here are being, in comparison, *exceedingly* patient with Mr. Morehead.) Of course Pagans aren’t free from flaws, but that’s completely off the topic of institutionalized religious prejudice.

          • MadGastronomer

            Yes, exactly. People are upset because he is BEHAVING BADLY and derailing, and we shouldn’t have to take that from a Christian in Pagan space.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            As you yourself note elsewhere in this thread, the derailing arises from our reactions to what he says. To nail him for that derailing is to conceal from ourselves our own part in it. If we want him to go away, just don’t talk to him. Parallels with female and BGLT space are imho a red herring. I get the part about privilege, but (b) this is not a closed space and would be far less interesting if it were, and (a) I experience his lofty tones more as professorial than Christian.

          • MadGastronomer

            It doesn’t work, anymore than ignoring bullies or intentional trolls does. First, because the thing he says genuinely need to be countered because they’re damaging and insulting, second because we can’t keep everyone from participating, and third because, like that bully, what he wants is attention, and if he doesn’t get a clue from people telling him his behavior is bad, he’s not going to get one from being ignored, either. He knows that his presence here has undesirable effects, but it’s more important to him to come back here anyway.

            The feminist and LGBT spaces aren’t “closed,” either, or else the privileged people couldn’t come in to derail, and they’re places that often have a number of men or straight cis people who don’t derail and thus are made welcome. And huge numbers of the privileged derailers who enter those spaces take very similar “professorial” tones, and then use that very fact as a further derail, chiding the people who get upset for being too passionate and angry and not being as “logical” and “sensible” as they themselves are. It’s not a red herring, it’s an obvious parallel. The same thing is happening. Go check out some threads on Feministing or something. It happens the same way. Watch how it actually works.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            As long as you insist on replying to him, you share the onus of the derailing.

          • MadGastronomer

            You go right on telling yourself that. That’s not how it works. He knows that he disrupts conversation in here, he comes in and says things he knows will upset people, things that are harmful and should be answered to counter that harm. He does it anyway. That’s on him.

            But hey, you admitted that he was derailing.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            No, I don’t admit that he was derailing. I admit that you were derailing by your reaction to him.You seem to have forgotten that Jason drew John in by invoking the latter’s “naked secular public square” meme. That’s all but an invitation from the moderator.

          • Northern_Light_27

            “Female” space?

            MadGastronomer is correct, the parallel works
            specifically *because* feminist spaces aren’t closed. They’re focused on a specific topic (as WH is focused on discussion of Paganism) but open to all who will be at least vaguely civil, and ‘splainers are always civil– beyond willfully obtuse, but civil. It also works because “let me tell you hysterical children why you’re REALLY reacting to me” is *textbook* privileged-splaining in its purest form. Of course it’s professorial, you can’t explain something to the ignorant, hysterical masses without being so– and the more frustrated it makes people, the more justified the ‘splainer feels in their superiority. It’s an elegant form of trollery, when you think about it. (Not that I think many of
            its users *realize* they’re trolling, because that requires
            self-awareness that the superior affectation is just a put-on and I think most of the people who do this, Mr. Morehead included, are completely earnest in it.)

            I’ll defend both “get the f out” and “why aren’t you responding”. He shouldn’t have engaged 1) in this post
            2) the way he did. (“We’re not all like that” comments are an internet hand grenade in the first place, especially used on people 1) hurt by people like you, 2) talking about it their space.) But since he did choose to engage, he should stay and deal with the criticism and not
            just respond to the ones he thinks are on his side. This isn’t his first rodeo, and he definitely *didn’t* get comments like that in the very beginning. He gets them now because he plain refuses to learn– “f off”=”we’ve tried and tried with you and we just don’t think you’re able
            or willing to hear us, so go away”. I’ll even make a bet with you, Baruch. Five dollars says that if people stopped responding to him, he’d only get more provocative until someone snapped and broke the DNE cordon.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I’ll defend both “get the f out” and “why aren’t you responding”.Then you are defending the right to erect unilaterally a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. That sounds like privilege to me.

          • Northern_Light_27

            Are you kidding me? What part of “he shouldn’t have engaged on this thread in that way in the first place, but if he was foolish enough to do so, he should face his criticism calmly” isn’t clear to you? “Get the f out” is what he should have done in the first place, if he isn’t willing to be more thoughtful of where and how he engages. “Respond” is what he should do if he disregards that advice and provokes people anyway.

            Here, this is how I see this kind of situation: You see a post detailing abuse from someone in your (privileged) group in a board that’s focused on an affected minority population. Popping in and saying “hi, I’m X, and we’re not all like that” is a situation that’s tricky. Personally, I would only do it if it’s truly possible that they could not know there are people from your group who aren’t abusive, who support them. Go in, state your unequivocal denunciation of the abuse, offer any help you can, answer questions calmly if you’re asked any, and expect that people may be viscerally angry with you– no, it isn’t your fault, but you’re choosing to make a target of yourself by joining the post. Let it be. Don’t engage back, this isn’t your space and this isn’t about you, so don’t make it about you. Observe, and take it back to like-minded members of your group so that you can brainstorm on ways to clean up the garbage in your house.

            That, to me, is what should have happened. And, since it’s we all know that not all Christians are like that and that his group specifically has some Pagan support, there was no need for him to engage here. To post and say that the “naked public square” will start excluding at some point in a mythical future when the Christian-centric public square is already abusing people is absurd. To post and say that this should “trouble” Evangelicals… well, that’s obvious, and I’d say it shouldn’t trouble them, it should downright horrify them. (If Pagans were in the news for doing this I’d be downright furious!) So no, he shouldn’t have engaged. Since he did, he should take the heat with as much grace as possible and not lecture people on what they “really” are objecting to, not make posts elsewhere about our “boundary maintenance”, not tell people they had a “great question!”, not name-drop BNPs as if we’re a monolith, and not flounce when it gets too hot for him. He’s choosing to take on the mantle of representative from a group that has collectively done a lot of specific damage to the people here. To do so apparently expecting applause is just, well, I keep saying “absurd”, but that’s what it is.

            I’m not completely opposed to the idea of his group, actually. I do think there should be more dialogue, even though I disagree completely about the “naked public square” and think you have to strip out all the preference and, metaphorically speaking, take it down to the bare studs before you can start to build something pluralistic in its place. I’m very receptive to speaking about my religion and my spirituality to an Evangelical Christian. I’m just not receptive to someone this unwilling and unable to read a room. People, including me, have been very patient with Mr. Morehead in the past and he just doesn’t seem interested– he has his own theories, and they’re right no matter what. That’s not someone I want to have a mine-filled interfaith dialogue with.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            You seem to have forgotten that John’s presence here was evoked by Jason. Jason invoked John’s “naked secular public square” idea (for the purpose of putting it down) so we can hardly object to John’s reply. If I were to go into, say, feminist cyberspace to make a comment, your approach above is pretty much what I would do. (Except I won’t go there because I had all those arguments in the 1970s and know where they end up.)

          • MadGastronomer

            Again, that is not what privilege means. Privilege is a systemic and structural advantage. Christianity is systemically and structurally privileged by our society. It is assumed that if any religion is right, it is some form of Christianity, and other religions’s rightness are measured by their closeness to Christianity. It is assumed that Christian ways of worshipping are the right ways, and other religions’ forms of worship are measured by their closeness to that. Legal language assumes that “god” means a singular omnipotent deity. Christian churches and organizations have an easy time getting tax exempt status, but the further from that legally established norm other religious groups get, the harder it is for them to get that status. It is very difficult for members of religions other than Christianity (and maybe Judaism) to be elected to public office. It is assumed, whether or not it is actually true, that public officers will be sworn in on Bibles. That’s privilege.

            You are attempting to use the word privilege as a club, without knowing or caring what privilege actually is. It doesn’t work that way. You’re simply parroting the word because you know people more knowledgeable than you think it’s a bad thing.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            No, you started out using the word privilege as a club. When I used it back on you, you refined your definition into something I agree with, though I question where it applies to what John was doing on TWH.

          • TadhgMor

            How the f*** is “Well I think it’s really X”? Diminishing my voice is never acceptable, nor is his paternalistic nonsense.

            No, if they were stated by another pagan I’d still disagree. But his being a Christian, one who has openly discussed his desire to convert us, does tend to make it a bit worse.

            “we Pagans” aren’t anything. The term barely has any meaning at this point. But other than one particular pagan writer I loathe and find similarly arrogant, condescending, and prone to dissembling, I do not see validity in your comparison.

            Speak for yourself. If you want to play nice with the Christians that’s your business. But trying to diminish those of us who are tired of this false civility that only serves their purposes is beyond the pale. “Big Bad Christians” is just insulting and diminishing.

          • Alyxander M Folmer

            I can actually explain that one. It’s an FRD (Foundation for Religious Diplomacy) term, and it’s nowhere near as conflict driven as it sounds.
            The basic idea is that people with differing religious ideals should be able to communicate peacefully (and even work together when there is a need) without compromising their beliefs.

            So the Christian and the Asatru who are able to be friendly, and respectful, even-though they disagree, are referred to a “Trusted Rivals”.
            In the end it’s basically a way of saying “we don’t agree about theology, but that’s ok because we can be friends and allies anyway”.
            Personally, I think it’s a term that needs to be rethought and replaced (because it gives the wrong idea to those who haven’t read the FRD mission page).

            That’s basically it. it’s not a confrontational as the phrase would imply.

          • Hecate_Demetersdatter

            Why should we when you are, in fact, an enemy in sheep’s clothing? You apparently think Pagans are stupid. We’re not. Go clean your own stables.

          • NoBodE

            People who advocate that I should just”trust them” tend to be the ones who cannot be trusted.

          • Franklin_Evans

            As I wrote in another reply to John: I fully acknowledge that this represents a cultural shift, something that is neither easy nor quick to accomplish.

            It’s a harsh view to take, I readily admit, that we need to be patient as best we can. I would echo what John just posted in reply to you, with the caveat that I also expressed earlier: trust once lost is very difficult to earn.

            I agree that asking us to “tolerate” is a very poor step in that direction. We can take similar steps of our own volition, nonetheless.

          • MadGastronomer

            No, we do not need to be patient. We need to push hard to protect people, because patience gets people hurt. I seriously suggest to you that you go read the work of civil rights activists and social justice advocates, because you are missing some crucial things here. Start with the Letter from Birmingham Jail, which speaks to the damage this “moderate” position does, and explains why my trust has already been lost.

          • Franklin_Evans

            It’s not either or, it must be both. I’ve been on the “front line” if only in a minor way — confronting bullhorn wielding fundamentalists disrupting a public ritual being the most frequent example — and I don’t need to re-read those sources to understand your point.

            I don’t require you to trust, tolerate or be patient. I cannot know your experience and I will respect it and you. I will request — emphatically — that we coordinate our differing efforts to avoid either disrupting the other.

            I don’t want to wait any more than you do. But if your efforts result in disrupting my efforts, I do believe I have a valid gripe to bring to you for resolution. I would unhesitatingly offer you the very same.

          • MadGastronomer

            I cannot “coordinate my efforts” with someone who fundamentally does not want the same thing I do. I want to get religion out of the public square NOW, to protect people NOW. No, it’s not possible to get it all done instantly, but if we don’t push for it to be done right away, that only delays any gains we might make.
            His plan harms people. I don’t know what your plan is, but if it also involves letting people stay in harm’s way NOW, then you can, in fact, expect me to interfere, and to not care about your gripes.

            Interfaith discussion and work is great, but when the people of another faith are still working to harm us and others, then that discussion must take a backseat to actually protecting human beings.

          • Kathy

            Gastronomer, I’m retired military and a student of tactics. I just thought I’d let you know that while indecision and complacency is the enemy of any successful campaign, do not so quickly box yourself into a camp of only one type of offense. There is no doubt that action is an integral part of any successful battle strategy, one must also be wise enough to know when to wait as well. Constantly throwing your troops at the enemy may get them on the defensive and force them to run. But it can also force them to entrench as well as incorporate tactics that a less embattled enemy would never conceive of. While waiting when the time is wrong can allow the enemy to flank you, choose its preferred method and place of battle, as well as regroup and rearm and resupply. Having patience when the time is right can bring you mass surrender, negotiations, de-escalation, and hopefully peace. I say this not to chastise you for fighting your fight, or to denigrate your methods and means of doing so. I write this only to remind you that only a fool ignores a weapon at his disposal. And when wielded by one who knows how to use it, patience can indeed be a weapon of great value. As a retired member of the military I understand and even applaud your willingness to charge into the breech for the rights and safety of others. But I advise that you don’t limit yourself to just that. Or if you do, you do so with the support of those who can be patient for you when the time is right. So that you may more effectively utilize your strengths when the time to fight does come.

          • MadGastronomer

            When the “patience” being advised is that we wait for our oppressors to deign to grant us equality, history demonstrates that that’s a damned long wait. It has been demonstrated NOT to be an effective strategy in either the long or the short term. What we’re specifically being told to do is NOT to take the immediate action necessary to protect people, but to ONLY wait for the privileged to both to treat us as equals. I have never said that long term planning is not useful or good, I have said that THIS strategy is not (which history backs me up on), and that using ONLY long term strategies is bad.

        • http://www.xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

          John wrote:

          Rather than removing and barring everyone from the public square and making it secular and naked (which privileges secularism),

          Piffle. Secularism SHOULD be privileged. Religion is like a penis – just because you have one doesn’t give you the right to flap it in someone’s face.

          • John W. Morehead

            I don’t agree that secularism as an ideology should be privileged against any religion. I advocate a pluralistic public square with space for the secular and irreligious as well as the religious of various forms.

            In my view neither secularism nor religion should be “flapped” in anyone’s face.

          • http://www.xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

            Secularism isn’t an ideology, though. That’s the big difference, isn’t it.

          • John W. Morehead

            It is a worldview that can function as a religion.

          • http://www.xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

            No, its not. It is flat-out false.

            From wikipedia: Secularism is the principle of the separation of government institutions and persons mandated to represent the state from religious institutions and religious dignitaries. One manifestation of secularism is asserting the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, or, in a state declared to be neutral on matters of belief, from the imposition by government of religion or religious practices upon its people

            Mirriam-Webster:
            sec·u·lar·ism (noun ˈse-kyə-lə-ˌri-zəm)
            : the belief that religion should not play a role in government, education, or other public parts of society

            The Catholic Encyclopedia has a very read on it, here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13676a.htm

            might I also point you to:
            http://www.secularism.org.uk/what-is-secularism.html
            “Secularism is a principle that involves two basic propositions. The first is the strict separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law.”

            How is that a ‘worldview that can function as a religion’?

          • John W. Morehead

            I am quite happy to stand corrected and acknowledge secularism as involving the separation of church and state. I also acknowledge that secularism is not to be equated with atheism.

            I support the separation of church and state in the sense that I don’t want the government privileging one religion over another. But I don’t want a secular public square in the sense that all religions are excluded from public expression because of the abuses of privilege of one. In this I believe a multifaith public square is the best option.

          • MadGastronomer

            When all religions stand as equal, it may be possible to have a multifaith public square without member of minorities religions being harmed. Under the hegemony of a religion that is still actively harming others, for as long as it is doing so, it is not possible.

          • http://www.xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

            John, you are reading what you want to read, not what I’m writing. Its ok, its a common mistake among Christians, especially Evangelicals – you get this filter on, and its really hard to shake it. Anyways, a secular public square does not mean that all religions are forbidden from public expression – it means that GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS are banned from public religious displays and expression – and, as you might have figured out, schools are government institutions. It also means that no religion should be privileged over another, just because the majority happens to be of that religion. THAT is the essence of secularism – that all people are equal before the law.

            EDIT: I re-read that, and it was highly snarky, even for me. But I’m leaving it for posterity.

          • Franklin_Evans

            The American Secular Moral Statement as I see it:

            Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, in its entirety.

            The “no religious test” clause of the Constitution.

            The Bill of Rights.

            I would stipulate that as a “worldview” only for purposes of debating its specific points and the sources its authors cited. I would further challenge you to support your argument that it could possibly constitute a religion, even in function.

            Finally, I’d be hypocritical if I didn’t concede that its application has been very poor throughout our history, including historically recent improvements, but I would further assert that the Christian hegemony of our nation bears full responsibility for that.

          • John W. Morehead

            For some at least Secularism answers the big questions of life, and provides a framework for viewing the world and living life. In that sense it functions like a religion.

            Regardless, my point remains in that religious and irreligious people must work together as trusted rivals to ensure freedoms for all and not just the privileged.

          • http://www.xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

            … I’m confused, how exactly would keeping religion out of government and vice versa be “a framework for viewing the world and living life. In that sense it functions like a religion.”???

            You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means. Perhaps the word you are looking for is ‘atheism’? How about ‘agnosticism’, or ‘apatheism’? or possibly even ‘secular or civil religion’ (which btw, have little if anything to do with secularism qua secularism)? Because, really, you’re not impressing me too terribly with your continued baseless assertion that secularism is a religion.

          • Franklin_Evans

            Well, it can function like a religion out of the volition of some people, q.e.d., but that doesn’t qualify as definitional evidence. I will admit to nitpicking at this point, but this topic is important enough (to me, at least) that I do intend to offer it on TWT at some point. I will expand on my points there.

          • http://daoineile.com/ Aine

            Nope. You don’t get to have the ‘freedom’ to oppress others, which is essentially what you’re asking for. Freedom should not come on the backs of others.

            We have no reason to wait for you to ~figure things out~(which is really just code for: “let’s decide whether you deserve rights you’re supposed to have anyway”).

          • kenofken

            Secularism in the public square is the only way anyone’s religion is respected in that arena. In modern times, Christians were among the very first to realize that. Separation of church and state was pioneered in this country by Baptists, who realized that their freedom of religion was worth nothing if there was an official version of Christianity or one that was “more equal” in the eyes of the law.

            Let’s be clear about what we’re talking about when we say “religion in the public square.” It’s not the collective expression of private citizens with equal footing who happen to be in public. It means that public officials are abusing the weight of their office and positions to “express” their private faith upon everyone else. You seem to think this can be alleviated just by crafting a more benevolent sort of evangelizing.

            That won’t fix the underlying toxicity of the situation. As long as we allow the custodians of public institutions to use those institutions as mouthpieces for their private beliefs, even in seemingly small ways, minority faiths will ALWAYS experience intimidation and humiliation in these places. It will also tend to invite and reward the most flagrant abusers of power.

        • NoBodE

          Christianity doesn’t want to give up its privileges for any reason. We are supposed to be happy that they are “willing” to toss us a few crumbs.

        • Alyxander M Folmer

          I would argue that “secularism” is not a group that can be privileged. Rather it is a level playing field upon which all people can participate as equals. A secular government is not the same as an Atheocracy. The later forces non-religion (and would privilege atheists), while the former simply doesn’t support or enforce any religious viewpoint (privileging no one).

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      “Evangelicals must be transformed in the way in which they relate to the “religious other” so that it is more Christlike”
      Still evangelical, though.

      • John W. Morehead

        Of course. Evangelicals must pursue civil and diplomatic interreligious engagement in ways that are authentic to their religious pathways and the teachings and example of Christ. Just as Muslims, Pagans, Buddhists, and others must pursue the same goals rooted in the best of their religious and spiritual traditions. We have to be authentic, and it is unfair to ask each other to be something other than what we are. It is not unfair, however, to ask each other to dig deep into the best of our traditions as we relate to each other.

        • Franklin_Evans

          I value your authenticity, both personal and collective. I have a simple request in how it is expressed, being the distinction between evangelizing (proselytism) and witnessing. It’s the former that I cannot escape seeing as aggressive and invasive. I ask that you offer and invite, not promote and impose.

          I fully acknowledge that this represents a cultural shift, something that is neither easy nor quick to accomplish.

          • John W. Morehead

            This raises and excellent question that is deserving of a post and discussion all its own. These days proselytism is usually associated with negative and coercive elements, and many mainline Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox reject that term and that definition. However, they support evangelism and mission which is not coercive. I support evangelism and mission and evangelism but not proselytism (defined in these ways).

            I read with dismay the concerns of Hindus like Padma Kuppa over what she labeled “predatory proselytism.” As a result, I invited a Hindu and Evangelicals to interact over this topic. The result was a special edition of Sacred Tribes Journal that explored the ethics of evangelism, a neglected topic among Evangelicals. That exchange can be read on my Academia.edu page: http://www.academia.edu/4838807/Sacred_Tribes_Journal_8_1_2013_-_The_Ethics_of_Evangelism_When_is_Proselytism_Predatory_Kindle_Edition_

            In addition, in past interviews I have articulated my views on this. So I’m on record here, but there is a way to go for working this through with my Evangelical tribe.

          • TadhgMor

            Reject the term and definition; maintain the practice.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            The difference between proselytism and evangelism is very slight, when on the receiving end of it. Both are equally unwelcome, for many.

            When your ultimate goal is to convert, how can any one respect, let alone trust you?

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          “it is unfair to ask each other to be something other than what we are.”
          That being the definition of “evangelical”, you will have to forgive me my amusement at the complaint of fairness.

    • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

      John, you talk about relating to others in a way that is more “Christlike”, but unfortunately for Evangelicals that translates into “what do I think my Jesus would do” and there’s little consensus there. For some to be “Christlike” toward people of other faiths is to use the approach of mutual respect (Mt 7:12); other Christians would “take the Kingdom by force” (Mt 11:12). Some believe in a gentle Jesus; others maintain that he violently chased out “sinners” with a whip. When you say “Christlike” I do not know what you really mean and I’m not sure Evangelicals would know what that really means either.

      • John W. Morehead

        Another great question. Bob Robinson has authored a great volume titled “Jesus & the Religions” where he looked at Jesus’ encounters with Gentiles and Samaritans. Although Evangelicals often assume that the way of Jesus is confrontation and denunciation as in his clashes with Jewish religious leaders (Mat. 23:27). But a more careful reading reveals
        that this passage is not applicable to interreligious encounters. Here
        Jesus criticizes leaders in his own religious community. It is not a
        text that applies to consideration of how Jesus engaged those outside of
        his religious community who he felt abused the religious system so as to exclude the marginalized.

        To understand the example of Jesus for Evangelicals we must consider other biblical passages. Gentiles, particularly Samaritans, were despised as
        outsiders by the Jewish people of the first century. We might naturally
        expect Jesus to share in this hostility, but instead a different
        portrait emerges with a fresh reading of the Gospels. Two passages are
        particularly noteworthy, including Jesus’ dealing with the Samaritan
        woman (John 4:4-42), and the parable of the compassionate Samaritan
        (Luke 10:25-37). From these texts we find several features of Jesus’
        example which are important. First, he broke with the negative
        assumptions, attitudes, and practices of his religious community
        concerning those in other religions. Second, Jesus positively engaged
        those of other religions by exhibiting respect rather than denunciation.
        Third, his engagement involved an awareness of the religion and culture
        of his dialogue partners. Fourth, Jesus engaged in mutual interaction
        through dialogical exchange that included listening as well as Kingdom proclamation.

        At the Evangelical chapter of FRD we have an educational curriculum called “Loving Our Religious Neighbors” which is designed to help Evangelicals reassess the teachings and example of Jesus in love for neighbor and hospitality, and in so doing we can transform our defensive faith identity in relation to other religious traditions. Evangelicals will know what we mean once they go through our training program.

        • TadhgMor

          How can you “love” someone you ultimately want to convert?

          If you cannot respect part of my identity, how can it be a healthy relationship?

    • Hecate_Demetersdatter

      You show up here, invited or not, and spread you purportedly nicer-kinder we-want-to-convert-you message every chance you get. Given a chance, you’d be just as brutal as the Louisiana school. We get that some of you play good cop while most of you play bad cop. And, no, we’re not so stupid that we can’t tell the difference. Take your monotheism and anti-woman religion and go home with it; we’re all stocked upon crazy here today.

      • John W. Morehead

        Although this is a Pagan blog, it is a public space on the Internet. I know Jason and we have enjoyed good dialogue. In addition, I enjoy interactions with Pagans and the back and forth in how we can better relate and make this a better world. I’m sorry that you see me as an enemy and misunderstand and misrepresent me. I have a body of actions that speak to my character as a different kind of Jesus follower who would never do anything like this unfortunate school. I hope you can one day come to set your hostility and intolerance aside.

        • Hecate_Demetersdatter

          You get your compatriots to set aside their attempts to control us. You stop showing up here determined to convert people to your way of thinking. You drop your obvious mysogony and mistreatment of women. Then come here and talk to me about my “hostility and intolerance.” That’s rich coming from a Christian.

          • John W. Morehead

            As I stated above I am working to transform my fellow Evangelicals. I have shared my perspective and listened to others and allow others freedom of thought to accept or reject my point of view. I don’t practice misogyny or condone it in the history of the church. So your comments are inaccurate, and for some reason you are anger at Christians translates to me and leads to your misrepresentation of what I’m about. So my charge of hostility and intolerance seems fair. Thanks for the exchange.

          • Hecate_Demetersdatter

            Fuck your “thanks for the exchange.” You are in league with people who hate women, who want to control women, and who believe that Witches should be burned. You’re surprised that Witches are angry at you? Really? Your purported “sharing of your perspective” with other Evangelicals has had zero impact. They’re still showing up on tv and shaming women for being sluts with libidoes that they don’t control, still going to Africa to get gay people imprisoned, killed, whipped. My comments aren’t inaccurate. Your religion is brutal, wrong, mysognistic, and hateful, and you are committed to spreading it.

          • John W. Morehead

            I am interested in hearing from other Pagans as to whether they share your sentiments and we should continue to demonize and fight with each other, or whether we should consider a new way forward as I suggested in my guest post at a Pagan blog at Patheos. I know what you’ll say, Hecate, but I’d like to hear from others. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sermonsfromthemound/2013/03/guest-post-pagan-christian-dialogue-mistrust-and-a-difficult-but-needful-way-forward/

          • Hecate_Demetersdatter

            No, you don’t want to engage with what I say. You’d love to hope that some other Pagans will respond to your “nicey nice” comments. You stop demonizing us and then get back to me. You get your compatriots to stop demonizing us and them come talk. You get Huckabee, a baptist minister, to quit calling women sluts for wanting to have sex and then come back here and we’ll talk. You have ZERO achievenments to show for your own purported “efforts” with you coreligionists who want to burn us and shit on our children. Have you even written to this school system? Shown up at a meeting? Done anything to protect this student? No. You just show up here and attempt to convert based on being nice. I’m sure you’d rather engage with anyone but me.

          • NoBodE

            No you probably don’t want to hear from others. You are a wolf in sheep’s clothing insisting that we should trust you.

          • TadhgMor

            Listen, because I’m going to be brutally honest.

            You come here as a Christian apologist to play “we’re not all like that” and talk about your interfaith efforts. You take on a paternalistic tone against the clear emotion here, and try and hide behind a facade of scholarship.

            This sort of abuse happened to most, if not all of us. By YOUR compatriots. By YOUR faith. Something which is justified according to your own doctrine. Something you condemn not because it’s wrong, but because it’s bad strategy to convert us.

            Until you Christians deal with the Great Commission there is absolutely no way for any of us to ever interact on equal grounds with you. None. You are immediately acting in bad faith no matter what happens.

            The paternalism and dodging breeds ill will. The constant proclamations of Christians that “we aren’t like that really” are hollow. It’s nothing but misdirection. It changes nothing.

            You need to understand something. We are not all going to be nice easy going pagans who want to play nice with the majority culture that is oppressing us. The hostility can fade, but first you must actually do something. More than masturbatory attempts at “interfaith” work which rarely have any effect outside of the conferences where they take place. The people doing this don’t go to interfaith conferences.

          • NoBodE

            You remind me of the bit from the Jungle Book movie where the snake is hypnotizing Mowgli while saying “trust in me”

          • http://daoineile.com/ Aine

            When you’re work is doing nothing to change the minds of your fellow Christians, why should I care? Get out of our spaces and go do the work you’re supposedly doing in your own.

        • MadGastronomer

          When you act like an enemy, you must expect to be treated like one. Putting pretty words on it does not change the fact that you are still advocating things that harm people, and are still condescending to and refusing to genuinely engage with anyone who dares to criticize you.

    • TadhgMor

      Do more than decry. Stop them. I’d prefer to see you Christians take action rather than constantly talk. Words are cheap.

      • Hecate_Demetersdatter

        Words are esp. cheap when some of the Xians deliberately play “good cop,” thinking we’re too stupid to tell the difference.

        • TadhgMor

          I find that honor is an important concept Christianity has since lost (though once had).

          I may not be the nicest person, but I will be direct. Subterfuge like that, dissembling, misdirection. These are akin to cowardice and dishonor you. But when the concept of personal honor is abandoned, it does not matter. While “lying for Jesus” is certainly a practice only among the radical fringe, it is nonetheless a practice.

  • Angela Hardy

    “came only after speaking to the Superintendent, being told that maybe another school with “more asians” would suit them”

    I literally lol’ed out loud at this.

    really? I mean…really?

  • Julie Richard

    My son is in 3rd grade and we live in Baton Rouge. We are openly Pagan and I am eternally thankful that the principal at his public school respects that religious beliefs (or none at all) should be left up to the parents/families rather than indoctrinated at the school. I also realize that, sadly, she is not the norm in this area and that I will have to continue to be communicative with his schools so that I can become aware of any situations that might come up.

  • Deborah Bender

    If you appreciate the ACLU taking on cases of this kind, please consider donating to the ACLU. I give them an automatic monthly donation. They do a lot of school board litigation in religious and racial discrimination cases, and they win a lot.

    Americans United for the Separation of Church and State has a worthy goal, but I don’t know much about them or their track record.

    • NoBodE

      Check out the Americans United website. They do some really great work.

  • RevEllen

    I see a big difference between the public square and religion in government. The public square can have religion because that’s where individuals can come to talk about whatever is on their minds. As opposed to government that is a body to see to the orderly administration of public policy (such as infractructure, economy, public safety, education). The government is made up of individuals but each individual should be working toward the goal of administration in their work not religious evangelism. But after work they are individuals that take part in the public square.

    I have been to many public squares (state parks, town greens) where there are religious functions going on. This is perfectly OK. They are there as individuals or private organizations. But the government that administers them should show no preference to which organization is utilizing the space.

    • kenofken

      “I see a big difference between the public square and religion in government.”………

      The latter is what we’re really talking about. Dominionists like to recast the issue as one of “freedom to express” but it’s not. That is not and has never been an issue. It is perfectly constitutionally permissive to allow private citizens to express religion in public space, even with installations, so long as it is equally available to all and does not give the impression that government is sanctioning one over the other. What we see though, is that dominionists insist there is a secular tyranny and the public square is “naked” of religion if they’re not allowed to ram their views down everyone’s throat under the color of law and weight of their public office – ie school superintendent, town council etc.

  • TadhgMor

    The worst thing is they don’t even understand what they are doing wrong. Supremacist tendencies are so ingrained in Christianity that even normally nice and open minded people will immediately react harshly to “abnormal” beliefs. Or to someone trying to bring up these abuses.

    Let’s be clear. The law is on our side, but the law is enforced by Christians. You cannot count on having your rights protected simply because the law says you should be protected. Yet the constant refrain from Christian apologists of this behavior is “well that’s already illegal so clearly everything is fine don’t shake the status quo”.

    I had some experiences, less blatant than this, in high school, well outside the Bible Belt. There is nothing better than having a principal, openly Christian, tell you to your face that he doesn’t care that religious sites are being censored (I was attempting to access and ADF site I think). It was simply beneath his concern. Meanwhile, he personally approved a hateful and bigoted rant against gay marriage in the school paper. Only three weeks later did he allow a rebuttal to be published.

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    It’s the funniest damn thing, but when a Pagan lawyer shows up, the nicey-nice Xian converters and mysogonists begin to run for the hills and demand to know what other Pagans think. They’d rather talk to almost anyone else. It’s sad for ya’ll but Pagans have a lot of lawyers who are used to dealing with stupid arguments.

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    I am waiting for even ONE example of Moorehead’s showing up and fighting w’ his coreligionists as he fights with us. I’m sure he can provide multiple examples of his arguments with them about shitting on women, etc. Examples of times when he tried to explain to them that women who like sex weren’t sluts. When he tried to explain why Xians don’t get to dominate the “public square” that he hopes won’t be naked, when he tried to tell them that gay people in Africa shouldn’t be whipped, imprisoned, killed. I’m waiting.

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    Moorehead,

    Give us one. Give us just ONE example of a time when you got your compatriots to back off of their hatred of Pagans, women, Witches, sex-positive people. You say you’ve been working at this. Give us ONE example of a time when you’ve succeeded. Or, well, we can all consider you a failure who shows up here to be nicey-nice and con all the stupid Pagans. One? One example?

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    So, a quarter of an hour later, Moorehead has nothing to say. No examples of times that he got his budds to stop hating on women, gay people, Witches, etc. Odd how he expects to be effective here when he’s ineffective amongst his budds.

    He’s kind of just this sad soul who shows up here, insists that Jason’s place is a “public square” that doesn’t have the same requirements that most Xian “public squares” require, and who tries to pretend that most Pagans are some kind of brain-dead simpletons who will respond positively to his notion that Xians don’t want gays to be imprisoned, whipped, killed, don’t believed that women can’t control their libodes and are sluts who deserve to suffer pregnancy, and who should submit to their husbands, etc.

    Why does he assume we’re dumber than they are???????

    • kenofken

      I don’t know that someone’s failure to answer a charge in a quarter hour on a Friday night can reasonably used to condemn someone as a collaborator with the worst of his co-religionists. He’s written many times against the worst excesses of Christian proselytizing against us. Has he done enough to fight the extremes within Christianity? I don’t know. It’s tricky to define when someone has done “enough” to combat or disavow the extremists within their own movement. Sort of the same problem average Muslims run into when people say they didn’t do enough against Al Quaeda.

      At any rate, I think the deeper problem many of us have with Moorehead is that he doesn’t seem to appreciate that what’s poisoning the well between Christians and Pagans is not just an abusive approach by some Christians. It’s about an approach to religion that is inherently abusive.

      • MadGastronomer

        I’m with H_D. I want to see where he’s gone into evangelical Christian spaces the way he comes into this one to tell them that they must treat us with respect and trust us, the way he’s telling us we must treat him as an evangelical. Writing in his own blog, going to interfaith events where everyone is already there to have an ecumenical discussion, that’s all well and good, but it isn’t the same as what he’s doing here, in this blog.

        • Alyxander M Folmer

          http://johnwmorehead.blogspot.com/2013/06/christian-privilege-and-interfaith.html

          Also check out his work at The World Table. (theworldtable.org)

          He’s VERY outspoken about the issue of Christian Privilege, and seems determined to get other Evangelicals to recognize it as a problem.

          • MadGastronomer

            Shame he still can’t see what’s wrong with his own actions.

            But again, I, at least, specifically asked about him going to evangelical blogs and telling them they should treat us with respect… in the same way that he’s telling us we should treat him with respect. Interfaith organizations don’t reach the kind of evangelicals that are the biggest problem, specifically because they do not want to hear a message of tolerance, so they don’t participate in interfaith groups.

          • MadGastronomer

            I cannot help but notice that the “Way of Openness” principles at thewordtable.org includes “listen well” and “answer the tough questions” — both of which Mr. Morehead has declined to do.

            Unfortunately, examining that page, I also see the milder versions of a lot of tropes that are regularly used to place an unfair onus on the victims of abuse:

            “Often we feel that even having a conversation with someone we think is
            dangerously wrong in his or her beliefs will compromise our integrity.
            Fear, suspicion and contempt split families, communities and nations and
            lead to aggression and even violence. This doesn’t have to be the case.
            There is a world changing opportunity to decrease conflict and build
            trust and friendships without compromising integrity.”

            This kind of language is often used to pressure abuse victims into “trusting” their abusers and “settings aside” conflict for the sake of others, on the assumption that conflict is a bad thing in itself, instead of the result of bad things. When victims acquiesce to this pressure, they are often left open to even more abuse.

            I don’t know that anyone at all at TWT does this, and of course their philosophy is aimed at different situations, I just know that language like this is a red flag in many situations.

            Yes, I did just criticize Morehead for not upholding his own stated principles and then also criticize the principles themselves. Both are valid, and they do not contradict each other.

      • Hecate_Demetersdatter

        There are many comments here, so perhaps I’ve missed it, but now, a day later, I’ve yet to see even ONE comment from Moorehead where he shows us even ONE instance of an example where his purported “work” has produced even ONE small change in the nasty attacks of his fellow Evangelicals on our community. He’s quick to show up here and demand a rather patronizing sense of “respect” from us for his purported “work” to get his fellow travelers, who want us burned, imprisoned, whipped, and otherwise harmed, to “respect” us as he “dialogues” with us about his attempts to seize the commons. But when challenged, he’s got nothing and he runs for the hills, demanding to know if “other” Pagans agree with our reasonable attacks on his sniveling “attempts at fellowship” with us. Moorehead, again, I see that when a Pagan lawyer confronts you, you disappear. You don’t like being challenged by a woman, either, do you? You can lie to yourself, but you’re exposed here for the nasty, trickesty, hypocritical snake you are, trying desperately to “convert” us back to your woman-hating, sex-hating, gay-hating, trans-hating, patriarchial religion. Go sell crazy somewhere else; we’ve all heard it before and we walked away from it.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          When some of us tell him to “f**k off” and others heap scorn because he “runs for the hills” there’s nothing he can do right. Nobody should be put in that position.

          • MadGastronomer

            He wouldn’t actually engage with criticism right out of the gate, though, just blew it off and insisted that we must trust him because he said so. And whether or not YOU mind his behavior, apparently there are a number of us who do, and apparently he has a history of coming here, treating people this way, being told that people don’t want to be treated that way, running off, and then coming back next time and doing the same thing.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            And this privileges us to chide him no matter what he does, leave or stay? That’s dehumanizing, just what we accuse them of.

          • MadGastronomer

            That’s not what privilege means, nor is that what dehumanizing means. You are throwing around terminology without apparently understanding what it means, or, worse, are intentionally misrepresenting them, and creating a strawman.

            We, on the other hand, are criticizing his actual behavior. Which we get to do by virtue of being people.

          • Alyxander M Folmer

            I’ll note that you carefully dodged Baruch’s question there.

            This gives you the right to chide him no matter what he does, leave or stay?

          • MadGastronomer

            That he is behaving badly. I’ve been very specific: He either needs to behave in a way that is actually respectful, and to not derail the conversation, or he needs to leave. I’ve said this already. I’ve been stressing the “leave” part because he clearly has no interest in behaving respectfully, or even learning what that would look like, nor in participating in the conversation without derailing.

          • MadGastronomer

            Oh, right, forgot a bit: Acting respectfully includes actually engaging with criticism, not just stomping off in a huff when we don’t immediately drop the criticism just because he says so.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Yes, being human, you have the right to contradictorily criticize him for both leaving and staying. But not to declare yourself free of contradictions. That, too, is human.

          • MadGastronomer

            *yawn* Straw man, straw man. We’ve made our position plain: If he is going to behave badly, he should leave and not come back. If he is going to stay, he should engage respectfully and actually address the question and criticisms people present him with. Coming in, behaving badly, and then flouncing off when criticized… that’s just shitty. It’s not a contradiction, it’s an insistence that he treat people with genuine respect, treat us how we wish to be treated, rather than being rude and then insisting that he IS being respectful, just because he says so.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            No, it’s not a contradiction, now that I’ve forced you to lay out your requirements for him reasonably rather than by CAPITAL LETTERS. btw if everyone behaved the way you want John to behave it would be a different Internet

    • NoBodE

      Because he believes anyone who isn’t xian must be stupid and gulible.

  • Charles Cosimano

    Looks like someone is going to have their college tuition paid.

  • http://blausternschlonge.wordpress.com/ Lee Shawnus

    Wow Jason this story just Floored me. As a Buddhist and a Witch it felt kinda personal too. And having just been posted i am your 103rd comment on it. I am going to reblog this and sent it to my one student down on the Florida panhandle, which is just as conservative as Louisiana. He can’t even put out Halloween decorations without someone from the church coming by and knocking at his door telling him they are signs of Satan, really. Thanks as always for your thought provoking posts. BB and Om Amitabha Buddha.

  • http://blausternschlonge.wordpress.com/ Lee Shawnus
  • Ursyl

    This seems rather relevant to the discussion if you substitute “Christian” for “white.”

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/aaronc13/this-comic-perfectly-explains-what-white-privilege-is

  • tmar_of_vulcan

    Send your child to South Africa – he’ll fit right in with the Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Hindus and sundry others who don’t pay attention to what religion anybody is except during holy days when everyone shares food and enjoys it.

  • g75401

    This is why I am a proud member of the ACLU and contribute to its legal fund.

  • g75401

    Not just Buddhists! My kids regularly report being on the receiving end of verbal abuse at the hands of “loving” christian children at school. Their defense? The religious instruct they received at home. When I was in the USAF, I had two atheist friends who were raising their kids as catholics. Not because they wanted their kids to be catholic but so their kids would understand the dominant religion in the country. I decided to do the same should I have kids. My kids went to Sunday school and to church. We discussed Bible stories and I bought Bibles if they wanted one (only my daughter did). My son was in the BSA and took the religious instruction that is required to advance. My daughter fluctuates between Wicca and atheism and my son is an atheist. They answer the kids’ “loving” commentary at school with Bible stories that belie these kids’ fantasies of their religion-yes, genocide, murder,incest, etc. I’ve told them that they should listen to the schoolmate who brings up love and peace as the basis of christianity, but since the threat of “hell” is the only method of proselytizing the christian has, they have yet to encounter THAT classmate. And the beat goes on…