Pagan Community Notes: Seekers Temple, COG Survey, Blue Plaques, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  June 23, 2014 — 11 Comments

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

Seekers TempleThis past week we reported extensively on the case of the Seekers Temple in Beebe, Arkansas, where allegations of a religiously biased local government exercising its power against a Pagan family have reverberated through our interconnected community. Now, it seems that a City Council meeting scheduled today in Beebe might mark the next flashpoint in this increasingly tense situation. Quote: We have been notified by a brave young Pagan girl that her mom is involved with a group of Christians who feel they must save Beebe, AR. from the Devil.  This group is planning to be at City Hall on Monday, June 23 at 6:30pm to combat us with our attempt to be recognized by the City Counsel. We would like to invite everyone to attend this meeting in the hopes that such a presents will keep things from getting out of hand.  We pray that the Christians AND Pagans will be Civil and polite and that our numbers alone will encourage the Mayor to rethink his position against Pagans.” We will keep you updated on this story as it continues to develop. 

Covenant of the Goddess

Covenant of the Goddess

Wiccan/Witchcraft credentialing and advocacy organization Covenant of the Goddess (COG) has launched a national survey to get feedback for a revisitation of their mission. Quote: “We are including a link to our national survey addressing our current Covenant of the Goddess Mission.  The Covenant of the Goddess(CoG) was founded in 1975.  Almost 40 years later, we would like to revisit our mission. To that end, we are surveying our membership and the Pagan/Wiccan community at large to determine whether these goals have been achieved, or should remain and/or whether others should be added. The survey is completely anonymous and should only take a few moments of your time.  Your input is really needed!  We will provide a report of the outcome (summary) data at the next CoG annual meeting in August 2014. Deadline for submission of this survey is July 20thPlease feel free to share the link to this survey to others in the Pagan/Wiccan community at large. We need feedback from all of you!!” The link for the survey is right here.

[Photo Credit: Damh the Bard]

[Photo: Damh the Bard]

On June 14th we reported on the installation of a commemorative Blue Plaque for “father of modern Witchcraft” Gerald Gardner. That article ended with a questions, which English figure would next receive that honor? Well Asheley Mortimer, trustee of the Doreen Valiente Foundation, does have some ideas on that front. Quote: “A Blue Plaque is a marker for an historic moment, at the Centre For Pagan Studies we see it as a duty to ensure that as individuals like Doreen Valiente and Gerald Gardner pass, inevitably, from persons of living memory to figures of history the place they take in history is their rightful one, the blue plaques add to the positive wider public perception of Pagans and demonstrate that their achievements are every bit as life-changing and important to the world as historic figures from the mainstream […] As for who is next . . . it doesn’t have to be a witch at all, we are thinking about other figures from the Pagan community such as the druid Ross Nichols, and the like . . . , Alex Sanders and Aliester Crowley have also been mentioned as has Stewart Farrar . . . . basically we’re very open to suggestions . . . “ Do you have a suggestion? You can contact the Centre For Pagan Studies here.

In Other Pagan Community News:

Sabina Magliocco at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies. (Photo: Tony Mierzwicki)

Sabina Magliocco at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies. (Photo: Tony Mierzwicki)

  • I hope everyone had a good Summer Solstice (or Winter Solstice if you live ’round Australia), here’s how the Patheos Pagan Channel marked the holiday.
  • Hungarian Pagan band The Moon and The Nightspirit have a new album coming out! Quote: “We are happy to announce that our new album, “Holdrejtek” will be released on August 15th on Auerbach Tontraeger/Prophecy Productions. In tandem with “Holdrejtek”, our early albums, “Of Dreams Forgotten and Fables Untold” (2005), “Regő Rejtem” (2007), and “Mohalepte” (2011) will be re-issued in digipack format with revised layouts.” Here’s the label website.
  • The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions have announced the open bidding process for the next parliament. Quote: “We are pleased to announce the opening of the bid process for a city to host the 2017 Parliament of the World’s Religions. A Parliament event showcases ways in which religions shape positive action to address the challenges of our times, and seeks to develop new tools for implementing those actions in the years to come.” As The Wild Hunt has noted on several occasions, modern Pagans are deeply involved with the council and the parliament, and we will be keeping an eye on this process as it moves forward.
  • So, after your crowdfunding project gets everything it has asked for, what do you do next (aside from fulfill the funded project itself)? Morpheus Ravenna ponders the question. Quote: “I’m contemplating other ways to give back to the community out of the funds that are continuing to come in. I would love to hear from you. What else would you like to see as a next stretch project?”
  • Struggles between the Town of Catskill in New York and the Maetreum of Cybele continue. Quote: “This time the Town of Catskill is bringing suit against us for refusing a fire and safety inspection. (To clarify: this is actually a separate – though related – issue from the ongoing property tax case). Cathryn represented us and she did an excellent job. There was a different attorney representing the town this time (NOT Daniel Vincelette), this one was just as much of an obnoxious bully, though. He was accusing us of running an illegal Inn, pointing his finger at Cathryn and making aggressive gestures.” You can read our full coverage of the Maetreum’s tax battles with the town, here.

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

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Cleo
  • Zaracon

    We are doing a live broadcast of the Beebe meeting on http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pagan-musings/2014/06/23/live-at-the-beebe-city-hall-a-pwn-special-report please share info

  • Charles Cosimano

    Would it not make more sense to hire a good investigator and find something to put the mayor into a federal prison for the rest of his days?

    • kenofken

      I suspect it would be very difficult to find anything that rises to the level of an imprisonable offense in this. Usually the best you can accomplish is to get a civil court to spank the government involved and order them to correct the wrong and pay attorneys costs and maybe damages. Usually, you can’t even go after the personal assets of a mayor or public official. They have varying degrees of immunity from personal liability in the exercise of their public duties, even for stupid or malicious mistakes.

      As for criminal prosectution, forget about it – unless they are caught taking bribes or the usual criminal activity. It’s possible to bring a criminal prosecution under federal civil rights law for depriving someone of their rights, but that’s usually only invoked for Rodney King or KKK-level stuff. It has to be the kind of thing that’s top of the evening news for a while and threatens to bring riots to major cities.

      All that said, if someone has the resources to go after the guy and he does have that big a skeleton collection in his closet, more power to them. Strategically, I think it’s more important to get a ruling or pressure the city to do the right thing on the underlying issue. If we just somehow got this one mayor off the stage, we’d still have the culture and the legal ambiguity that enabled the discrimination. That, and we’d have the usual bleating of Christian right, who would make him a martyr figure being imprisoned by Caesar for daring to stand up for Jesus etc.

      • Charles Cosimano

        I have yet to hear of a public official so squeaky clean that they cannot be taken down. And when the sheep bleat, you just say, “your martyr is a crook, deal with it.”

  • Isis820

    I really want to support this issue in Beebe, but when I first read the story my intuition told me something was off. I think we need more information before we go hog wild in supporting them. Their has to be a reason many of these support groups won’t support or help him with the legal part of it.

    • kenofken

      I think the thing we can (hopefully) support is an effort to properly follow up this matter and look into it with no other agenda than our constitutional rights. I’ve been reading all sorts of speculation (and allegations) that the temple organizer is a troublemaker or contrary character or that “something was off.” That may or may not be the case, and it’s probably too early to infer much of anything from what legal support groups are, or are not doing. Groups like the ACLU turn down a lot of cases. They have very limited resources and staggering demand. They cherry-pick cases they hope will have the broadest impact, and they want cases that have nice big disputes of law, not messy he-said-she-said disputes of basic facts. I hope they’re giving a proper look at the case, but they can’t be legal aid to everyone.

      I know nothing about this temple leader. When we strip away all that, the core of the issue is quite simple: To the extent public officials denied zoning or otherwise discriminated based on religion, they’re in the wrong, and need to be stopped. Our rights – the rights of all Americans- to freedom of religion and equal treatment before the law is not conditioned on the personal likability of the person exercising that right. I don’t think we ought to cast this guy as a hero/martyr for the entire pagan movement just yet. At the same time, the complaint and the underlying issues are serious enough that we can’t afford to write this off as one person’s personal drama with city hall.

      • Bianca Bradley

        He’s pretty affable and easy to talk to. I called him a few days ago. I think the ACLU is reviewing his notes and evidence right now. You can see updates on his facebook.

  • ChristopherBlackwell

    I sent a letter to the editor of the local newspaper

    tbn@beebenews.com

    Dear Editor,

    As a Marine Vietnam Veteran and as a Pagan, I have been rather disturbed that your Mayor Mike Robertson seems to think that he has some right to decide what religions are allowed in your town and what churches or temples can be allowed.

    This flies in the Face of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States which guarantees freedom of religion, all religions, and the Fourteenth Amendment on equal protection under the law for all people. There are no religious exemptions to either amendment.

    It also goes again federal law the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 passed by the full House and Senate and signed into law by President Clinton. In every court case towns that tried to limit use of land by any religion have lost every single time.

    I did not risk my life for my country so that some religious bigot could deny anyone the right to practice their religion for any reason whatsoever. It does not matter whether a religion is popular, or not, all people have a right to practice their own religion, but no legal right to deny that right to anyone else.

    I sincerely hope that your mayor and town government come to their senses and soon.

    Sincerely,

    Christopher Blackwell

  • Deborah Bender

    I tuned into the podcast briefly and heard the tail end of an eyewitness report from the council meeting. The witness reporting lives in a nearby town. She said that about fifty Pagans attended the meeting, some having traveled from Missouri. The council kicked the house use issue back to the zoning board. After the meeting, members of several local churches wearing church t-shirts gathered around the flagpole to sing religious songs; the Pagans gathered around a nearby tree and did likewise. In the rain.

    Fifty Pagans showing up on short notice in a small town in the Deep South to support other Pagans is pretty impressive. I bet the Beebe City Council was surprised and probably a little shook up; it’s unlikely that they have had this kind of attention before.

    • kenofken

      I don’t think sometimes that people realize how effective simple things like this can be. Successful activism really boils down to convincing public officials that doing the right thing is the path of least resistance. They’re perfectly willing to engage in petty (and sometimes larger) acts of discrimination when they think no one is looking or no one much cares.

      They’re not usually willing to invest a lot of time and effort to do the wrong thing, and they certainly don’t want the media spotlight. Sometimes lawsuits are the only option, but they’re almost never the most cost-effective first line option. If we can do something as simple (and hard) as keeping a real presence at the Beebe City Council and making them confront the issue on a sustained basis, the desire to indulge their personal bigotry and to play to the local church sentiment will be outweighed by their desire to be rid of us and rid of the issue.