The Arkansas Times, at their blog, notice that there’s something going on in the town of Beebe.
“Heard of the Seekers Temple? If not, I expect you will before long. It’s a pagan temple and store that says it has run into a slew of headaches in attempting to pursue its business and religion in Beebe, Ark. Bertram and Felicia Dahl, the high priest and priestess of Seekers Temple, have this extensive account, “Problems in Beebe.” They say Beebe officials had welcomed their move from El Paso until they found out they were pagans.”
As the Arkansas Times noted, the Dahl’s narrative is eye-opening, and a reminder of how local officials can work against you if they don’t like who you are, or what you believe.
“Mayor Robertson said that we were not zoned for a church or business, so we pointed out two churches across the street. He said that our side of the street is not zoned for it, so we pointed out commercial property for sale next to us and a business out of a barn next to that and a business out of a house next to that (run by our alderman). He said that the business zone ends at our property and was not allowed from there on down, so we pointed out a business next to us on the other side, run out of a home. He said that in Beebe, they zone individual property and ours was not zoned for it, so we ask what we had to do to get it re-zoned. He said we do not have enough parking, so we pointed out that we have more parking than some of the restaurants in town and much more than the other businesses run out of homes. He said there was no way we were having our church there, so we ask about just opening the store and keeping our group as a small in-house meeting of friends. He admitted that he can not stop us from having friends over, but that he would be watching and he would break it up if we had too many people over (true to his word, police sit and watch our house often). He said we would have to speak with the city attorney about opening a store and what we could have in it and he would have that person call us (this never happened) and that was the end of our meeting. We have ask many times since then, but he has not granted us another meeting.”
It gets worse, as there have been accusations of continual harassment by a local Christian church, and the arrest of Bertram Dahl when he tried to appeal to the church on their own property.
“On 2014 May 21, as the members of the church were gathering, I walked into the church and ask for there attention. I told them what was going on and how the Pastor (which is who we thought the Bishop was at the time) and the Elders were ignoring our pleas. I asserted that we did not believe they would all approve of what was going on and ask for their help in talking to their church leaders about not harassing us. I left the church and went home in the hopes of having a meeting with some of the members and finding a solution. Instead of having members show up, I was ask to come out of my home by three police officers and told we were no longer welcome at the Lighthouse Pentecostal Church. The officers told me I would have to take the matter to the courts and they left. I have not been over there since.
The next week, to the day, 2014 May 28, two officers came and arrested me for Disorderly Conduct and Harassing Communications. This had been filled by Jason E. Scheel (who had in fact harassed us) and John Scheel (whom we have never met nor talked to). The City must have informed Mr. Scheel that they were coming to arrest me as is evident by his sitting in a car across the street watching me be arrested (may I also point out at this time that they did NOT read me my rights). We had to pay $320 to get me out of jail with a plea date of July 9.”
On the Seeker’s Temple’s official Facebook page, they further clarify their current status.
“Thank you to all the people who are giving us suggestions. We need to be clear on a few things that seem to be confusing. We are not a new temple trying to open. We have in fact been open, and legal, for over five years. The reason Beebe is an issue is because we moved here. We do not have the money for a legal battle and that is why we are asking for your help. We need letters saying you want us open in Beebe and we need people to stand with us at city hall to show that the public wants us to exist. All of this is spelled out at www.seekerstemple.com/problems-in-beebe . Please, before you comment, go read the story. And truly, thank you all for taking your time to get involved at whatever level you are able. Blessed Be you All.”
Unlike other cases, I don’t think this is one where the local mayor will be easily pressured into grudging tolerance. As the Arkansas Times points out, Mayor Mike Robertson has some firm ideas of who should be in control (ie Christians).
“Please remember in the coming November election for leaders of this nation to elect only those who will stand firm doing the will of God and not their will. If placing God or the simple mentioning of his holy name in this newsletter is offensive to some; so be it. I do not and will not apologize, ever, for giving him the praise he is due for all that he has done for our blessed country. Not now, not ever in the future, should we turn our backs to our creator.”
So what happens next? The temple is asking for fiscal, legal, and local support to help them navigate this seeming attempt to run them out of town through the exercise of “soft” power.
“We are asking that people show up at City Hall at 6:30pm on the fourth Monday of each month until we are heard and/or donate to Seekers Temple by mail or at PayPal account SeekersTemple@yahoo.com and/or write your letter of support in opening our temple and store in Beebe, AR. and send it to our address or by email to Priest@SeekersTemple.com”
The Wild Hunt is currently seeking an interview with Bertram and Felicia Dahl, and we should hopefully have that up later this week. In the meantime, it sounds like Arkansas Pagans have problems in Beebe, and it may be time for national Pagan organizations to step in and offer help.