Pagan priest wins right to wear horns on state-issued ID

Cara Schulz —  December 13, 2016 — 131 Comments

MILLINOCKET, Me —  A Priest of Pan has won the right to wear his religious headgear, a pair of horns, in his state-issued identification photo. After initially being told he could not wear his horns in the photo, Phelan MoonSong says he kept pressing for the same accommodation other religions receive.

Yesterday, his new ID finally arrived.


[Reprinted with permission]

It all started in June, when MoonSong decided his birth name longer fit him and legally changed it. With the new name came a need for a new identification card.

In early August, MoonSong went to the nearest Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) located in Bangor. He stood in line with other residents, who asked MoonSong about the significance of his horns. When he reached the front of the line, everything was routine. He provided his change of name documentation, birth certificate, and other identifying documents. He was then told to wait before having his photo taken.

“I was eventually called up and the clerk asked me if my horns were implanted and I told her they are not,” says MoonSong. He informed the clerk that he wears them all the time as a religious headpiece as a Priest of Pan.

MoonSong says the clerk then conferred with co-workers. She returned and took his photo with the horns on. But there was a catch.

“She then told me I had to get my photo approved by the Secretary of State,” explains Moonsong. “She also informed me I was to mail him any religious documentation from a central governing body or doctrine of what my religion requires me to wear, copies from any religious books of my order or belief requiring such wear, etc.”

MoonSong informed the clerk that Pagan religions don’t have central governing bodies or authoritative books, but he would send in supporting sources.

“I went home and wrote a personal essay on why my Horns of Pan were important to me and my Spirituality. How I feel the wearing of them as a Priest of Pan connects me and helps provide outreach and education,” says MoonSong.

In his letter, he also explained the historical significance of the ancients and their wearing of “Horns of Power” throughout history around the world. In place of a citation from a governing body or dogmatic book, MoonSong sent in excerpts from The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism, Pagan Religions: A Handbook for Diversity Training, The Symbolism of Horns – The Ecphorizer, and Horned Gods: A Comparative Mythology Perspective. All excerpts discussed the religious significance of wearing horns.

MoonSong says he mailed the package off in mid-August. Then he waited. And waited.

Phelan MoonSong [Courtesy Photo]

Why did MoonSong go through so much effort to be allowed to wear his horns in the official photo? “My horns have become very important to me, the feel of them on my head, they are like a Spiritual Antenna,” he explains.

He added that they are no different than nun’s habit or a Sikh’s turban, both of which are allowed in ID photos under Maine law. According to a compilation document detailing state requirements, Maine’s law reads:

No one will be allowed to wear a hat or other headdress when their photo is taken, except for a Nun who may wear the headdress as part of their ‘habit,’ or a turban may be worn in conjunction with religious beliefs. A person undergoing chemotherapy and requests to wear a kerchief, hat, etc., is allowed to do so.

MoonSong says he’s been wearing horns since 2008, and this particular set since 2009. The horns are real goat horns, and he says that feels naked without them.

By the end of November, MoonSong still hadn’t heard back from the Secretary of State or the BMV so he placed a call to the main office in Augusta. They informed MoonSong that his request had been denied, and that he would need to get another photo taken without the horns.

At that point, he asked to speak with someone with more decision making authority to appeal the decision, and he was told someone would call him back.

Two weeks later, while visiting Portland, Moonsong decided to see what else he could do to push the issue. He visited the Maine Civil Liberties Union (MCLU) and requested assistance. Next, he headed to the BMV office to see where they were with his appeal.

After discussing his situation with the clerk and mentioning that he was seeking help from the MCLU, the clerk went to confer with a supervisor. When she came back, she had good news. He would be allowed to wear the horns as a religious headpiece in his driver’s license photo.

The clerk said the initial refusal was because MoonSong hadn’t stated they were for religious purposes as a minister. However, MoonSong says he did clearly state that the horns were part of his ministerial garb from the very beginning and that he included this information in the material sent to the Secretary of State.

Since the original story of his quest to wear his horns in the photo and the BMV’S refusal to allow it broke in mainstream news. Moonsong has been receiving messages of support. He believes that his successful challenge will help other Pagans across the country be treated similarly to the other more well-known religions.

“I do not see any problem as long as sincere beliefs are held and whatever rules are applied are applied to all fairly and equally. Freedom of religion means all religions, not just your own.”

CORRECTION 12/15: It was clarified that the ID in question was not a license, but rather a state-issued identification card, which carries the same regulations regarding official photographs.

Cara Schulz

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Cara Schulz is a journalist and author living in Minnesota with her husband and cat. She has previously written for PAGAN+politics, PNC-Minnesota, and Patheos. Her work has appeared in several books by Bibliotheca Alexandrina and she's the author of Martinis & Marshmallows: A Field Guide to Luxury Tent Camping and (Almost) Foolproof Mead Making. She loves red wine, camping, and has no tattoos.
  • Meanwhile, there are real deprivations going on and real injustices that need to be remedied. Some days, I’m embarrassed to be Pagan.

    • Jules Morrison

      This is the “why do your problems matter when Aleppo” game and it’s wrong for three reasons. First, because problems are not rivalrous that way, you don’t forgo the big ones one by fixing the little ones. Second because it’s an infinite regress, there is always someone worse off, so it becomes an excuse for fixing nothing. Third, because this is not so trivial as it seems. The precedent for taking paganism seriously is built of such small victories.

      • mdyer

        I don’t think this is serious paganism.

        • Exactly! This does not help people take Paganism seriously.

          • Cody Kniceley

            This gentleman takes it seriously… fortunately Paganism is a broad term used to identify any number of different religious practices. I think it’s wonderful.

          • Wolfsbane

            Clearly he’s opted out being considered a gentleman and gone straight to being considered the jackass.

          • Jules Morrison

            It helps people take the legal equality of paganism seriously. Even when it looks silly. I would not like to get drawn into arguing whose paganism is too silly to be considered serious because I assure you, it all looks very silly to outsiders.

          • Wolfsbane

            Not on THIS planet. This cretin’s stunt has set back Pagan equality at least a quarter century.

          • kenofken

            If our movement is really that easily damaged by one man’s quirks, it deserves to fail.

          • You know, there’s a VERY clear similarity between your comment, and G&L activists throwing trans people under the bus in the 80s because we allegedly “make the community look bad.”

            I’m just going to leave this here.

          • Gordon James

            I’m not sure I understand what you are referring to?

            I agree he may have done it as a “me too” kind of stunt.

            I did that kind of thing in middle school and high school.

            How does it set equality for pagans back?

            (I’m not a pagan, but very interested in freedom)

          • This looks silly to insiders.

          • And yet this one “silly” person won the right for his “silly” habit to be recognised as religious headgear on par with a hijab or wimple or yarmulke, and so on. This sets a precadent in the real world.

            What have YOU done that’s affected the real world?

            And mind, I do think he looks silly, and his claims of historical evidence to back this up as a daily practise (as opposed to ceremonial) is highly flawed, BUT you know what? He’s affected the real world. You haven’t. Chew on that.

          • Yes, he’s affected the real world by further lowering people’s estimations of Pagans. as well as lowering Pagans expectations for ourselves.

          • If you really think his DL photo has that much of an impact in a world where people still think THE CRAFT and THE WICKER MAN are still accurate representations of pagan religions, then you’re living in your own bubble.

          • As usual, you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth. Two hours ago you argued that he has impacted the world (and I haven’t) and now you’re suggesting that what he’s done isn’t a big deal. Pick a position.

          • You are so full of shit, it would be mesmerising if I was less jaded.

            Yes, he HAS done something with real-world influence, BUT it is not the blow to “respectability” that you keep whinging about.

            That’s not talking out both sides of my mouth. That’s a real adult acknowledging that nothing is as simplistic as you want it to be, John Boy.

          • It’s not a huge blow to respectability, because we have very little to begin with. It’s the cumulative effect of similar stunts that concerns me, not this one guy.

            And while it is not a huge blow to respectability, nor is it the major victory for civil rights as you suggest.

          • Roxanne Wolfe

            It doesn’t look silly to me. I’m an insider. To each their own. I give him credit for asserting his rights.

        • kenofken

          It’s not typical paganism, but only one man can say whether it is serious or not. Yes, he might be a prankster and attention hound. On the other hand, if he feels called by a god to wear these things full time and did so knowing he would be subjected to almost universal ridicule, then he’s a far more serious Pagan than many of us.

          I’ll admit my first reaction to this story was an eye roll, but I’m not a big fan of the instinct to police who’s a “real Pagan” or demands to sanitize any form of personal authenticity which doesn’t “represent the community” a certain way. I’ve seen all of that nonsense come and go over the decades.

          First you weren’t real if you weren’t initiated into the right Wiccan lineage. Then everyone was a “fluffy bunny” if their practices didn’t seem dark or edgy enough for the self proclaimed cool kids. We have people who want to disown our polyamorous and kinky and untamed Pagans to make our image safe for suburbia. In some circles, you’re not real if you don’t dress “witchy” enough or if you’re so square as to work a 9-5 job, or any job at all. In some places, your credentials are at risk if you eat meat or if, like me, you consider mead, ALL mead, to be disgusting swill that owes its inception to a lack of better options among pre-agricultural peoples.

          The upshot of this is that it’s all senseless mutual self destruction trying to impose orthodoxy on a movement of free thinkers and seekers.

          • Tauri1

            “if, like me, you consider mead, ALL mead, to be disgusting swill that owes its inception to a lack of better options among pre-agricultural peoples.”

            I resent that! I’ll have you know that the mead I produced was considered to be “the nectar of the gods” by those in the SCA who brew mead on a regular basis.

          • kenofken

            Trust me, I appreciate that there is better and worse stuff, and I’ve had some of what all of the serious enthusiasts swear is top cut. In tasting it, I can appreciate the artistry and the vast gulf of difference between the rotgut, but at the end of the day, I’m still left with the cloying sweetness and the fact that honey-based booze gives me murderous hangovers even in small amounts.

          • mdyer


        • freddieknows

          No True-Pagan fallacy?

    • kenofken

      Your identity as a Pagan seems to be pretty ambivalent on a perfect day. What would you consider to be the cutoff for a “real injustice”? By what you seem to imply, virtually all religious freedom/Establishment Clause cases would be considered trivial. If we look at the core of the complaints in establishment cases for the past 70 years, would any of them clear the bar for what you would consider “real” deprivations or injustices?

      If we look at the alleged injuries in isolation, they certainly seem pretty minor – praying in school, having to look at a cross or Biblical monuments in courthouses or village squares. None of it was life and limb stuff to be sure. The early landmark cases happened from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, a time when we had not even finished fully dismantling the institutions of slavery. Should the ACLU have told the plaintiffs in public school prayer cases to just suck it up because there were bigger problems in the world?

      Principles are either worth fighting for or they are not. If they are worth defending, they must be defended consistently. They also must be defended even in the cases where the person asserting the principles falls outside of mainstream approval. In fact it’s critical to defend the principles especially in these cases. Freedom of speech or freedom of religion is meaningless if it is only defended in it’s mainstream constructions. If these rights are defended only for the popular and widely accepted, they are not rights at all. They are just natural extensions of privilege.

      • This does not seem principled. It looks more like a stunt by someone with a goat fetish.

        • kenofken

          It might be, the state doesn’t get to pick and choose which religions look right to it. That’s the principle worth defending.

          • Personally I think the man is silly, but this is the principle worth defending. The state doesn’t get to decide which religions are real or not.

          • Oh, I agree. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have gotten to wear his goat’s horns. I’m saying that I wish Pagans were making news winning more substantive legal battles.

        • By that logic, your claim to being a pagan is just a stunt by an Atheist with a Jung fetish.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker


      • Are you saying you don’t feel a little bit “ambivalent” about being associated with MoonSong and his horns?

        • I sure don’t.

          Nor do I feel as “ambivalent” about trans men who choose to get pregnant while in transition as an overwhelming majority of the other trans men I’ve known are. Like with Moonsong, I don’t get it, but oh well, that’s life.

          His horns are something he feels called to wear daily, to the point that out would be appropriate for a DL photo as religious headgear. If non-pagans are to understand anything fundamental about paganism, they need to start with understanding that “paganism” is, at best, a loosely-connected assortment of non-Abrahamic and non-Indic religions, and these religions number in the *many dozens,* at the fewest. Moonsong is one priest of one religion included as “pagan,” and we cannot educate non-pagans about that while playing respectability politics over who does or does not seem “too silly” to represent the whole.

          • I’d be curious what community recognizes his priesthood or is he just a devotee that thinks it’s cool to call himself a priest. Because if we’re counting that as a discrete religion, then there are as many Pagan religions as there are Pagans.

          • kenofken

            Of course there are. That is a defining feature of modern paganism.

          • That’s as silly as the goat’s horns.

          • Says the playgan. Seriously, that’s been a defining feature of the modern pagan movement for fucking DECADES.

          • The “defining feature” of Paganism is its lack of definition? That’s nonsensical. Every religion has fuzzy boundaries, but only Pagans seem to think that means Paganism can’t be defined. It can be defined if we start from the (multiple) centers, rather than the edges: polytheism, magic, nature. These are the core.

          • kenofken

            How would any of those definitions preclude Moonsong’s claims to priesthood or to the wearing of horns as part of his priesthood?

          • Who’s trying to preclude him? I’ve never said he’s not Pagan. (The only person who’s making that claim is Ruadhán in this thread, where he says repeatedly that I’m not Pagan.)

            I’m not saying he’s not Pagan or that the government shouldn’t let him wear his horns. I’m saying that this kind of silliness diminishes our credibility in the legitimate battles — legal and otherwise — that we still have to fight.

          • who cares? Besides your constant appeal to respectability, what the fuck does it matter, to you?

          • Because it distracts from the legitimate work being done by many other Pagans.

        • kenofken

          I’m certainly not called to wear goat horns 24/7 as part of my paganism (though I may give it a roll come Beltane). If I somehow talk to the media about this case, I would make it clear that Moonsong’s paganism is neither typical nor reflective of my own. Based on his appearance and any number of other factors, I could decide I may not even want to be seen in public with the guy.

          But that’s not what this issue is about for me. The mainstream media, and sadly, some of us, are allowing this man’s, um…singular aesthetic… to distract us like a cat with a laser pointer. Once I got past that early on, what I see is a guy who had the pluck to learn his legal rights and assert them. I see implications of fundamental rights which extend light years beyond this one man’s ability to tweak the noses of the motor vehicles civil servants. That’s where you and I are on opposite sides of the planet on this one. You see a middle aged guy with goat horns and a hippie name as the story. I see him as the sideshow to a much bigger story.

    • You could just quit being a pagan, as there is literally nothing keeping you here other than you insisting that you are. You think believing in REAL gods, and real magic, as something that exists beyond your Jung fanboying, is a mental illness, so just…. you know, leave?

      This story doesn’t make the other ones go away. You at least say you’re smart enough to know that, so unless you aren’t, then you’re just making this comment of yours cos people haven’t paid enough attention to you since you plagiarised that other G&R writer to the point that you overshadowed her and even the rest of that site gave you handy for it.

  • Wintersfrost

    I find the ridicule, judgment, and contempt by some of the commenters below to be very disappointing. A priest of a Pagan path set a precedent in support of religious head wear, not just for Pagans but for anyone religious. While it may seem silly for some of you, his beliefs are just as valid as anyone’s. I’m proud of him for pressing and succeeding. It is progress and every little bit of progress is important.

  • The idea of Paganism being accepted as a serious spiritual path by society seems to be important to an increasing number of Pagans. The fight to have a pentagram on a Wiccan soldier’s grave marker was important. If Pagans want to continue to be part of this movement, this kind of publicity is a setback. Outlandish behavior or actions, which this can easily argued to be, doesn’t get you a seat at the big boy/girl table. instead, it invites ridicule. Perhaps in a perfect world it shouldn’t, but that’s not the world in which we live.

    • kenofken

      We didn’t win the veteran pentacle issue by passing ourselves off as Presbyterian or by currying favor with the “in-crowd” of mainstream religion. We fought it, and won it based on the rights we are guaranteed by the Constitution.

      • No, we won it by people, like Patrick McCollum, wearing a suit and tie when they presented our case to the mainstream world. You think we would have gotten the pentacle if we’d shown up wearing witches’ hats and goats’ horns?

        • My reply was going to be almost word for word what you said John. Spiritually, no one is requiring you to be “mainstream,” but there are certain cultural norms one needs to conform to, if you are to be able to be taken seriously.

          • You’re setting an ugly precadent with those words. Shit like that is what tears scarves off women’s heads.

          • No. Because I’m not ripping his horns off or suggesting that anyone else should. Nor am I even saying that he can’t wear his horns in his photo ID. What I *am* saying is that there are real legal battles that Pagans need to be fighting, and we don’t need to be manufacturing ones that only further weaken our political power.

          • This was a real legal battle. He was literally at a point where the Maine CLU was getting involved.

            You’re obviously using a test for “real” that no-one else is using.

            …and few people, surely no-one with the same relative prominence in Christianity as you, yourself have within the pagan community, advocates literally ripping the headscarves from Muslim women’s bodies — and yet it literally happens, every. Single. Day. Why? Because the sentiment that their headgear is an abomination is normalised by people who think it’s a threat.

            You think this guy is a threat to you far more closely than Christians really think Muslims are a threat to them and to Christianity, and with your position of relative power in pagan circles, you’ve decided that your perception is worth normalising.

          • You need to re-read the article. The MCLU wasn’t involved. He just visited their office and then dropped their name at the license branch.

            Threat? Who said anything about a threat?

          • Yes, I did read it. You need to stop moving goal posts.

            Your pleas to “respectability” out the threat you feel.

          • You keep putting ‘respectable’ in quotes. When I talk about respect, I’m not talking about conforming to mainstream values, as you imply. I’m talking about acting in a way that shows self-respect, that shows we take ourselves seriously. I’m talking about acting in a way that invites non-Pagans to respect us — not because we look or act like them, but because we have something serious and important to say that they should listen to. There are very good reasons to challenge mainstream values and habits of thought and deed. But some Pagans seem to want to rebel for rebellion’s sake, like petulant teenagers. All this does is isolate us, and our effectiveness is diminished correspondingly. Our power to change the world is inversely proportional to our insularity.

          • kenofken

            What people usually mean with “respectability” is that they want to be liked. In the Pagan community, this means they want to be mainstream enough so that the local council of protestant pastors and rabbis consider them the “right sort” to hang with them and give invocations at the local Rotary Club. The Pagans who want that are generally those who want to set themselves up as pastors or even bishops of congregational style worship barely distinguishable from liberal Christianity.

            The great majority of us don’t give a damn about respectability because we’re not in it to be liked or to curry the approval of others. There is no more worthless and fickle currency. What drew me, and I suspect a great many others of us to Pagan paths is a call to authenticity with ourselves and our deities. it is a conscious, ecstatic experiential and untamed way of living and worshipping, and for that reason, it will always look like rebellion to a mainstream culture which has spent itself and withdrawn into narcotized states of consumption and video games. My Pagan path is not rebellion for it’s own sake. It is, (to the best of my ability), authentic living and much of it is not safe for work or for mainstream suburbia. I have no intention of altering it to win the approval/”respectability” among those people. They have nothing I want and I have no desire to proselytize or convert them.

            Respect is vastly different from respectability. Respect comes from living authentically without apology and it comes from demonstrating an ability and will to fight for yourself and your own. One can be respected and liked at the same time, but it is far better to have respect than to be liked if push comes to shove. Those who order their lives so as to be liked will never have anyone’s respect.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Wearing a suit and tie to a hearing is simply putting on the right armor for the confrontation. It does not compromise one’s rights to religious garb.

        • Witches hats and goat horns had nothing to do with putting a pentagram on a soldier’s head stone.

          False equivalence.

          • I didn’t draw the equivalence. kenofken did, above, and I was responding to it.

          • No, you did.

            Kenofken brought up that it was a legal battle that was not won by sitting on their hands and waiting for Christians to do the right thing.

            YOU, on the other hand, o assofass, brought up wearing a “witch hat” in court, which had absolutely nothing to do with winning the soldier’s headstone-pentacle battle.

            Had this Maine BMV case gone to court, yes, he’d’ve worn his horns — because the entire case would have been about whether or not he wears them enough to warrant religious headgear on par with a nun’s habit or a Sikh’s turban.

            YOU made the false equivalence. Moonsong’s headgear IS the whole case. Religious headgear had NOTHING to do with a fucking headstone pentagram. BOTH, though, are real cases where people in pagan religions fought for visible regognotion by government agencies — kenofken’s equivalence is not false.

          • Double speak again. Either goat’s horns (and witches’ hats) have something to do with the pentacle case, or they don’t. You’ve written both within inches of each other.

          • You’re being deliberately obtuse, aren’t you?

            At best, you’re making a real stretch to try and call me inconsistent. You’ve literally not addressed a single thing I’ve said, you’ve just hand-waved, cried “double speak” and went on with your own nonsense, which ultimately comes back to respectability politics.

          • It’s called not taking the bait.

          • You say this *so many hours* after, when you were clearly making other comments. You can play around at being a logical and reasoned person all you like, but the fact is, a lot of people who are familiar with your schtick can see right through these games you play.

          • Are you sure you’re not talking about yourself?

          • kenofken

            Goat’s horns and witches’ hats have everything to do with the pentacle case if we get down to the nut of the issues involving non-establishment of religion. In all three cases, you have people asserting that their symbol or head wear is an important expression of sincerely held religious beliefs. Religious freedom means that: A) Government cannot prohibit or restrict those expressions of belief without a damn good reason and B) What is allowed for one must be allowed for all. Government agents are simply not allowed to favor or disfavor someone’s expression because they don’t agree with it. They don’t get to do so even if a large majority of the populace finds the practice in question bizarre or patently silly. That is a principle worth fighting for every time.

    • Franklin_Evans

      I assure you I’m making no assumptions about your attitudes. I find a certain comparison compelling, and welcome your response to it.

      I see a similar theme in some of the recent controversy over Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the National Anthem. It’s summed up by this paraphrased summary: You want us to be “polite” when we protest, but you don’t want us to protest where you can see us, because that bare fact makes us rude.

      In my totally anecdotal experience, no form or amount of disclosure that I’m Pagan was acceptable in those contexts and venues where expressing my faith seemed appropriate to me. When it comes to being a public Pagan, the opinions of fellow Pagans about my practices are irrelevant. The opinions of the public-at-large are relevant. When that public has a knee-jerk prejudice about the merest evidence of Paganism… well, classic Catch-22, in my opinion.

      The implication here is that while the priest can wear his cassock, the rabbi his prayer shawl, the monk his robes and the nun her habit, there can be no case for the Wiccan high priest to wear his horned crown, or the Hellenic her toga. Did someone advise the Dalai Lama to leave off his robes and wear a three-piece suit when he first visited a Western culture?

      • sannion

        It would, indeed, be odd to find a female Hellene wearing a toga since that was an article of Roman clothing. More to the point, for most of its history the toga was reserved for males and prostitutes. I believe you mean the chiton or himation.

      • (Pedant hat) Hellenists don’t wear togas, we wear khitons. (/pedant hat)

        • Franklin_Evans

          I am appropriately and intensely embarrassed by my mistake. I’d post a picture of my red face, but the beard and posting restrictions… but I did know better. Poste in haste, etc.

    • Explain how you feel it’s a “setback”. Do it. Because, let me tell you, as a trans person, your words echo those of suburban bourgeois-aspiring G&L’s in the 80s telling trans people to get under the bus because we “make [them] look bad and discourage straight people from taking the movement seriously.”

      • Apples and oranges. One is a gender identity issue, the other is a grown man wearing horns. At the Department of Motor Vehicles. Time and place. I tell people I’m Pagan, I do my best to explain the joy of it. It is a spiritual choice, I tell them. Then they see a man wanting to wear horns in a drivers license photo, & I get asked if that’s what Pagans do. I’m sorry, but it is silly in this context. I don’t go skyclad to get my DL photo taken. I don’t think you can project this person’s desire to glue horns to his head to important social issues. And save your outrage for someone who isn’t supportive of LGBTQ rights.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          To the contrary, Ruadhan’s analogy looks like a precise comparison to me. Politics of respectability vs. ethics of inclusion.

        • Not at all apples and oranges. As a trans person, specifically as a trans man who also falls under the category of “male crossdresser” (think about it, try not to hurt yourself) I know what playing to “respectability” looks like.

          You can’t fight for the rights of people while telling them they aren’t respectable enough to be included in the fight.

        • Oh, and pulling the “ally card” is not something that good allies do. NO COOKIE, FOR YOU!

          • Now you are just arguing for arguing sake. And playing the victim card. I’m done.

          • So, basically you can’t explain your reasoning and support your allegations with real or even perceived facts that Moonsong’s DL photo has “set paganism back a quarter of a century”.

            Good to know.

          • I’ve explained it, but you just want to keep arguing. So if you have the time, continue on. I am not willing to feed your need to keep this ridiculous discussion regarding a person with a goat fetish going. So have at it.

          • That you have not.

            * his DL photo hasn’t stripped custody from Wiccan mothers at the alarmingly high rate of 1991
            * his DL photo hasn’t chisled out the pentacles on veteran headstones, as that was not a right acknowledged in 1991
            * his DL photo hasn’t taken Fiona Horne off Australian television
            …and so on.

            *at best,* you said people might ask you if other pagans wear horns enough to warrant wearing them in their DL photo — as if that’s some great injustice that, you know, hasn’t been an ongoing thing analoguous to every time a new “witchy”-themed hit film or television show comes out. Seriously, where the hell were you when AHS: COVEN was out a few years ago? Me? I was living in Lansing and fielding the occasional question about hokey “Hollywood Wicca” even though I’m not a witch, I’m a Hellenic polytheist.

            So, no, you explained nothing. All you did was defend respectability politics.

          • Guess they didn’t want to take the bait either.

          • I’m not sure what “respectability politics” means to you, but there is value in understanding your audience and trying to meet them where they are.

          • From Wikipedia:

            >> Respectability politics or the politics of respectability refers to attempts by marginalized groups to police their own members and show their social values as being continuous, and compatible, with mainstream values rather than challenging the mainstream for what they see as its failure to accept difference. <<

            And yeah, that's fairly straightforward.

          • Definition of respect:
            : a feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc.
            : a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way

            Why should we not seek that?

  • R.R. Starr

    There is a very long list of silly things people do for religious reasons. All religions have some eyebrow raising aspects to them as far as I am concerned. Every one, including my own. Unless it harms someone else, why shouldn’t he get the same exemption other religious groups are arellowed? More importantly, if I want other people to treat my beliefs with respect, no matter how odd they might appear to outsiders, perhaps I had best be prepared to do the same.

    • I agree. I just wish so many of the things on the list of silly things didn’t come out of Paganism.

      • R.R. Starr

        After looking at the beliefs or practices of a lot of different world religions I don’t think we’re any sillier than most. Why is the fellow in the article wearing horns non-stop any sillier than a male Jewish person wearing a yamulke at all times? Or Mormon’s sacred undergarments? Or a female Muslim person wearing a hijab? Or a male Sihk carrying a sacred blade and wearing a turban? I could go on and on.

        • Jules Morrison

          Or a christian religious leader wearing a hat shaped like a fish’s head.

          • kenofken

            Or walking around wearing a miniature replica of a mutilated corpse on a tree trunk. Nothing weird about that…

      • Then leave. You’re obviously embarrassed by pagans and paganism, so leave. Sounds like your real problem is you.

        • Because I believe Paganism has enormous (albeit largely unrealized) potential to transform the world.

          • No you don’t. You believe that secular humanism with a mile-high print-out of Jung/Campbell slash-fic does.

          • *Now* who’s guilty of the “no true Pagan fallacy”?

          • considering that you don’t actually believe in anything that actual pagans believe in that defines paganism, I’m not the one committing the fallacy, here.

          • I think you’re making the mistake of confusing your own particular beliefs as the universal beliefs of all Pagans. It’s a common mistake.

  • Franklin_Evans

    One person’s silly is another person’s serious. Remove this particular topic from its context in the public eye, and I challenge any modern Pagan to be as dismissive of others’ practices, or to fail to bristle at those who dismiss their practices.

    I’ve been embedded, attached or affiliated with government regulations for nearly 40 years, and believe it or not there are objective standards defined in them which must be applied by those tasked with enforcing them. For government issued identification cards, the objective standard is when the card is presented as verification of identity, the picture serves as an immediate source for that verification. Occam’s Razor:

    A nun’s habit or a Sikh’s turban are both worn in public all the time. That the motivation behind it is religious or cultural is besides the point. If an unusual garment fits that basic logic, it must be accepted, and therein lies the real reason why MoonSong’s efforts are important. A government agency apparently failed to apply its regulations reasonably and fairly.

    The one purpose of such regulation is to serve the utility of the id’s picture. If a garment prevents identification of the carrier of the card, it cannot be approved.

    • He says he wears them all the time, having stated he “feels mashed without them [on].”

    • Macha NightMare

      FWIW, few American Catholic nuns wear habits anymore, at least not on the street, maybe for more formal gatherings. No big deal, just mentioning it.

      In my local interfaith work, the only members who wear anything other than street clothes for ordinary meetings are the Zen Buddhists from Green Gulch Zen Center, the women from Brahma Kumaris, and the man who runs the local (private) Vedanta retreat, and sometimes tho not always, the Catholic priest and other ‘generic’ Xtian leaders wear a Roman collar. Other Buddhists, Jews, Catholics, Bahá’i, Muslims wear street clothes. I, too, wear street clothes — because that’s what I feel comfortable in, because it’s easier for others to see you as a credible (i.e., Patrick wearing a suit to court), and because I happen to reserve ritual garb for ritual, not for everyday wear.

      That said, I don’t care what this fellow wears, and I agree with many that he looks silly, but silly isn’t illegal or immoral. There could be times we who interface with the overculture on behalf of Paganisms would be called upon to defend this man.

      • Nuns in habits is a matter of their order, not a matter of formality (also, as someone who grew up Catholic, what most people, even most Catholics, refer to as nuns, are really just Sisters — but that’s another story for another time.) Felician orders are especially traditional, and wear full habits all the time; Franciscan orders are generally plain-clothed.

      • Franklin_Evans

        This side-path to the main discussion is, for me, the first crucial point: we (general) are arguing the superficial appearance of people we want, expect, tolerate or are afraid are going to be representative of us to society-at-large (I’m deliberately avoiding the term “mainstream”, because it too seems to be a moving goal post).

        The problem is not us. Our argument is valid to us. The problem is that we cannot control, project or predict what society-at-large will say or do when confronted with one of us presenting an appearance that represents our faith and practices. It could be as in-your-face as MoonSong’s horns, or as subtle (and of equal standing to the crucifix) as wearing a pentacle pendant or anything in between.

        We can’t avoid judging each other. We are our own best friends as well as worst potential enemies. (I personally find that dichotomy important.). We cannot control how to-us outsiders judge us. Our choice is simple: stay hidden and protected, or be “out there” and face the consequences.

        MoonSong made the latter choice. I, for one, admire him for it.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    I find it significant that the State of Maine dropped its shuck & jive as soon as it found out the state ACLU was involved.

    • Franklin_Evans

      I take small consolation that invoking the state ACLU got results. Some places would say “gonna sue us? Bring it on!” Shrug.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        But this place folded at once. It’s a win. I’m celebrating it.

    • kenofken

      That, to me, is the best evidence of why we should not shrink from the little fights when it comes to civil rights. The ACLU doesn’t have to litigate every case because it has demonstrated that it’s not afraid to take on the unpopular cases when an important legal principle is at stake. Most government elected bodies and agencies don’t really want to pick a fight which legal precedence says they will lose. A lot of that precedence was established by the ACLU’s past work. Every time you assert and defend and exercise a right whether in or out of court, you increase the odds that the government agents in question will respect the rights at the front end for the next person.

  • brun a barbarian

    Just an example of why NO religious protection is necessary for ID. No colanders, hijabs, habits, pirate hats, horns, nothing.

  • After the initial introduction of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles abbreviation as BMV, you immediately switched to using “BVM” throughout the rest of the piece. You might want to edit that.

    • Heather Greene

      Thanks. The correction was made.

  • FYI, according to Phelan’s Facebook page, Inside Edition wants to share his story. Nuf said.

    • So?

      • There’s such a thing as bad publicity.

        • And what’s the bad part?

        • kenofken

          Tell that to Donald Trump. He just became emperor of the western world from nothing more than bad publicity.

    • Macha NightMare

      Groan. Sensationalism gains ratings.

      • Macha NightMare

        To which I hasten to add — try having the name NightMare in the overculture. That is the name by which I’m known in interfaith organizations, seminaries, and elsewhere.

        I did start using my mundane name when working on accreditation for Cherry Hill Seminary.

  • Lester Rhetoric

    Dearest Pagans,
    I recommend that 2018’s annual Pagan Spirit Gathering (2017 is scheduled for Illinois) be held in Millinocket, Maine, and that Phalen Moonsong be nominated as the main attache for all Pagan Leadership Institute rituals. If you agree please write with your opinion on the matter.
    Devil Bless,
    Les Rhetoric

  • Ray Romanowicz

    FFS WHY!! This is silly. Makes us all look like a bunch of weirdos… not we aren’t but, you know.

    • No, it doesn’t.

      Being pagan is absolutely all that’s necessary for mainstream Westerners to think we all look like a bunch of weirdos.

      If you disagree, you’re clearly living in a bubble where you don’t see anything outside your own experiences. When I was still a (LaVeyan) Satanist, we called that the sin of solipsism, and I’m seeing a lot of that in this thread — people (likely all cis, white, het or het-passing, middle-class or passing, able-bodied, and able-minded) stuck in their own bubbles of limited experience who think it’s the occasional guy like Moonsong who has some magical ability to “make us all look bad.” Here’s a reality check: he does not have that ability.

      Respectability politics and civil rights advocacy are mutually exclusive ideals. One cannot fight for the latter in any meaningful sense while playing the former.

  • This is one that I really don’t want to support. He just looks silly.

    But there have been too many times when people find out I’m pagan, they expect me to drag their pets into the bushes to slake my insatiable lusts. And then initiate their spouses and children with secret unspeakable rites, forever scaring their minds and spirits.

    Let the silly one win if that is what it takes. We could all do with more live and let live.

  • Gordon James

    If the person does not have any criminal record (no history of criminal activity) then I am glad people handled it reasonably.

    I have one issue with concealing clothing or headgear on ID pictures.

    If a person has any past criminal history where reasonable officials might want a photo with face and identifying marks showing.

    • Gotcha. “Criminals” should have less right to religion than everyone else. Gotcha.

      • Gordon James

        not about religion

        this is about people using altered ID

        It would be a rare case currently, but covering your face or identifying marks in an ID photo could be of benefit to those with criminal intent. Courts should be allowed to stipulate that Government ID photos be to a certain standard..

        • This blog is about religion. This issue is about religious headgear in a photo ID.

          YOU said you’d have an issue with “criminals” wearing headgear in an ID photo. Ergo, you think “criminals” deserve less right to religious practice than anyone else.

          Fuck you.

          • Franklin_Evans

            He put it badly. There is in the regulations an objective test: is the ID compliant with the legal requirements of the interaction or transaction for which it is being used?

            It covers potential criminal activity; no statute of which I’m aware explicitly cites past criminal history. It can be as mundane as proof of age for entry to some venues or purchasing regulated items, or as directly important as an attempt at fraud in banking, loans or high-priced commodities.

            The unfortunate fact is the face is the primary identification. If clothing obscures it, the clothing is subject to the objective test.