New Patheos contract fuels debate among Pagan bloggers

Terence P Ward —  February 1, 2017 — 58 Comments

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —Since Patheos was acquired by BN Media late last year, there’s been concerns among the site’s Pagan bloggers about how they will fit into a largely Evangelical organization. Those worries boiled over this week when all Patheos bloggers were asked to sign a new contract with only two days’ notice. It’s being characterized as everything from boilerplate legal language to an all-out attack on freedom of expression, with some writers taking sides and others preferring to wait and see how the situation unfolds.

cms-265127_1280

John Halstead has adopted the most direct of approaches by writing a post at his own Patheos blog that was highly critical of the new contract. In that post, he blasted Patheos for certain clauses in the contract that he believes lay the groundwork for censorship:

We are prohibited from “disparaging” Patheos “or any of its related companies.” This is potentially the most problematic part of the contract. For example, one of the other writers here brought to my attention that the American Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a group founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson, is a partner with Affinity4, which is itself listed alongside Beliefnet and Patheos on the BN Media page.The ACLJ lobbies for the death penalty for gays in other countries. Under the new contract, ACLJ could be considered a “related company” that we’re not permitted to disparage. [full post can be read here]

Shortly after publication, Halstead’s post was removed, as was his access to the site. The post was then mirrored on Gods & Radicals and other independent blog sites. At the same time Halstead, who is himself an attorney, began working with some of the other Pagan bloggers to try and negotiate different contract terms.

Looking at the new Patheos contract, there are a number of notable changes. In addition to the explicit protection of “related companies” as noted above, there are also changes to expectations and pay structure. More of the bloggers will get paid, but the highest-performing bloggers will received somewhat less. Although many writers are clear that they don’t blog for the money, the expectation that they will have to post two or three times every week for those lower earnings is a high mark. The contract’s clauses also make clear that blog posts may be edited or used on Patheos’ partner sites.

Some bloggers are definitely leaving, such as Peg Aloi, who said that limits on profanity and control of content were among her top concerns. In addition, she said, “As a Witch I am uncomfortable being under the auspices of an Evangelical Christian publisher.”

Patheos Pagan channel manager Jason Mankey isn’t convinced that the new terms will lead to a mass exodus. “Perhaps it will encourage a few writers to write more often, that’s pretty much it. One of the really positive changes with the new contract is that it will allow most of our bloggers to receive some sort of payment for their writing. I think that’s an exciting thing.”

Mankey is not alone in thinking that the new contract isn’t necessarily a big deal. Both John Beckett and Lilith Dorsey have adopted “wait and see” attitudes. Dorsey said, “Many of my fellow bloggers at Patheos are upset at the recent changes brought about with the company’s sale to Beliefnet. Many are leaving, I don’t blame them. Some don’t have the energy to fight, and some are unwilling to accept the change. I respect their decision.”

“The world is definitely too much with us these days and oppression and suppression are all around us,” she added. “Coming from the disciplines I do (namely New Orleans Voodoo and other Afro-diasporan religions), oppression and injustice are nothing new. Personally, I feel that I must take some time, however brief, to see what exactly these changes will bring. I have always struggled to have my message heard, that is nothing new. And I’m sure people will challenge me on my choice, that is their prerogative, I only ask respect and understanding in the process.”

patheospagan-300x300Beckett observed, “This contract strikes me as a lot of boilerplate, and boilerplate is usually interpreted and enforced rather loosely. Patheos management has been very supportive, and when they say they don’t expect any changes in operations, I believe them. We will see.

“If they censor my work for anything other than libel or copyright violations, I’ll leave. In four years they’ve never done that. I’m not expecting they will, and I’m not going to leave a good situation over what might happen.”

Gwion Raven is on the fence about his future with Patheos, and has been one of the bloggers working to negotiate new contract terms for the Pagan bloggers, including cutting the writing expectation back to once or twice a month and strengthening language around ownership and editing in the writer’s favor.

“John [Halstead] took to the court of public opinion,” Raven said. “I asked him to collaborate on a draft. We did. We presented it yesterday.”

Raven went on to say, “I have not yet signed [the contract] and I might not sign it. But the ‘Patheos silenced Pagan bloggers’ or ‘Right-wing conservatives force Patheos bloggers into an unfair contract’ narratives that some people are putting out there are just simply not true. What is coming to light are some of the parent company’s affiliations and some of those are, indeed, problematic. Perhaps no more problematic that Google’s affiliations, or Facebook’s, but nonetheless, that’s a concern that the Pagan bloggers are discussing behind the scenes.”

There’s not a lot of communication by bloggers across Patheos various religious channels, but some liberal Christian writers have indicated that they will also leave due to the new terms. We contacted one of these writers, but he declined to comment on record, because his decision hadn’t yet been made official.

Mankey said that while he hadn’t received notification of anyone leaving the site when he responded to questions yesterday, he’s always on the lookout for new talent. As he notes, typically Patheos imports existing blogs; The Wild Hunt was itself hosted on the site for a short period of time.  Humanisticpaganism.com was reportedly in talks to move to Patheos. However, those negotiations have been stalled due to the terms of this contract, as well as the removal of Halstead’s own post that criticized its terms.

According to Mark Green, one of the managers of humanisticpaganism.com, it was “a combination of permissible (and demonstrated) censorship and requirement of increased work are both contributors to this decision, but most of all the former. Those of us working on the project don’t have confidence that our perspectives will be allowed on Patheos given its new ownership and policies. We are considering other options.”

Halstead is a founder of Humanistic Paganism, but is no longer a decision-maker there.

Former Patheos Pagan channel manager Star Foster also weighed in. “Coming home to read that contract, and John Halstead’s excellent analysis of it, I am really heartbroken. So many of the writers I admired, and even those I vehemently disagree with but respect, cannot write anything genuine under the current contract terms.

“This has nothing to do with language, as during my tenure we were not allowed obscenities, but with freedom of expression. It breaks my heart that Gus diZerega can’t be his genuine self, and how on earth could any LGBTQI author write without criticizing those who call for their deaths?”

Raven said that the negotiators should know later today which — if any — of their requested changes will be accepted. In the meantime, it appears that several of the Pagan bloggers have signed the contract as-is and will continue to contribute. The underlying concerns about the Evangelical masters of the site, however, remain at the forefront of some of their minds.

[Editorial note:  For transparency and to clear up confusion, The Wild Hunt is not currently hosted on Patheos. It was only at Patheos for one year: 2011-2012. TWH has been an independent news agency since the fall of 2012, and is currently a nonprofit corporation financed wholly by its sponsors, donors, and readership.]

*  *  *
The work of journalist Terence P. Ward was made possible by the generous underwriting donation from Hecate Demeter, writer, ecofeminist, witch and Priestess of the Great Mother Earth.

Terence P Ward

Posts

Terence P Ward is a moneyworker, journalist, Hellenic polytheist and convinced Friend who lives in the bucolic Hudson Valley with his wife, five cats, and multiple household shrines.
  • Pathoes is a privately owned web business, and even though the amount of money being paid to their content creators (bloggers) is minuscule, they are being paid to provide content for someone else’s business. While I *strongly disagree* with the terms being placed upon those who write for the site, it does seem like it is being applied equally across all channels rather than something that is being targeted specifically at the Pagan channel, as evidenced even some of the Christian bloggers are also offended enough to leave the site.

    That they are demanding more content for less money from their writers seems to me the biggest pile of horse apples in all this. The new potential “censorship” terms seem like a convenient way of getting rid of those who they deem “problematic” as well under performing writers. It sucks ass, but unfortunately other than choosing to sever ties with the site I don’t see what other recourse people have.

    Any of my favorite bloggers who choose to leave, I hope will continue writing elsewhere, on their own private blogs or on another portal site such as “Witches and Pagans” or “Gods and Radicals.” Pathoes may eventually find that their most profitable writers are taking their talent… and readers… elsewhere.

    • Anne Newkirk Niven

      To be fair to Patheos, their business model has great big holes in it. (There’s only so much money the Gecko has to throw around, and Patheos is trying to compete for those mass market ads with the likes of Buzzfeed and the HuffPo.) The likelihood that reading PP is sending $ into the pockets of, say, Focus on the Family is probably remote: PatheosPagan would have to be profitable first, and I’d be shocked if that was the case.

  • Quaker Pagan Reflections is also leaving.

    Family illness has kept me from being as proactive about that as I would like, and I am casting no shade on those choosing to stay, but the removal of Halstead’s post was definitive for me.

    Again, I need to be with my family right now more than I need to take care of business, so I’m not sure how long it will take to move the active blog off Patheos. But I have given our notice.

    • Anne Newkirk Niven

      Cat, I love your writing and followed you on PP. Will you be running your blog independently now? I’d be thrilled to host you.

      • I would certainly be open to that, Anne–let’s talk!

        I’ve thought often in the past year or so that QPR might be a better fit with Pagan Square than with Patheos. And the great thing about Patheos, to me, has always been being part of an ecosystem of writers. Pagan Square offers that as well.

        When it comes right down to it, there may be no substitute for keeping our publishing within our own community, and for sure you have offered us a wonderful service in that way for years now…

        • Tyche

          Please, let us know where you decide to blog. I’d like to continue reading your posts.

        • Anne Newkirk Niven

          Cat, please catch up with me at editor2@bbimedia.com. I’m not sure I have an up-to-date email address for you.

    • Verity

      The removal of Halstead’s post seems to illustrate quite clearly “Disagree with us and it’s gone.” Censorship at its finest.

      • yewtree

        Yep, I didn’t like the fact that it was removed.

  • Gwion

    Thank you for posting a balanced appraisal of the situation. It’s obviously still quite fluid and in process. I’d love to see The Wild Hunt continue to investigate the claims and counter claims about the monies being funneled to Right Wing groups, anti LGBT groups, the NRA, etc. Their are two narratives out there and they are both confusing. 1) Monies from Patheos go directly to supporting these sights. 2) One of the related companies offers their users the ability to donate money from their phone bill to over 40,000 charities and non-profits.Some of those groups are wonderful, I’m sure. Some are completely reprehensible.

    For me that is the real issue and real story. Contract negotiations are a snooze fest. How directly the monies are connected to hate groups, is super interesting.

    Gwion Raven

    • kenofken

      It’s all tied in at some level. The fact that Patheos revenues (apparently) don’t go directly to hate/dominionist groups doesn’t much matter if the parent company and its key principals back such causes. One way or another, the money from Patheos is going to help promote marginalization of LGBT, limiting or ending womens reproductive choices and a host of other odious causes. The money generated by my page views might well be small in the course of a given year, but I just see no sense whatsoever in helping to fund the enemies of everything I believe in in these times.

    • The connection between Patheos and the ACLJ is not hard to trace. Jeremy McGee is President and COO of Patheos, and also also on the Board of Affinity4. Both Patheos and Affinity4 are BN (Beliefnet) Media brands. Guess who else is on the 4-person Board of Affinity4? Jay Sekulow, who is is Chief Counsel for the ACLJ! The American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) for example, promotes conservative Christian laws in Africa, including support for a bill in Uganda that would have implemented the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”.

  • kenofken

    If they accept the terms of this contract, I will never again be able to trust that what I’m reading is the authentic voice of the author. An organization with deep ideological and financial ties to fascism demands you sign over total creative control to them, but you know, you have verbal assurance that they won’t ever actually invoke that. That is the height of gullibility. And they’re going to take a “wait and see” attitude. Seriously people, did you just get off the TARDIS this morning from 1987? You’re not sure what direction things are going in this country?

    John Halsted was probably the Patheos writer with who I found the least agreement on a day to day basis, but he now has the largest measure of my respect among the lot of them. Honestly it’s embarrassing to be identified as Pagan sometimes because we have earned the reputation as a people of being the biggest bunch of schmoes to ever walk on two legs. We always ascribe the best motivations to our obvious enemies. We ALWAYS get burned by that, and we always, always.. always go back for more.

    • I assure you if my voice on Patheos was not authentic, ie. they changed my writing without my permission – you would know about it. I’d be raving all over Facebook about it!

      This is honestly more of a big deal to those who write frequently about political hot bed topics. I don’t generally do that. I might touch lightly on political topics, but mostly not. So the general terms of the contract aren’t a problem for me personally. I would also end up making more money, being small fry I get basically nothing. However I do think it is unfair that the currently higher paid bloggers will lose out. My gain should not be their loss.

      I need a platform for my writing, to get it out there. Not so much for my own sake, because whatever. But I feel there does need to be an Australian Pagan writing more publicly – because we often get overlooked on the higher profile blogs and sites. I have only one small issue with the revised contract, but I hope to stay at Patheos regardless.

      And I hope you continue reading Kenofken (when I get back to posting next month that is) because I enjoy your commentary. But I understand if you choose not to.

      • While I am leaving the site as a writer, I fully expect to return often as a reader. Lot of good writers in the PP ecosystem.

        It says something about the community of bloggers at Patheos that the higher paid earners are willing to give up a bit in hopes that the second tier earners will make more. It’s a good network of caring people.

        I’m not happy with the manner in which John Halstead’s post was summarily removed… but I don’t think it should be taken as meaning the bloggers that remain with the site are inauthentic or dishonest.

    • Every thing at Patheos Pagan is the authentic voice of the writer. Always has been, always will be. If that were to ever change we’d all move, me included.

      • kenofken

        Really? Where pray tell is John Halsted’s authentic voice on Patheos now? Apparently his authenticity exceeded his patron’s indulgence. Why sit around and wait for a shoe to drop which it’s owners have signaled in plain contract language, the intent to drop it? What possible upside is there to signing away one’s sovereignty in exchange for an utterly unenforceable promise of benevolence? Are the page views and $50 a month or whatever it is worth all that?

        Leaving aside the issue of editorial independence for the moment, what assurances do I have that every visit to Patheos I make is not helping to fund Religious Right causes? When I look at BN Media, I see a closely interlaced network of owners and directors all aligned with organizations like Focus on the Family and Jay Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice (sort of the anti-ACLU). I’m sure legalistically, they’re all separated by different advisory boards and so on, but money is remarkably fungible. I’ll feel a little foolish (to say the least), if my continued patronage of Patheos is underwriting the destruction of women’s rights in this country and the lobbying African countries to execute their LGBT citizens.

        There is a time in any situation like this where it is prudent to wait before rendering judgment. There is also a point beyond which optimism requires a self-imposed blindness to the writing on the wall.

        • Agreed. Unlike you, I disagree with John Halstead on the vast majority of what he writes, but I applaud him for the stance he has taken here, and his willingness to back it up.

          And the very fact that the post he wrote criticizing Patheos, Beliefnet, their affiliates, and the contract and its terms was almost instantly removed is a huge red flag. To me, it can only be a signal of what Patheos authors can expect in the future. If they do it now, they’ll have no qualms about doing in the future. This cannot be trusted.

        • John’s post was full of “alternate facts” to put it lightly. I can’t imagine any website publishing a piece saying the website hosting the article was a piece of trash. That’s essentially what John did. Why that surprises anyone surprises me.

          Again, saying that Patheos writers can’t criticize groups like Focus on the Family is just plain wrong. It’s simply not true. Why would we keep a post up that’s not true? Even the Wild Hunt has removed articles in the past.

          In the four months Beliefnet has owned the site they’ve removed one article. Again, if the new ownership at Patheos decides to censor articles you’ll hear about it.

          • So you’ve taken to smearing the writers who disagree with you, Jason?

            Nice.

          • Jason, there’s a difference between disagreeing over an interpretation of a contract (opinions) and disagreeing over what the contract says (facts). We can all read for ourselves what the contract said. There are no “alternative facts”.

            As for interpretations, two lawyers (myself and another person) and Gwion Raven, who also interprets contracts for a living, agreed that the contract could be used to bar us from criticizing groups like Focus on the Family, NRA, etc. The fact that they had not yet censored us means nothing, especially when we’re being asked to sign a new contract which radically expanded editorial control. (Take a look at my 2013 contract if you have any doubts about that.)

            Your response was that we should trust the good intentions of the corporation, which I believe is absurd, naive, and irresponsible. When I asked you to advocate for us, you refused. Instead, Gwion and I had to try to renegotiate the contract with Patheos. The result was a better, but not good, contract for all the Patheos writers.

            In spite of the revisions to the contract, many of your writers still chose to leave, including myself, Pat Mosely, David Dashifen Kees (who was the editor of the Agora hub on the Pagan channel), Cat Chapin-Bishop, Shauna Aura Knight, Yvonne Aburrow, Peg Aloi, Lupa, Dana Corby, Catherine Clarenbach, Laine Lundquist, Christopher Scott Thompson, Sam Webster, Starling Foster, and possibly others I don’t know about. That’s about a third of the active Patheos blogs by my count. And I know there are other people still deciding.

            Now you can say what you want about me, because let’s face it, people love to hate me. But you cannot do that to the other people who chose to leave. Many of these people are your friends. (I wish you still considered me one.) But whatever else you say about me, the character of the people who chose to leave speaks volumes: There is something seriously wrong at Patheos.

          • Gus diZerega

            You can add me.

            I had stopped writing for Patheos when this crowd took over. I recently got a message from Jason and based on his report, I decided to trust them. I signed before knowing all the details you have discussed, based on my trust and liking for Jason and his reports of good experiences. I still like Jason and believe he is sincere- but you can add me as another who will never write for them again.

            You want interfaith presence? Get involved face to face. BTW, not too many Evangelicals there…

            And I can personally attest that I was censored by this crowd over at Beliefnet- which is why I stopped writing for them.

    • yewtree

      I think that humans tend to be too trusting, and too suspicious, in general. It’s not just Pagans.

      Anyway, I’ve walked, and I hope you will continue to read my blog.

      • K Randall

        Where is your blog now Yvonne? I love reading your work!

        • K Randall

          I found the link in the comments below…

          • yewtree

            Oh good 🙂

  • More writers are being locked out of accessing their accounts and writing that they own, including Pat Mosley (not interviewed in this piece).

    • yewtree

      I took the precaution of backing up my content as both HTML and XML, and making sure I had successfully imported it to another WordPress instance, before resigning.

      • Patheos is now ignoring requests for xml copies of their blogs.

  • So what’s being done to provide a different platform for Pagan/polytheist bloggers? Patheos Pagan provided a great central location for Pagan/polytheist bloggers of a variety of Pagan religions, traditions, etc.

    Additionally, it allowed for interaction between Paganism and non-Pagan religions.

    Though I didn’t read or follow all of the Patheos Pagan blogs, I’ve been a reader of some for years. If there’s going to be a mass exodus of Pagan/polytheist blogs from Patheos (which I’m totally fine with, in light of what’s going on), I’d like to see another place where a number of different Pagan/polytheist blogs can be hosted.

    (One that’s not witches&pagans, at least.)

  • Lupa

    I’ve opted to bow out as well, partly due to the recent kerfuffle, and also due to time restrictions. I’ll be interested to see whether Patheos honors my request to permanently delete my material. I hold no animosity towards Jason, or the bloggers who choose to stay. We all have to figure out what works best for us. I enjoyed my time co-blogging with Rua Lupa on Paths Through the Forests, but it’s time for me to move on.

  • Lady Shyra

    I don’t blog, but I’m a LONG time Wild Hunt reader, as well as many of the Patheos Pagan blogs. I really hate to see this change. I’m afraid I agree with kenofken; how in the world will I know that these writers are writing with their authentic voice? I’ve had to much past experience that’s been bad with the evangelical side of Xtianity – which is one of the reasons I bought my own domain. As it is, I’ve received way too many derogatory and insulting… not to mention proselytizing messages from this type since I went online in the late 80’s. I’m content to let them have their faith and path as long as they leave me and mine alone. But I’ll never trust them completely — and especially not these days, with the way GW worked the faith-based evangelicals into government, and the Dominionists today salivating as they come closer and closer to the presidency. How in the world can we maintain an authentic, uncensored voice in this type of atmosphere?

    I wish we could see an institution like UU host a portal. I love to talk with those of other paths – there’s often a lot of common-cause we can make with them. I hate to lose that; UU would seem like a perfect partner for this type of undertaking. But then, I’ve been wondering about that for a number of years….

    • Pennybird

      I read more at the atheist (excuse me, the nonreligious) channel of Patheos than I do the Pagan channel, and I worry about censorship there as well, especially if they are hosted by Evangelicals. I would love to see UU provide a platform.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        It’s very flattering to propose UU management of such a platform, but that takes resources. If the pagan blogosphere really wants that, it should come up with a proposal including a finance plan.

    • yewtree

      I am sorry to say it, but I am afraid it could not be guaranteed that UUs would provide a censorship-free platform either.

      I used to edit a Unitarian magazine in the UK, and the owners complained when I included an article that explained kink; they also complained bitterly when I mentioned polyamory in an editorial (and the chair complained that there were two articles in the same issue about same-sex marriage being made legal in the UK). I felt that my editorial freedom was compromised, and resigned.

      I also notice that the UU organisation Leather and Grace, which promotes understanding and tolerance of kink, has given up trying to persuade the UUA to let it affiliate. (If anyone else knows anything different, please speak up.)

      • kenofken

        We really need to get over the idea that liberal Christian denominations are somehow seamlessly compatible with Paganism. We especially tend to fall into the trap of thinking that UU is some sort of pre-built turnkey home for Pagans who don’t want to pay for our own infrastructure. Of course it’s nothing of the kind. UU exist to reflect UU goals and beliefs. Their non-dogmatic and ecumenical philosophy notwithstanding, they are at the core spiritual-but-not-religious Christians.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          This description of UU theology was current in 1950. UU is much more theologically diverse today. It is true, however, that UU is not ready to play blog host.

  • If it’s in the contract then no amount of ‘reassurances’ or ‘good will’ or ‘best intentions’ will stop the clause from being enacted if Patheos so desires. A contract is a legally binding document, every single word of it. To think differently is naive, at best.

    • David Pollard

      Words in a contract is one thing, the actual track record of the management is another. So far, except when an author flames the publisher with inaccurate information – Patheos has not edited for the content of the messages in the several years of their history. Should they decide to change that, I’m pretty sure most of the authors will walk (and there’s nothing in the contract to prevent that.)
      Another aspect of Patheos is its Inter-Faith presence. At one site, you can get viewpoints from an extremely wide choice of religious view points. – this can not be replicated at any purely Pagan blogging website.
      I would also add that if Patheos is OK with articles like this: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jeffhood/transgender-christ-chelsea-manning/ being posted, after all the crap these sponsor and the rest of the Religious Reicht give the transgenered community – we’ll be just fine.

      • The words the management chooses to put into the contract is part of the the actual track record of the management.

  • Tauri1

    Seems to me it’s time all these bloggers get together and figure out a way to have a Pagan version of Patheos and Beliefnet that strictly for them.

    • Anne Newkirk Niven

      Such a site already exists, but since using that name has already had one comment deleted (I assume that’s why) I’ll just say google my name and you’ll probably figure it out. Also, it would be fair to mention Gods&Radicals as well as The Wild Hunt itself. Don’t forget Witchvox, which doesn’t do blogs, per se, but does share a lot of pagan one-off articles. There’s also at least one polytheist portal, and, a while ago, there was one at the opposite end of the spectrum specifically for naturalist/non-deity Pagans.

      • Tauri1

        Yes indeed. I forgot about Witchvox but was unaware of Gods & Radicals. Do they have a variety of bloggers posting columns there?

        • Anne Newkirk Niven

          G&R has a very specific worldview but does host lots of pagan writers. There’s also other media portals: witchvox, my channel, and I believe a polytheist channel. The notable point of difference with PP is that it is embedded in a multifaith commercial religious portal.

          • thelettuceman

            And Patheos also the single largest trafficked religious website on the ‘net.

            Not knocking any of the other portals you listed, but if Patheos maintains its current Alexa rank, the loss of a Pagan channel will severely impact the potential for Pagan voices to be seen. The other ones just can’t compare in sheer numbers, despite offering more freedoms or more ethical considerations.

          • Anne Newkirk Niven

            I checked and Alexa doesn’t give statistics for Patheos Pagan, just for the entire Patheos site including the very popular atheist, Mormon, and other Christian and world religion channels. Which is apples compared to … applesauce?

          • From my 4 years there, I think it’s safe to say that actual amount of interfaith dialogue between the Pagan channel and the other channels was very, very small.

          • yewtree

            Yup. It was good when it happened, though (the Samhain series of posts we did was fun).

            I had enough trouble keeping up with all the Pagan posts, never mind other channels. I occasionally wandered over to the atheist channel, Jewish channel, the UU blogs on the spirituality channel, and the progressive Christian channel.

            Commenting on the atheist channel was…. frustrating.

  • Verity

    The restrictions on who writers cannot speak against as well as loss of editorial control over their own work is way too reminiscent of a business situation I was in several years ago. I was a 1-900 psychic (pause for everyone to groan), but on a service that had some morality and honor to it. My boss told us to use whatever method of divination worked best for us – tarot, runes, numerology, whatever. Our interpretations were up to us, we were not to try to keep callers on the line to pad call time unnecessarily, and while getting contact information was vital for repeat business it was left up to us when to ask for this info. She even told us if we could not get a read on a caller we were not to waste their time and ours, but to refer them to another reader and start their 1st-10-minutes-free over again. It was an honest business I enjoyed and my reader # was one of the most requested by repeat callers.

    Then the owner turned over operations to her sons while she concentrated full time on her charitable endeavors the business was funding (another reason I was proud to work for her). The sons upended all her rules: now we were required to get contact info within the first 10 minutes of a reading, we were to extend the call as long as possible by any means necessary, we were not to end a call for any reason – if we couldn’t get a bead on the caller or even if the caller became obscene or sexual. If we did not follow these rules to the letter we got no pay for the call and 3 offenses meant dismissal.

    The worst part was that we were now restricted in our interpretations. Anyone who has read tarot (my specialty) knows that while every card has a basic meaning, there are nuances depending on where the card is in the reading, what other cards appear, what the client’s question is, and if you read the cards reversed or not. Now I was instructed that each card must always be said to mean the exact same thing – that to give other than a rote meaning would confuse clients if/when they called for another reading. How can you read someone under such circumstances? I tried to explain this to my new bosses, along with asserting that I had best success in securing contact info at the end of a reading when my clients were happy and satisfied, not the beginning. Since I was one of their most productive readers you would think they’d’ve listened. But to no avail – their way or the highway. So to the highway I went.

    Sorry for writing a book, but just to say these contracts have great potential to restrict writers right out of effective writing. I would also be interested to know the circumstances for breaking the contract; most contracts have consequences for walking away and I would be very leery of these. At best I bet the writer loses rights to any work they have produced for the company.

    Anyone who believes they can work within the limits of the contract, I hope so and wish you well. I for one would not be able to do so.

  • Gus diZerega

    I stopped writing for them after I heard who bought them. Then Jason recently urged me to start again- and to sign the contract. I decided what the Hell, and signed. Then John got in touch and asked my experience with them at Beliefnet.

    I explained that yes, I had been censored.

    Now I read they are saying no censoring ever took place. That is not true because it happened to me- and involved deleting discussions of what I and other Pagan writers should do given that one religious thug affiliated with them had attacked African witches who were being oppressed by African Christians.

    This was the scandal that led Jason Pitzi-Waters to leave Beliefnet.

    I have decided that I will never write for them until they make major apologies in public to the Pagan community.

  • Tyche

    Thank you!

  • yewtree

    I have noticed less political posts and more spirituality+lifestyle posts on there over the last few months. Could be purely coincidence, or people doing self-care because they can’t cope with the new era of the Trumpster…. dunno

    • Gwion

      Hi Yew tree, I.can tell you from my own perspective that all of the material I have posted in the entire time I have been at Patheos is 100% my work, my voice. I have written a couple of political blogs since the election, but that isn’t what makes up the majority of what I write. So , at least in the case of my blog, any shift in content t is entirely because of what I chose to write about, rather than any prompting from Patheos to write any particular thing. Either Patheos nor my channel editor have ever directed, commented or otherwise directed me to write anything. And personally, being a loud, proud, pagan and witch is in and of itself a political act.

      • yewtree

        Of course Gwion, same here (my reaction to both Trump and Brexit was a stunned and agonised silence of horror).

        But the point is that people now don’t feel they can be 100% sure if what they are reading is someone’s authentic voice.

  • yewtree

    The beautiful thing about blogging is that people can self-publish their work, and they own it, flaws and all. It generally rises and falls in the internet ecosystem on its own merits. Patheos attempted to give certain blogs an evolutionary advantage… but now they want to genetically modify them as well. That crosses a line for me.

  • There’s been a much-improved contract offered now, so thank you very much to the writers who negotiated a better deal! I’m going to stay on for now, and wait and see (but please, if anyone can substantiate rumours of money being funded to hate groups or anti-LGBTQ efforts, let me know *right away* and I am OUT!) They’ve been very specific about what they’re allowed to edit and that I can pull the post if we can’t reach an agreement, and I don’t have any issues with not being allowed to publicly bad-mouth the magazine on the magazine site or with moderating profanity somewhat. Gods & Radicals pulled one of my articles right before the election because they decided they didn’t like what I had to say, and that’s their right. I don’t like it, but they own the house and they’re the ones who have to accept responsibility for the people in it. I will let you know if anyone moderates my posts in a way that twists my words; I am a contributor at PaganSquare and at Gods & Radicals as well, and believe me, you’ll hear about it if that happens. I completely respect the decision of anyone who left; but I’m going to ride it out. I promise I will keep you posted.

    • As a non-profit religious & education organisation in the United States, Gods&Radicals is forbidden by law from interfering in electoral politics or taking a stand for one candidate or another, which is why we had to unpublish your essay, as it urged people to take a position in the presidential election.

      It is the same law which applies to all religious organisations; however, it appears Trump has signaled he will reverse the law and make it possible for Christian churches to endorse candidates.

      Otherwise, we would have run it, as it was a great article.

      Now that the election is over, we’re free to write about Trump as much as we want, by the way. Well, until fascism.

    • Sable. I don’t know if there is money flowing either way, but perhaps this will be helpful: The connection between Patheos and the ACLJ is not hard to trace. Jeremy McGee is President and COO of Patheos, and also also on the Board of Affinity4. Both Patheos and Affinity4 are BN (Beliefnet) Media brands. Guess who else is on the 4-person Board of Affinity4? Jay Sekulow, who is is Chief Counsel for the ACLJ! SO ACLJ’s top guy and Patheos’ top guy both sit on the Board together of one of three BN Media’s brand companies. Just a reminder, the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) for example, promotes conservative Christian laws in Africa, including support for a bill in Uganda that would have implemented the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”. (I have source links for all of the above, if you want them.)