Archives For Arizona

After weeks of debate and protest, the show-down in the Copper State is finally over.  Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed State Bill 1062, the so-called anti-gay bill. With high stakes and increased pressure from corporations, Brewer had little choice but to object. On Feb. 26 she said:

I have not heard of one example in Arizona where business owners’ religious liberty has been violated … The bill is broadly worded, and could result in unintended and negative consequences. (The Washington Post)

While the notorious Arizona State bill is now certainly dead, the conversation is far from over.

Image: Wing-Chi Poon, CC lic. Wikipedia Commons

Image: Wing-Chi Poon, CC lic. (Wikipedia Commons)

The mainstream media dubbed SB 1062 “anti-gay” legislation in order to link the bill to recent public discourse surrounding marriage equality. However SR 1062 was not specifically “anti-gay.” In fact SB 1062 was not even new legislation. It was a proposal to amend a current Arizona law – one that is commonly referred to as a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA.)

Mark Bailey, a Druid living in Phoenix, Arizona explains:

We took the time as a State to vote on the people that we felt would advance our beliefs and protect our rights from those who do not understand Arizona. Instead what we got was a few very unscrupulous people who decided instead to forward a small minority of people’s rights ahead of everyone else’s. They decided that it was okay to try to legalize an individual’s right to bigotry, prejudice and outright hatred.

Mark Bailey, Druid and Arizona resident

Mark Bailey, Druid and Arizona resident

In April 2013 we reported on Kentucky’s passage of its own RFRA law after a series of disputes with its Amish community. Generally speaking, RFRA’s seek to protect the right to act or not to act based upon “sincerely held religious beliefs” when imposed upon by the government. This might include a public school test held on a holy day, a ban on beards or religious head wear, or a requirement to conduct legal business on the Sabbath.

At first glance the concept sounds great until you look a bit closer. Legislators have repeatedly recognized that the broad language of these type laws could potentially lead to abuse. Kentucky Senator Daryl Owen, “This is a piece of legislation looking for a reason.”

What changes did Arizona’s legislature make to its own RFRA that led to the recent uproar? SB 1062 expanded the RFRA language to include private industry. Here is a portion of the text from the revised law:

‘State action’ means any action  by the government or the implementation or application of any law, including state and local laws, ordinances, rules, regulations and policies, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether the implementation or application is made or attempted to be made by the government or nongovernmental persons.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (official portrait)

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (official portrait)

SB 1062 replaced “government” with “state action.” The original (and current) Arizona RFRA only addresses burdens placed upon individuals by governmental agencies (e.g., the Amish buggy controversy, prayer in public schools.) The revised version would have included those burdens placed upon nongovernmental persons by nongovernmental persons when using a ‘law’ or ‘state action.’ This means that businesses could claim a defense under RFRA laws when they feel their “sincerely held religious beliefs” are being burdened. For example, this might include the subsidizing of birth control or the hiring or firing of certain individuals. Mark Bailey expressed his concern:

Companies have to designate themselves as “religiously affiliated employers” and can therefore by RFRA not be forced against their religious will to do something. Since the Bill was ambiguously written, it would have allowed wide varieties of actions to be potentially covered by this Bill … I saw the potential for this arrogance to be the beginning of a very dark time for just about anyone that someone in power thought was wrong for some reason.

While all the media attention was on Arizona,  Kansas had been pushing its own revised RFRA with very specific language. It reads in part:

No individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender …

While the Kansas bill has a very clear target, the Arizona law was far more open-ended and could have resulted in problems for many sectors of its population – not only the LBGTQ community. However, it is easy to see how SB 1062 quickly became a “gay issue.” Consider John C. Eastman’s, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), reaction to the veto:

The fight has to be over what the First Amendment is … This is not somebody adhering to old Jim Crow lunch-counter discrimination. This is a fundamental dispute about what marriage means, and why it’s important for society.

Eastman’s comments demonstrate the underlying agenda of RFRA supporters.

In an on-air CNN debate with Cathi Herrod of The Center for Arizona Policy, Rob Boston of Americans United explains, “I really think that bills like this are the dying last gasp from people who just can’t accept the fact that American Society is changing.” He adds:

What legislation like this does is take a very noble concept like religious freedom and it turns it into a tool of oppression of other people and that is simply not right. That is a fundamentally anti-American value. It’s at odds with the First Amendment.

Last April Rev. Selena Fox, founder of Lady Liberty League and Circle Sanctuary, agreed saying:

Religious Freedom is an important foundation for the United States. We need to be vigilant, guard it, preserve it and uphold it. However, as part of this work, we also need to closely examine political crusades and legislation that are put forth in the name of “Religious Freedom.” Just because something is proclaimed to be about “Religious Freedom” does not make it so.

According to The Washington Post, there are currently nine states considering related RFRA legislation. As the Post says, “Here are the states to watch if you want to keep tabs on this issue:” Mississippi, Missouri, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Michigan, Idaho, Hawaii, North Carolina and Oregon. In West Virginia, there is even a proposal to amend the state constitution with specific religious language.

The same article also notes that six states have now abandoned attempts to push through or amend RFRA legislation. These include Tennessee, Utah, South Dakota, Ohio and Georgia. Kansas has even tabled its bill.

Image: Gonzo fan2007, CC-BY-SA-3.0 lic. via Wikimedia Commons

Image: Gonzo fan 2007, CC-BY-SA-3.0 lic. via Wikimedia Commons

Finally one more side point needs to be made with regards to the Arizona “kerfuffle.” During the weeks leading up to the veto, the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals Football Team, the 2015 Super Bowl Committee and Major League Baseball all came forward very quickly with strong statements against Arizona’s SB 1062 affirming their practice of diversity. These statements were expressed just as the multimillion dollar sports industry was faced with its own internal diversity challenge. Potential NFL draft pick Michael Sam announced he was gay. Conservative lobbyists now want Congress to legally ban gay players from the NFL and similar leagues. How will these national sports organizations react when confronting this issue in their own backyards?

The conversation is far from over.

 

Earlier this week I reported on how the Supreme Court of the United States will be hearing a case about sectarian prayers before government meetings. Defenders of various inclusive sectarian models say that it promotes a healthy discourse in which all citizens are able to fully represent themselves. The truth is that when pluralistic-on-paper invocation models are tested, the results are usually far from ideal.

Rep. Steve Smith. Photo: Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services

Rep. Steve Smith. Photo: Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services

“An atheist lawmaker’s decision to give the daily prayer at the Arizona House of Representatives triggered a do-over from a Christian lawmaker who said the previous day’s prayer didn’t pass muster. Republican Rep. Steve Smith on Wednesday said the prayer offered by Democratic Rep. Juan Mendez of Tempe at the beginning of the previous day’s floor session wasn’t a prayer at all. So he asked other members to join him in a second daily prayer in “repentance,” and about half the 60-member body did so. Both the Arizona House and Senate begin their sessions with a prayer and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

“When there’s a time set aside to pray and to pledge, if you are a non-believer, don’t ask for time to pray,” said Smith, of Maricopa. “If you don’t love this nation and want to pledge to it, don’t say I want to lead this body in the pledge, and stand up there and say, ‘you know what, instead of pledging, I love England’ and (sit) down. That’s not a pledge, and that wasn’t a prayer, it’s that simple,” Smith said.”

I’d say that this was an isolated incident, but it isn’t. Time and again, when a non-Christian dares to speak in a space some Christians believe is theirs alone, the result is outrage and protest. What did Rep. Juan Mendez say that was so offensive that it required a Christian do-over the next day?

“This is a room in which there are many challenging debates, many moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration, but this is also a room where, as my secular humanist tradition stresses, by the very fact of being human, we have much more in common than we have differences. We share the same spectrum of potential for care, for compassion, for fear, for joy, for love. Carl Sagan once wrote, ‘For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.’” 

Shocking, right? The fact is that any deviation too far from the (theologically conservative) Christian default setting provokes these reactions. We can comfort ourselves by saying this is a symptom of changing demographics, that we are becoming more pluralistic and these are the last gasps of a increasingly reactionary rump, but that’s a cold comfort when such changes happen slowly over the course of generations. The simple fact, the message sent to religious minorities and non-Christians is: it’s different when you do it. That’s true whether you’re talking about prayers in America, or even legally binding Pagan wedding ceremonies in the UK.

Sir Tony Baldry doesn't like Pagan weddings.

Sir Tony Baldry doesn’t like Pagan weddings.

“If we can just go to the Scottish example … we have seen in Scotland pagan weddings celebrated, spiritualist weddings celebrated and weddings celebrated by the White Eagle Lodge. I think this is a question that ought to have been properly consulted on with our constituents. I can’t speak for other MPs, but I have had enough problems in my constituency with same-sex marriage. If I go back to the shires of Oxfordshire and tell them that Parliament’s now about to endorse in England pagan marriage they’ll think that we’ll have lost the plot completely. If they think then that Labour is supporting pagan marriage and masonic marriage then they really will think that we’ve lost the plot.”

In a culture that has been dominated by a distinct form of monotheism for hundreds of years, real pluralism is radical. Real pluralism acknowledges the vast imbalances in privilege and power and acts accordingly. If you pretend that power and privilege is not there, you end up with the legal case now heading to the Supreme Court where pluralism-on-paper resulted in an overwhelming affirmation of Christian power.

“The town’s process for selecting prayer-givers virtually ensured a Christian viewpoint. Christian clergy delivered each and every one of the prayers for the first nine years of the town’s prayer practice, and nearly all of the prayers thereafter. In the town’s view, the preponderance of Christian clergy was the result of a random selection process. The randomness of the process, however, was limited by the town’s practice of inviting clergy almost exclusively from places of worship located within the town’s borders. The town fails to recognize that its residents may hold religious beliefs that are not represented by a place of worship within the town. Such residents may be members of congregations in nearby towns or, indeed, may not be affiliated with any congregation. The town is not a community of religious institutions, but of individual residents, and, at the least, it must serve those residents without favor or disfavor to any creed or belief.”

Real change is hard, because it effects real changes. Cosmetic changes are easy, because they ultimately change nothing. You cannot simply declare a space pluralistic and fair and then expect it to be so. If Christians want the public square to be a multi-religious space, it has to come with real concessions, or else it’s simply another tool to enforce the majority’s power, because it’s always different when the “other” does it.

This week the 113th Congress of the United States of America convened, and while this is a routine part of our government’s normal functioning, both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate saw some historic firsts that should appeal to those hoping for a more religiously diverse representative body. Perhaps the most high-profile is Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu to be elected to Congress, and the first person to swear their oath of office on the Bhagavad Gita.

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

“I chose to take the oath of office with my personal copy of the Bhagavad-Gita because its teachings have inspired me to strive to be a servant-leader, dedicating my life in the service of others and to my country.” – Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

In addition to Gabbard, Sen. Mazie Hirono, also of Hawaii, became the first Buddhist elected to the U.S. Senate (she had already served in the House), and the first Asian-American female senator.

Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii

Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii

“I don’t have a book [...] But I certainly believe in the precepts of Buddhism and that of tolerance of other religions and integrity and honesty [...] It’s about time that we have people of other backgrounds and faiths in Congress…”Sen. Mazie Hirono (in 2007)

A third first comes from Arizona where Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the first openly bisexual member of Congress, also happens to be the first explicitly religious “none” elected to Congress.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema

Democratic Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who was raised a Mormon, is religiously unaffiliated but does not describe herself as an atheist. Her campaign was unavailable for comment to Whispers due to the swearing in, but spokesman Justin Unga told the Religion News Service in November that Sinema favors a “secular approach.” He told the New York Times the same month that Sinema “believes the terms ‘nontheist,’ ‘atheist’ or ‘nonbeliever’ are not befitting of her life’s work or personal character.”

There are other interesting religious facts about the 113th Congress, but I think these three women are representative of the shifts happening in the United States right now. Specifically the rise of “nones” who aren’t necessarily atheists, but also don’t claim a religious identity,  and the ongoing growth of non-Christian minority religions. We are fast approaching the day where hot-button moral issues in this country can no longer be discussed solely within a Judeo-Christian context, and we are already seeing the end of the “white Christian strategy” in national politics. It’s a new dawn, one that started with the November elections, and is now enacted with this new Congress.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Chico Goddess Temple entrance.

Chico Goddess Temple entrance.

  • Is the Chico Goddess Temple doomed? According to the Chico News and Review, noise complaints for an illegal festival held four years ago has led to a much larger struggle to survive and gain the permits needed to stay open. Owner Robert Seals thinks that hostility to Goddess religion might underlay the resistance he’s encountered in obtaining the permits he needs. Quote: “This is nothing new, worship of the Goddess, but it goes up against a lot of fundamental religions.” You can learn more about this struggle, and the upcoming appeal hearing, here.

That’s it for now! Happy Friday the 13th! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

The idea of the United States as a pluralistic, secular, society where no single religious expression is enshrined has always gotten push-back, and experienced robust dissent over the years. To many, America is a “Christian” nation (sometimes a “Judeo-Christian” nation), and all others live here under their sufferance. The Rev. Dennis Terry’s recent comments at a Rick Santorum presidential rally typify the more vituperative side of this particular sentiment.

“I don’t care what the naysayers say. This nation was founded as a Christian nation. The god of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. There is only one God. There is only one God, and his name is Jesus. I’m tired of people telling me that I can’t say those words. I’m tired of people telling us as Christians that we can’t voice our beliefs or we can’t no longer pray in public. Listen to me. If you don’t love America, and you don’t like the way we do things, I’ve got one thing to say, get out! [...] We don’t worship Buddha, we don’t worship Mohammed, we don’t worship Allah. We worship God. We worship God’s son Jesus Christ.”

The Rev. Terry clearly articulates a popular view among conservative Christians concerning religious freedom. To these Christians, government-enforced secularism isn’t a neutral ethos, but a method of attacking their faith and limiting their free expression. In the minds of these Christians “religious freedom” means, in this time of demographic dominance, the right to let the majority dictate the religious norms of a society. Any deviance from that, in limiting prayer in schools, or sectarian prayer at government meetings, is a persecution of their church. To combat this “war on religion” (ie religion = Christianity) a variety of laws have been passed at the state level in order to “protect” the religious freedom of the overwhelming majority. A recent example is the new Florida law enabling students to give “inspirational messages” at school events.

“SB 98 states that its purpose “is to provide students with the opportunity for formal or ceremonious observance of an occasion or event.” Although “prayer” is never used in the bill, opponents claim it allows religious messages to be delivered in public schools. They also question allowing students to have an unrestrained venue to air their opinions at a school event.”

Such measures are almost always worded carefully to avoid legal challenge, though the wink-wink, nudge-nudge subtext is that it will allow majority Christian schools to have de facto sectarian Christian prayer so long as it’s a student willing to say it. As Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, put it: “legislators are clearly inviting Florida school boards to plunge into a legal swamp.” It’s a swamp that Tennessee seems ready to plunge into as well.

“The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden was approved by the House Education Committee on a voice vote. The companion bill is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. Holt said he proposed the legislation after talking with a concerned school board member in his district. He said the proposal would allow school districts to develop a so-called “student speaker policy” for school officials to follow.”

Here’s the thing though, while such laws almost always privilege the majority religion, it also opens the door to expressions of non-Christian religion within public schools (at least if the law if applied fairly).  Prayers to Jesus are all well and good, but what happens when a Wiccan gives an “inspirational” message?

Rep. Richard Montgomery, a Sevierville Republican and chairman of the House Education Committee, said he likes the idea of the bill, but believes it’s going to cause an uproar when a student decides to discuss a not-so-popular religion, such as Wicca. “You might have 1 percent that actually believe that way, and 99 percent don’t believe that way,” he said. “You’re going to have an uproar out of this world in a lot of communities.”

This sentiment was echoed by David Barkey, Religious Freedom Counsel for The Anti-Defamation League, when asked for comment on the new Florida law.

Protesters in Pensacola support highschool educators on September 17, 2009. The educators are on federal trial following the ACLU charge that they prayed in school. (Photo: Cheryl Casey / Shutterstock.com)

Protesters in Pensacola support highschool educators on September 17, 2009. The educators are on federal trial following the ACLU charge that they prayed in school. (Photo: Cheryl Casey / Shutterstock.com)

“Our public schools are for all children regardless of their religion. But this law could require children as young as five to observe prayers to Allah, Buddha, Jesus or other faiths contrary to their religious upbringing at mandatory student assemblies. It is completely contrary to our public schools’ inclusive nature, and the law will only serve to divide students, schools and communities along religious or other lines. In America, the question of one’s religion or faith is extremely personal and private. It is not a question that is put to the discretion of government or other people. To ensure all children’s religious freedom, we urge school districts not to implement this imprudent law.”

Despite these warnings, student “religious liberties” laws have already been passed in Arizona and Texas, places where the majority feels confident that these laws will act as proselytization tools of the majority faith. Think I’m overstating this? Don’t listen to me, listen to the Texas House Research Organization’s own analysis of the then-pending bill.

“The bill could serve as a tool to proselytize the majority religious view, Christianity, in Texas schools. The United States is a nation made up of people of many faiths. Children are required to attend school and should be permitted to do so without someone else’s religion being imposed on them … A school should be a religion-free zone – leaving religion for homes, places of worship, and individual hearts.”

In truth, the “a Wiccan might be allowed to invoke the Goddess publicly” scenario is more a gambit than a true threat. It can occasionally work to stymie Christian overreach into the public sphere, but in many other cases, those lone non-Christian students who speak out face incredible intimidation and threats. In most cases the tyranny of the majority, once unconstrained by the law, proceeds to do its level best to silence all dissenting voices through threats, intimidation, violence, or simply peer pressure. That said, this new wave of “student expression” laws aren’t, legally speaking, bullet-proof. There’s a new legal precedent being built that looks not just at the openness and neutrality of a law’s language, but how well it maintains a balance of religious and philosophical viewpoints.

Rhode Island teen Jessica Ahlquist, who was bullied and threatened out of her school after successfully challenging a Christian mural.

Rhode Island teen Jessica Ahlquist, who was bullied and threatened out of her school after successfully challenging a Christian mural.

“…legislative prayer must strive to be nondenominational so long as that is reasonably possible — itshould send a signal of welcome rather than exclusion. Itshould not reject the tenets of other faiths in favor of just one.Infrequent references to specific deities, standing alone, donot suffice to make out a constitutional case. But legislativeprayers that go further — prayers in a particular venue that repeatedly suggest the government has put its weight behinda particular faith — transgress the boundaries of the Establishment Clause. Faith is as deeply important as it is deeply personal, and the government should not appear to suggestthat some faiths have it wrong and others got it right.”

While that decision looked at legislative prayer, it isn’t so far a stretch to see that precedent being applied to government-funded public schools as well. If a school enacts a policy under a student free expression law, and the vast majority of “inspirational messages” are endorsing one single sectarian message, it could be seen a an official endorsement of religion, even if the teachers and administrators never utter a word. That gives adherents to minority faiths some hope, but as challenges work their way through the courts, we still face the very real situation of schools in several states where Christian expressions of faith are going to receive pride of place, marginalizing Pagan students.

The problem with these attempts to codify “religious freedom” into law is that almost always benefits the majority at the expense of the minority. I have seen time and time again, in a number of different circumstances, when laws and policies that are supposed to be viewpoint neutral end up empowering one expression of faith in the public square. That’s bad when it involves adults struggling over the issue, but it becomes pernicious when we use our children as proxies in a fight over the nature of religious freedom and secularism within our country. It shows just how desperate and anxious sections of our  Christian majority have become.

A few quick Pagan news notes for you on this Wednesday.

Congregational Paganism in Arizona: The East Valley Tribune spotlights the Sacred Spiral Pagan Church of Arizona, who recently received their 501(c)3 status, and explores why they abandoned the small-group coven model for a congregational model.

Sacred Spiral Pagan Church of Arizona - Beltane 2010

Sacred Spiral Pagan Church of Arizona - Beltane 2010

High Priestess Rosemary Szymanski disbanded her coven in favor of the Sacred Spiral Pagan Church of Arizona in 2007, having gained 501(c)3 status, which means that the federal government recognizes the group as a tax-exempt church. The whole process of becoming a church took about two years, but the wait was mostly because of paperwork, Szymanski said. In the years since abandoning the title of coven, Szymanski, founder and president, has worked with her fellow witches to organize openly and spread knowledge about Paganism. “Covens are much more secretive,” Szymanski, a witch for 17 years, said. “So in 2007, I banned the coven and created the church.”

Sacred Spiral doesn’t have a physical space at this point, but they do say they are hoping to open a community center. While Sacred Spiral Pagan Church is hardly the only Pagan group to adopt a congregational model (just look at CUUPs), I think this article is interesting in that it showcases, albeit indirectly, a criticism of the small-group “coven” model (they are “much more secretive”). It also seems to reinforce the idea that Pagans are, broadly speaking, dedicated to building “community centers” instead of “churches.” So even a congregational Paganism is going to seem much different than congregational Christianity.

Bend Before the Ways of (Pagan) Heavy Metal: The Loyola University student newspaper, The Greyhound, interviews Jill Janus, lead singer of the band Huntress. In the interview, Janus makes clear that Paganism is a primary motivator for her musical career.

Huntress

Huntress

“I draw most my influence from witchcraft, I’m inspired by the beauty of Paganism. I’ve been compared to King Diamond and Rob Halford (Judas Priest) due to my vocal range and theatrics. [...] We wanted to write an album that would transport the listener to another realm, we create our own reality and want you to experience that. Spell Eater is drenched in occult imagery. There are many secrets woven into our songs. I want our fans to seek the secrets.”

The debut album by Huntress, “Spell Eater,” is due out on May 8th. You can download or listen to their debut single, “Eight Of Swords,” now. Let it not be said that I don’t throw a bone to fans of Pagan metal now and then!

ADDENDUM: Juggler contributor Trevor Curtis adds:

You forgot to mention that Huntress is the opening act on the Paganfest 2012 tour, along with the amazing Arkona (Russian Pagan Metal) and headlined by Turisas, fine Finnish pagan metal band. I’m seeing the tour here in Charlotte on Easter, think I’ll have to post a review to The Juggler.

You can find the FB page for Paganfest 2012, here.

The Return of Bunky: Way back in 2007 Ellwood “Bunky” Bartlett, a Wiccan, won over 40 million dollars in the Maryland state lottery. Since then he’s kept a pretty low profile.  There was talk of him opening a Pagan seminary, he threw one big party, and helped out a couple who wanted to get married. But for the most part, he’s stayed under the Pagan media radar, even the store he once bailed out and taught at has gone out of business. So I was somewhat surprised to see him emerge again on video-game news site Kotaku, trying to raise one million dollars on Kickstarter to build a fan-funded massive multiplayer gaming environment.

Ellwood "Bunky" Bartlett

Ellwood "Bunky" Bartlett

Described as “all of the good things in Second Life, World of Warcraft, Rift, Star Wars: The Old Republic and the like all rolled up into one game,” Bartlett’s Kickstarter project has been the object of much derision on Twitter today, where some have mocked its lofty goals and error-riddled language. There’s no concept art or even much explanation as to how the game will run. It only promises to be “nothing like what is out there.” But if Bartlett is a millionaire, why does he need Kickstarter? I tracked him down to find out. “A smart investor has partners,” Bartlett told me in an e-mail. “I will be investing as well. This also helps me to see if there is actual interest in the type of game I am proposing.”  I asked if he’s ever worked in game development before. “I have not, but I never owned an investment company or a pizza shop before, but I do now,” Bartlett said.

Bartlett has only raised around $300 dollars towards this dream project, with a 50-day window to raise the money. So it seems likely this project won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, at least not with this funding model. It should be noted that successful million+ Kickstarter campaigns are rare, and depend on a huge amount of goodwill and a good reputation. Still, I wish him luck in his endeavors (not that a lottery winner is having a luck problem).

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

I’m in Seattle, Washington this weekend, part of the team that’s putting on FaerieCon West, a transformational celebration of music, myth, fantasy, and, of course, faerie. While FaerieCon West, and events like it, are not explicitly Pagan, the openness and embrace of Pagan culture can’t be missed by anyone whose eyes are open to it.

While there are many presentations and performances I’m looking forward to, I’m perhaps most excited about participating in a panel discussion with Jeet Kei Leung, who’s writing a book entitled “Dancing Together into The Great Shift: Transformational Festivals & The New Evolutionary Culture”, and once again getting to interview famed urban fantasy author Charles de Lint, best known for his “Newford” novels. I hope to bring you photos, interviews, and coverage from what I’m hoping will be amazing weekend. If you’re in the Seattle area, I hope you’ll drop by, experience it for yourself, and say hello!

In the meantime, before I head off, here’s a few quick Pagan news notes that I thought you should know about.

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

The Phoenix Goddess Temple in Arizona, a neo-tantric religious organization that defines itself as “a sacred place to know the secret inner wisdom of the Cosmic Mother,” was raided by police on Wednesday. Eleven women and five men were taken in for questioning, and made to do a “perp walk” for the cameras, but police would not say, exactly, what the raid was looking for.

“CBS 5 News has also learned this was part of a long term investigation that spanned from the Valley to Sedona. Police served three additional search warrants in the Sedona area and detained several more people for questioning at those locations. [...] [Sgt. Steve] Martos would not confirm the nature of the investigation, saying investigators would be working well into the night and more details would be available tomorrow.”

It was revealed that police also raided Sedona Goddess Temple, an affiliate of the Phoenix Goddess Temple. It’s plainly obvious that this is a raid looking for proof of prostitution, though previous sting operations have turned up empty-handed. Why else do a highly publicized raid and perp-walk? So far, there are no reports of actual charges being made, and Phoenix Goddess Temple has released no statement regarding these events. If Phoenix Goddess Temple was simply a house of prostitution with a veneer of religion painted over it, wouldn’t they have been closed down by now? Earlier this year the Phoenix New Times called the temple’s activities “New Age prostitution,” though the men and women at the temple insist that they are engaged in a higher calling.

But despite the obvious eyebrow-raisers at the temple, [Temple founder Tracy] Elise says she’s doing nothing wrong. “The temple is really a church for us,” she says. “We open ourselves with love as an empty channel, and that’s the authority by which I heal. I don’t get my credentials on the ground level. I get my calling and I am under the jurisdiction of the most high.”

Even if no charges are brought from this current investigation, the writing is on the wall. It’s obvious the police are looking for any excuse to shut these temples down. The question now is, should they be able to? Even if some sessions end in “happy endings” aren’t their activities protected by law so long as they don’t directly charge money for sex? If they took this matter to court, would they be able win broader protections since they are religiously sincere in their activities? How should the broader Pagan community engage with sacred sexuality practitioners?

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

For those of you who have been following my coverage of the fight over expansion of a ski resort on the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, a process that would pump treated wastewater snow on the mountain, I would like to direct you to Censored News and Indigenous Action Media, who covered a week of planned protests and actions that just took place at the peaks.

“The action we took today is one part of a series of events with the intent to stop Snowbowl, the US Forest Service, and other corporations from further desecrating the Holy San Francisco Peaks,” stated Haley Coles after being released from jail. “The pipeline will not be tolerated. Spewed waste water turned into artificial snow will not be tolerated. Clear cuts, slash piles, and burning of hundred-year old trees will not be tolerated. The Holy mountain will be defended, and the desecration will be stopped; at whatever cost. We have the mountain on our side,” said Coles.

The already in-progress construction is considered sacrilegious by a coalition of local indigenous groups and Tribal Nations who see this as a desecration that would be like putting death on the mountain.” According to Brenda Norrell at Censored News 17 people have been arrested so far, some for civil disobedience, and some for no apparent reason at legal protests.

“Six people protecting San Francisco Peaks were targeted and arrested during a peaceful march for the protection of San Francisco Peaks. San Francisco Peaks defender Klee Benally, Navajo, was among those arrested. In front of Macy’s Coffeehouse on Sunday afternoon, undercover police infiltrated the hundred person march in an attempt to squash the growing anti-Snowbowl movement. The peaceful march by Native Americans and supporters was surrounded by police from the moment the march formed, marchers said.”

While the week of planned protests has ended, protest camps still remain. For those wanting to make their voice heard on this issue, Indigenous Action Media has sidebar on its site of all the relevant contact information. I will be periodically checking in on this issue as it progresses.