Archives For Christian Civil League

A Few Quick Notes

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 27, 2009 — 15 Comments

I just have a few small items to share this Sunday before we gear up for the year-end count-downs and retrospectives, starting with SF Gate columnist Mark Morford, who argues that all the discussions about pantheism in “Avatar” are besides the point, what it’s really about is “alien porn”.

“But wait, we haven’t hit the best part yet. Because in this movie, you don’t merely get to fantasize about the Other from afar or even just indulge in interspecies sex. You get to literally become one of them … Behold, the ultimate in guilty colonialist fetish fantasy epic porn filmmaking, ever. Flawed, broken white man can, with his righteous modern technology, fuse his DNA with super-hot exotic sexually flawless alien species and become the Other and save the world and then score the hot chick from Star Trek.”

Somehow, I don’t think this new angle is going to please Ross Douthat and other conservative commentators much more than the “Hollywood is pantheist” one. For that matter, I doubt it will please the folks who’ve seen “Avatar” and found it to be a deeply transcendent/meaningful experience. As an aside, since we’re talking about movies, I saw “Sherlock Holmes” last night, and was surprised that the entire plot centered on a Freemason/Golden Dawn-ish occult order. By “centered on”, I mean it provided some sort of plot when things weren’t blowing up. It was quite the romp if you turn your expectations down a few notches.

The clinically obsessed folks at the Christian Civic League of Maine continue to stalk Rita Moran, Chair of the Kennebec County Democratic Committee, who was one of two openly Pagan delegates at the Democratic National Convention. Not content with trespassing on private property, or trying to make her book store sound sinister by listing titles found at any Barnes & Noble, they are now engaging in their own sad form of “deep background” looking for some sort of controversy. First it was misquoting a podcast interview she did in 2007, now they are combing through her past involvement with the EarthTides Pagan Network.

“The identities of the members of these organizations are often kept secret. Moran is active in the EarthTides Pagan Network under the pseudonym “Arwen Evenstar.” Under this pseudonym, Moran has written a book review column in the group’s newsletter for the past several years.”

This situation is so sad and pathological, all in an attempt to ruin Moran’s standing with local Democrats.

“It is a sad commentary on politics in Maine that the highest levels of the Democrat Party rely on an occultist whose political prudence consists of Tarot Card reading and crystal-ball gazing; and whose leadership effectiveness is a matter of casting the right spell.”

This one-man “staff” of the Christian Civic League really needs to get a life. It just goes to show you how bothered some Christians get when any other religious perspective dares to seek political power instead of staying silently in the shadows. They try to make sinister activities that would be seen as sanctified and proper if done in a Christian context. This strife only underlines how important our involvement in the public sphere is, and why the “broom closet” must become a thing of the past.

In a final note, the Pagans at the Parliament project seems to be winding down. The last of the video and audio has been posted to the blog, and we have had several post-Parliament missives from attendees, including a statement from Angie Buchanan, one of the Pagan Executive Board members of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. Buchanan addresses the recent flurry of discussion and controversy regarding definitions, and what was (and wasn’t ) said and done in Paganism’s name at the Parliament.

“In my personal participation and my observation of what happened at the Parliament, there was no attempt to “legitimize” anything, nor was there an effort to ostracize anything. There were many very successful attempts to explain concepts, terms and belief structures in ways and using vocabulary understood by those either unfamiliar with or frightened by our practices — by providing them with a frame of reference.”

Despite the flare-up over definition, and who said what at the Parliament, a situation that I take some responsibility in spreading, I do think this event will be seen as pivotal in modern Paganism’s history. Never before have we been so visible and vocal on the world stage, and I believe some paradigm-shifting happened that may greatly benefit all modern Pagans in the long run. I genuinely thank all the Pagans who took the time and effort to be involved with this event, and made our varied voices and viewpoints heard in the context of the global interfaith movement. What happened was important, I believe that we will ultimately experience more signal than noise as we process our involvement there in the coming year.

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

(Pagan) News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 26, 2009 — 6 Comments

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

Charles Arthur Roberts, who is serving five years in prison for aggravated assault, is suing the Texas prison system for preventing him from practicing Wicca while incarcerated.

“Roberts alleges in a pro se lawsuit that he made repeated requests practice Wicca to the chaplain and administrators at TDCJ’s Lopez Unit off El Cibolo Road in Edinburg … The 28-year-old Brownsville native claims that prison administrators allow Catholic, Protestant and Moslem services but will not allow him to practice his Wiccan faith. Roberts wrote in his lawsuit that administrators told him they needed a Wiccan volunteer to hold a service for him but that they never attempted to obtain a volunteer. The jailed Wiccan claims he even tried to contact administrators at a state level but never received a reply. “I have been dealing with the defendants for a year to get things for my religion but they have not tried to get anything started, which is a violation of my Constitutional rights,” Roberts wrote in his lawsuit.”

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice won’t comment on the case, but did reveal that three inmates and an outside volunteer are required before they will allow scheduled sessions. If Roberts could not meet the three-inmate threshold, the case could be dismissed if he can’t also prove prison officials blocked attempts to find an outside volunteer or acquire Wiccan religious materials. While many jail-house lawsuits can be frivolous, we shouldn’t forget that according to Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum there is “endemic” discrimination against incarcerated religious minorities.

The Maine Family Policy Council, formerly known as the Christian Civic League of Maine, are back to spreading lies about Rita Moran, Chair of the Kennebec County Democratic Committee, who was one of two openly Pagan delegates at the Democratic National Convention. Not content with first outing her as a Pagan and then stalking her, they are now trying to play the victim by misquoting an interview she did with a Pagan podcast back in 2007.

“In a recently discovered podcast, Rita Moran, Chairwoman of the Kennebec County Democrats, claims she cast a spell on the Administrator of the Christian Civic League, Mike Hein, in response to her outing by the League as a practitioner of the occult … In the podcast, Moran presents herself as a practitioner of an “earth-based” religion, but states she does not wear a pentacle, for the sake of ‘plausible deniability.’ If asked, she tells people she is a practitioner of an ‘earth-based’ religion. During the interview, Moran also expresses a desire to form a national “Pagan Caucus” within the Democratic Party, so that the Democrat Party and paganism can come together in a “positive way.” When asked if Mike Hein suffered any backlash from her outing, she replied that she is certain that there was an occult backlash, based on her casting of an “earth spell” on Hein.”

I happened to have listened to the podcast in question (mp3 link), from the now-defunct Lance and Graal show, and it clearly says that she cast a “mirror” spell (not an “earth” spell, whatever that means). In other words, the only malefic thing Mike Hein may have received spiritually is what he was already dishing out against Moran. It is truly sad that some supposedly moral Christians feel the need to lie, break laws, and harass innocent people to feel superior. One has to wonder if Focus on the Family knows what sort of things this “affiliated” group gets up to in the name of Christ.

Warning! Some minor True Blood second-season spoilers follow! Do you watch the HBO vampire series True Blood? If not, you’re apparently missing out on some hot-and-heavy pagan themes in addition to all the vampire-lovin’ that’s already going on. A character introduced in the current (second) season, Maryann, was revealed to be a maenad, and some Pagans are seriously unhappy with the way things are being portrayed.

“…they could have called her a Maenad and been done with it – I wouldn’t have been thrilled with that, but I expected it. They went WAY too far with this, IMO. They have to bring in Lilith, Isis, Gaia, the Horned God AND Dionysus? To abuse the name of Isis, the favorite name of the Goddess, in that way was particularly offensive to me. The Christian devil imagery is so predictable and cliche – you may be right, the writers need to do some research.”

I’ve heard similar rumblings from other Pagans as well, but I’ll reserve personal judgement for after the season closes, and I’ve seen the episodes. However, if you aren’t spoiler-averse and want a taste of the way things are going, check out this recap of episode ten for some of the Dionysian mayhem currently on display.

Reuters covers the festival of Lurol in Tibet, a time that displays the syncretic mix between Tibetan Buddhism and the animist/shamanic Bon faith.

Dressed in special clothes, his long hair carefully cut and braided, Damtsengbon waits for his spirit, Amyesrmachen, the most sacred mountain god in the region. Other villagers call the spirit’s name while Damtsengbon, who like many Tibetans only goes by one name, enters a trance, twitching and jerking. “I am the third generation to channel this god, so it is not just about me. For three generations the god has manifested himself through us, and even living Buddhas recognize this … I think it’s a way for me to serve my people. It keeps us together and protects us, so it’s an honor to serve them.”

I recommend reading the entirety of this fascinating look into Tibetan religion and culture.

In a final note, be sure and check out presentations from friends-of-this-blog John W. Morehead and Chas Clifton at the recently-held 2009 CENSUR conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. Chas Clifton’s presentation, “In the Mists of Avalon: How Contemporary Paganism Dodges the ‘Crisis of History’”, is particularly interesting for those wondering why Wicca and modern Paganism didn’t collapse with the advent of better scholarship.

“Contemplating the crisis—or crises—of history as they affect contemporary Paganism, the Wiccan journalist Margot Alder comments,  “Traditionally, religions with indefensible histories and dogmas cling to them tenaciously. The Craft avoided this through the realization, often unconscious, that its real sources lie in the mind, in art, in creative work.”[31] By relying on the fictive power of books and other creative products to provide a sort of sacred story, the contemporary Pagans described thus step out of history while retaining a modern respect for the historian’s scholarship and thus postponing a collision between historical narrative and mythic past.”

For those interested in the study of new religious movements, you should check out all the “cyberproceedings” available online.

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

In the increasingly close (and heated) Democratic primary race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the role of “superdelegates” has gained a lot of scrutiny and attention as it becomes clear that these individuals will most likely decide who receives the Democratic party’s nomination for president. For a short period, one of those superdelegates was an openly Pagan party official. Rita Moran, Chair of the Kennebec County Democratic Committee, who was outed and stalked by a vindictive local Christian group last year.

Rita Moran

Rita Moran

So why was Moran a superdelegate for only a short time? That is a matter of some controversy, involving an unnecessary re-vote, and factions within the Democratic party battling it out. I was lucky enough to conduct an interview with Rita Moran about this situation, what it’s like being an openly Pagan party official, and what her future plans are in the wake of losing her superdelegate position.

You are currently the Chair of the Kennebec County Democratic Committee. How did you get involved in politics, and how did you come to be in the position you are in now?

I come from an Italian immigrant family, and it was the Democratic Party that helped my parents learn English and find a place in their new country. When my father became a citizen, and I still remember that day, he became a Democrat and eventually rose to leadership in his county committee. I guess it’s in my blood.

Last year, you were “outed” as a Pagan by the Maine Christian Civil League, did that affect your standing with fellow officials within the local Democratic Party, or hinder your relationship with Democratic voters in your community?

It’s hard to say. Overtly, the Democratic Party leadership stood behind me. Behind the scenes, or in the minds of individual voters, I honestly have no idea what was, is, being said.

You were recently, albeit briefly, elected as a superdelegate for the state of Maine. Could you explain how you were elected, and subsequently removed from your position?

Sure. The Maine Democratic State Committee has a “three strikes” rule which mirrors that of the Democratic National Committee: miss three consecutive meetings and you are automatically removed, but may run for the position at a subsequent meeting.

Jennifer DeChant, who ran unopposed and was elected at the June, 2004 state convention had missed three consecutive meetings; the third was in November of 2007. At that time it was announced that she would have to run for that office again at our January, 2008 meeting. The day before that meeting I was asked by someone in party leadership to run against her; I agreed to accept the nomination. I would not, however, make phone calls or send e-mails asking for support, since I knew Jennifer was experiencing a difficult pregnancy and would be unable to match that effort. I knew it could cost me the election, but it was an ethical decision I felt I needed to make.

The election happened, and I won by a narrow margin.

A few days later one of our state legislators contacted John Knutson, state party chair, and claimed the election was not legitimate. During the two months between the January and March meetings I made many phone calls to state committee members looking for support. I found there was an awful lot of misinformation out there, though couldn’t say by whom it was being spread. I cannot tell you how difficult that time was. I have devoted an enormous amount of time to the Democratic Party, am loved and honored by our county team, and led them to victory in two special elections last year (the first of which led to my attack from the Christian Civic League).

The state party chair asked for an opinion from our Rules Committee, which said there was no problem with the original election. Despite this, at last month’s state committee meeting my election was repealed. Another election was held and I lost by just a few votes.

Do you plan to run for superdelegate status within your state’s party in the future, or are you planning on challenging the “re-vote” that reinstated Jennifer DeChant?

Right now, I’m looking forward rather than back. I am running, and running hard, for Maine’s DNC Woman slot. The election will be held on May 31st at our state convention. The campaign will cost several thousand dollars, but I believe it’s time we sent an “outed” pagan to the Democratic National Committee. Our views, our voices, are different, and deserve to be heard on the national level. I have set up a PayPal account under my campaign e-mail address: DNCWoman@gmail.com, and hope to have the help of my fellow Pagans who agree with me on this. Folks (especially Mainers going to the state convention) can also contact me at that same address with advice and inspiration. I’d love to pull together a Pagan Caucus, if only via e-mail.

What are your broader political goals? Do you hope to run for elected office at some point in the future? Do you think America will get to a point where (open) modern Pagans will be elected to government in our lifetimes?

I’ve been urged to run for political office, but feel that working in the background is best for me. Frankly, I am afraid of the negative effects on our small business (independent bookstore) should my faith become an issue in a legislative campaign. Being “outed” by the Christian Civic League certainly hasn’t helped business, and this would make it all happen again on an even larger scale.

That being said, I believe there may well be open Pagans in elected office right now. We just don’t know who they are!

I know that you are not currently a superdelegate, but had you held on to your position which Democratic presidential candidate would you have endorsed and why?

When the state committee elected me in January, I asked them just that question. Overwhelmingly they urged me to vote so that the superdelegates’ ballots would reflect the outcome of Maine’s caucuses: 60% for Barack Obama and 40% for Hillary Clinton. If I were free to express a public opinion, however, I would overwhelmingly support Barack Obama. I feel his message of hope, his campaign which has been so incredibly inclusive, has inspired me.

On the larger question of superdelegates, I do not, and will never believe that they know more than the voters who participated in primaries and caucuses. That’s elitism, plain and simple. Since the Democratic Party instituted the idea of superdelegates,a lot has changed, making it far easier for voters to be well-informed. When I’m elected to the Democratic National Committee I plan to address two issues: first, the superdelegates; second, the broken system of setting dates for primaries and caucuses.

Oh, and I’m intending to show up for my first DNC meeting wearing my rather discreet pentacle. Imagine that!

Finally, what advice would you give to a Pagan wanting to run for office or get involved in American party politics?

I’ve helped lots of candidates. I believe that job #1 for a candidate is to give p
eople hope…hope that things can be better and that, as a candidate you with with your constituents and fellow legislators to make a difference, to make things better.

One-to-one voter contact, with that message (as well as a good, strong idea of who you are as a candidate) that will resonate with voters, is the key to getting elected. Phone calls and mailers are far, far less effective.

Remember the Christian Civic League in Maine? You know, the ones who stalked and outed a Democratic Party County Chair as a Pagan, and then edited negative comments on their site regarding their actions? Well, they are still obsessed with Rita Moran (the official they “outed”), but now they are looking to spread their Christian “love” with the local Pagan community.

“Coverage of the Maine Pagan Pride Day 2007 was abruptly halted Saturday morning, August 18, in Portland. Coordinator Richard Vinton unilaterally decided to bar the Christian Civic League of Maine Record from the public event after an objection was raised by an adult male participant of the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) Abrahadabra Oasis (Portland, ME) Satanic “Ritual of the Pentagram” Workshop.”

Now I’m not going to get into the details of why this “reporter” was ejected from the UU Church this event was being held at, especially since we only have his side of the story. But I do want to address the comments made in the article by CCL Director Michael Heath.

“These same pagans who cling to the First Amendment for their freedom of religion, trample upon it by rejecting freedom of the press. Their audacity and hypocrisy is at the same time stunning and pathetic.”

The First Amendment right concerning Free Speech, and a Free Press, doesn’t mean that a (perhaps hostile) reporter can’t be ejected from private property, even if an event on private property is a “public” one. Freedom of the Press was enshrined to prevent governmental censorship or reprisal.

“It applies not just to a single person’s right to publish ideas, but also to the right of print and broadcast media to express political views and to cover and publish news.”

But that freedom doesn’t cancel out other Constitutional rights, including property rights, which allow for the ejection of reporters from private property (nor do you “reject” Freedom of the Press by doing so). The fact that the CCL was able to publish their story (including the photo an attendee didn’t want taken) proves that their right to Freedom of the Press was left un-trampled. As to whether or not the Maine Pagan Pride Day organizers acted appropriately, I’ll have to hear their side of the story before passing judgment, because for some funny reason I don’t trust the Maine CCL to be unbiased.

ADDENDUM: Heathen blogger Jarred gets Maine PPD organizer Richard Vinton’s side of the story:

“He [w]as asked to leave because he was causing a disturbance. He entered a workshop that was already in session and began taking photos of the class members and interrupting the instructor. He misrepresented himself as a member of the press but holds no press credentials and it became very clear the he intended to continue being a disturbance.”

Disturbing a religious workshop in progress? Interrupting the instructor? Hardly the actions of responsible journalist, in my opinion.

During the end of last month I reported on a Democratic Party official who was singled out and attacked for her faith. Rita Moran, who is the Chair of the Kennebec County Democratic Committee in Maine, found herself “outed” on the web site of a hostile Maine Christian organization called the Maine Christian Civil League. Moran, while shaken by the groups attempts to derail her political career, was more worried about how her outing would affect the local party.

“My primary concerns are financial. When this happened, I “zeroed out” the donation total on our county Dems website. There has not been a single donation since I’ve been “outed”. I’m even more concerned about the loss of business here at our bookshop as Michael Hein’s attack turns to even more vicious rumors. I guess what I’d ask from the community is whatever support they can offer. Tranquil energy, book orders, donations to our county committee if you wish to recognize that aspect of my community service. Thanks all…”

Luckily, Pagans and decent people on the Internet and in Maine rallied behind Moran, and over $600 dollars was raised for the local Democratic Party to send a message that these anti-American scare tactics wouldn’t work here. But it seems that the Christian Civil League didn’t get the message, and they are now attacking Moran’s vice-chair Edward Lachowicz who also identifies as a Pagan.

“An email posted publicly recently on a pagan website from another Kennebec County (ME) Democrat Pagan official. Accompanying the email text are images recently obtained by the League of the Immanent Grove Gnostic pagan Shrine to Hecate located at 2328 Bog Road in Sidney, Maine. This is where the Kennebec County Democrat Committee Chair, Rita Moran, and other Central Maine pagans worship the Greek goddess of witchcraft and magic.”

In an effort to intimidate Lachowicz and Moran, and to possibly invite vandalism, they include several photos from Moran’s private property on the page. Not surprisingly, this escalation in scare tactics has unsettled Lachowicz.

“Pictures have been posted on the RECORD of various objects on Rita’s property. Which means, of course, that Christian Civic League members have been snooping around on her property and taking photographs. Coming from a group which gets the support of the Minutemen in their (now deleted) blog comments, that can be slightly unsettling.”

Lachowicz is calling once again for donations to offset the effects of this latest smear campaign. Though I think things may be escalating to a point where law enforcement and lawyers are needed before a Pagan shrine is defaced or threats of violence start appearing. Cases like this represent only the beginning of a long struggle for equal treatment for Pagans who wish to insert themselves into our political system.

While the press wastes its time covering the latest foolish things people like Jonathan “The Impaler” Sharkey do, real Pagan politicians and their struggles are often ignored. A perfect example is Rita Moran, the Chair of the Kennebec County Democratic Committee in Maine, who is being singled out by the local Christian Civil League for what looks like a campaign of harassment and intimidation.

“Rita Moran is well-known in Central Maine as the longstanding Kennebec County Democrat Chair and the the owner of Apple Valley Books at 121 Main Street in Winthrop. Less well-known is Moran’s involvement in one of Maine’s thriving underground pagan worship circles … most disturbing of all is the involvement of Moran’s Apple Valley Books store in promoting her pagan-worshipping beliefs to Maine’s children … Rita Moran can be reached at…”

The author then proceeds to list every address, phone number, and e-mail address he can find for Rita Moran (no doubt so Christians can show their “concern” for the “children”). While its doubtful this will go beyond a few crank calls and letters in left-leaning Maine, it can be seen as a harbinger of what is to come as more and more modern Pagans get involved in local politics.

Once we start to be seen as any sort of real threat to the political status quo in which everyone, left and right, struggles to display their Christian allegiance, you can bet smear campaigns will emerge that will make the Maine Christian Civil League’s actions seem quaint by comparison. Just look at the reaction when a Muslim was elected to Congress (and refused to pretend he was Christian), modern Pagans should expect no less once they start to hold office. The best response now is to continually educate the public to reduce the effect of fear-mongering, and to show unified support (no matter what the party) for Pagans who are trying to get involved in our political system.

We can start by using all that contact information so kindly provided by the Christian Civil League, and send Rita Moran our thanks and support. If we are lucky, perhaps she’ll end up one of the first modern Pagans to hold a significant political office.

UPDATE: This just in from Rita Moran on the situation.

“I’ve been a bit shaken up by all this. While I’ve never denied being Pagan, I considered it a private matter. Lots of folks figured it out; lots of folks enjoyed the plausible deniability my privacy offered. Perhaps even more disturbing is how Michael Hein and Company have both edited the comments supporting me, and investigated folks posting those comments, posting additional information about them which they did not want posted. I have the full support of the Maine Democratic Party, and the Executive Committee of my own county Dems, and resignation is not in the picture.

My primary concerns are financial. When this happened, I “zeroed out” the donation total on our county Dems website (http://www.kennebecdems.org). There has not been a single donation since I’ve been “outed”. I’m even more concerned about the loss of business here at our bookshop as Michael Hein’s attack turns to even more vicious rumors. I guess what I’d ask from the community is whatever support they can offer. Tranquil energy, book orders, donations to our county committee if you wish to recognize that aspect of my community service. Thanks all…”

Show your support, and let these Christian cowards know that their fear-mongering tactics won’t work with us.