Archives For Libertarian

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.

A promotional image from American Horror Story: Coven.

A promotional image from American Horror Story: Coven.

  • At Time Magazine, Megan Gibson praises the re-ascension of the Witch in pop culture. Quote: “Now, witches are getting another crack at dominance. And I think that’s a good thing — particularly for the young girls and women who are the primary audience for these shows. Unlike the female leads in most vampire stories, women in witchcraft stories are typically depicted as strong, capable characters. They might not always be noble, but they’re certainly not weak or passive characters who sit on the sidelines while the men take charge. Fictional witches are well-rounded characters with rich interior lives, while the females in vampire stories are the supernatural equivalent of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.” Gibson also notes the amoral universe some contemporary fictional witches operate in these days, but thinks that “young girls and women don’t need role models from television, they need options.”
  • Could teaching about nutrition in India help deter accusations of witchcraft? Quote: “The Jharkhand State Women’s Commission is planning to approach the state government to hold nutrition programmes simultaneously with the awareness campaigns against withcraft to combat the superstition effectively. [...] Superstitions were attached to illness caused by malnutrition among children and innocent women were often made responsible for this by branding them as witches. This could be curbed through joint campaigns by health mission and literacy programmes.”
  • Canada’s National Post reports on the World Mission Society Church of God, also known as the Church of God. Specifically, it notes that this Christian denomination worship a goddess. Quote: “Most Christian churches believe in one God, commonly described in male terms as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, but the Church of God believes the Bible testifies that two Gods exist: God the Father and God the Mother. [...] The church teaches that since the Bible testifies that men and women were both created in God’s own image, God actually has two images: male and female. In other words, there are two Gods – Heavenly Parents – who together created human beings in Their likeness.” There’s nearly 2 million members of this church, FYI.
  • After the controversy in 2012 over Canada eliminating all paid part-time chaplain services (starting with the Wiccans), effectively making government prison chaplaincy a Christian-only affair, the government has quietly tasked a private company with providing chaplaincy services. Quote: “Kairos Pneuma Chaplaincy Inc., a company started by a handful of current and former federal prison chaplains in direct response to the request for proposals issued in May, won the bid. Since October, about 30 full and part-time chaplains of all denominations, including Wicca and including many who worked in the federal prison system perviously, have been serving prisoners across the country, according to company president John Tonks.” Proponents of the new system says it promotes “equity” among prison chaplains.
  • In a shocking twist, a Christian columnist finds that he thinks Christianity is better than Paganism. Quote: “Absolute truth exists. And truth is not determined by the majority, but by the Truth-Giver. Most important, truth matters and consequences exist. We must be willing to discuss this so we can distinguish between good and bad ideas; or risk the consequence of being held back as individuals and/ora nation; or worse. If we don’t want to accept this, pray the pagans are right so that in the end it doesn’t matter.” He also has some feelings about gay marriage, again, shocking, I know.
Photo of a Vodou practitioner by Anthony Karen.

Photo of a Vodou practitioner by Anthony Karen.

  • Slate.com profiles photographer Anthony Karen, who has spent time documenting Haitian Vodou. Quote: “The Vodou faith teaches us to bless nature and support cosmic harmony for the purposes of mastering divine magnetism. Vodou accepts the existence of the visible and the invisible, in a sense that it is believed that one does not see all that exists, and Vodou is in full compliance with the laws of nature.” Be warned, some of the photos are of animal sacrifice and quite graphic. Meanwhile, Slate.com has also posted a photographic look at a Vodun fetish market in the nation of Togo.
  • So, it seems Charismatic Christians are using the phrase “religious witchcraft” for people who “shame” or “threaten” Christians into bowing “to their ungodly will.” Quote: “So when you discern religious witchcraft—which often manifests as intimidation, manipulation and maligning—don’t try to defend yourself. Let the Lord vindicate you. Don’t stop doing what God told you to do. Keep pressing into your kingdom assignment with confidence that He has your back—because He does.” I can only imagine the havoc this is going to cause Google-ing Charismatics. Good luck with all those Pagan search results!
  • Infamous Nigerian Christian leader Helen Ukpabio is trying to re-start her anti-witchcraft themed ministry. Quote: “Ukpabio has literally re-launched her witch hunting ministry which is blamed for the menace of child witchcraft allegations and human rights abuses in the region. For some time now her ministry has been criticized locally and international because of its role in fueling witchcraft accusation and related abuses in Nigeria and beyond. But she appears unrepentant, and unfazed by the criticisms. Ukpabio claims to be an ex-witch with a divine mandate and power to exorcize the spirit of witchcraft.” As I’ve pointed out before, Ukpabio has received support and money from American churches, and is a public face of the larger problem of Western missions directly or indirectly funding witch-hunting.
  • A Pagan priest in the UK is calling on goddesses to help find a lottery ticket winner, because, well, why not? I guess? Quote: “David Spofforth, priest of Avalon, has called on the help of ancient Goddesses to reveal the holder of an unclaimed EuroMillions lottery ticket. [...] The self-styled Priest of Avalon priest conducted a 20-minute ceremony at St Ann’s Well in Hove, which is said to be the starting point of ley lines running across the South Downs.”
  • Satanic Panic, it really was a thing folks. Seriously.
  • 6% of libertarians belong to a non-Christian religion, while 27% claim to be religiously unaffiliated. This places them at odds with the rest of modern-day conservative-leaning groups. Quote: “By contrast, more than one-third (35 percent) of Americans who identify with the Tea Party movement are white evangelical Protestants, while roughly equal numbers identify as Catholic (22 percent) or white mainline Protestant (19 percent), and fewer than 1-in-10 (9 percent) are religiously unaffiliated.”

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

Welcome to the latest installment of Unleash the Hounds, in which I round up articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans. Before we get started I wanted to give an update on the Pagan journalism crowdfunding experiment I launched on March 21st. The very excellent news is that not only have I reached my fundraising goal of $1850 dollars to send The Wild Hunt to Chicago in November so that I can cover the American Academy of Religion’s 2012 Annual Meeting, but I’ve surpassed that goal by hundreds of dollars. All in less than a week! Thank you! Your enthusiastic response not only means I’ll be covering the AAR’s Annual Meeting, but that we have a head start on the next crowdfunding assignment (all monies raised beyond the goal will be rolled over into the next campaign).

http://www.indiegogo.com/thewildhunt-AAR

http://www.indiegogo.com/thewildhunt-AAR

Once the month-long campaign officially ends I’ll update my affiliates page with all those who chose to become underwriters, and update all who’ve donated on other promised perks. Considering the success of this initial go, I think it’s fair to say that I’ll be using this model to fund other assignments. The big question now is, where would you like me to go, and how often do you think I should hold a crowdfunding assignment campaign? I welcome your feedback, and once we have some solid ideas for events you’d like to see me at, we can even hold a poll to gauge reader interest. Some initial ideas for future assignments include the Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle, and Paganicon in Minnesota. Make your voices heard, and if there’s enough demand, we’ll try to fund them one at a time. Ultimately, I would like to build this up and work towards funding a trip to the 2014 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Belgium.

So again, thank you to my generous supporters. You made this happen. Now then, let’s unleash the hounds, shall we?

PNC Managing Editor, Cara Schulz with Presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson

PNC Managing Editor, Cara Schulz with Presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson

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

In 2008 the Libertarian Party nominated former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr as their candidate for President of the United States. Many modern Pagans who consider themselves libertarians/Libertarians were displeased by this turn of events, as Barr had notoriously tried to ban Pagans from serving in the military, claiming that equal rights for Wiccans and Pagans set  “a dangerous precedent that could easily result in the practice of all sorts of bizarre practices being supported by the military under the rubric of ‘religion.’ “ However, what was acceptable behavior in the Republican party of 1999 wasn’t going to pass muster with Libertarian live-and-let-live notions of freedom, and so Barr kinda-sorta recanted his position.

“I got to ask Barr a question I’ve wanted to ask him for quite some time. He’s repudiated and apologized for many of his previous positions and I asked him if he would repudiate his absurd anti-Wiccan crusade of 1999, when he wanted all Wiccans banned from the military. He said yes, with a bit of hemming and hawing. He said that he had reports from several military leaders that Wiccans doing rituals on military bases were causing problems and that’s why he did what he did, but that since that time it’s become clear that there are no problems with allowing Wiccans to serve and to practice their religion on military bases like any other religion. I did ask him for any specific problems that were reported to him back in 1999 by these military leaders, but he said he didn’t want to get into specifics. I’m sure that’s because there are no specific incidents and those military leaders who complained to him did so out of bigotry, or because the problems it caused were really caused by bigotry against Wiccans.”

Sadly, this change of heart seemed to only last as long as the presidential campaign, once he no longer had to curry political favor his obvious scorn for modern Paganism reemerged. Barr’s moral compass seems more guided by what will enrich him at any moment, than from a recognizable ethical philosophy, and his ongoing prominence within the Libertarian Party no doubt continues to keep many small-l libertarian Pagans at arms length from the party that purports to represent their views.
<div align="ce
Johnson and Barr on Fox News together in 2010.

Now, it seems, there might be an alternative for Pagan libertarians/Libertarians in the form of former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, who just announced that he’s abandoning his bid for the Republican presidential nomination to run on the Libertarian Party ticket.

“This was both a difficult decision – and an easy one,” Johnson said. “I have a lot of Republican history, and a lot of Republican supporters. But in the final analysis…I am a Libertarian – that is someone who is fiscally very conservative but holds freedom-based positions on the issues that govern our personal behavior.”

You can read his full statement, here. Johnson, in stark contrast to Barr, openly courted modern Pagans in a now-famous press conference with Pagan and Hindu media representatives (The American Spectator calls him a “pro-choice pursuer of the pagan vote”). I saw it as a hopeful harbinger that our political system could embrace the full religious and philosophical diversity of our county.

“What does it all mean? I think it represents two opportunities. First, there’s an opportunity for politicians to realize that America’s religious diversity isn’t simply a stock phrase to pull out when describing the virtues of our country. According to the Pew Forum, 16.1 percent of Americans claim no formal religion, while another 2.3 percent are part of religious tradition outside the Christian-Jewish-Muslim monotheistic paradigm. Those aren’t insignificant numbers, and they put the often lumped-together “other/unaffiliated” category on a statistical par with evangelical and mainline Protestants. Despite this, moral debates are almost always framed along a left-right Christian axis; Rick Warren gets to interview Obama and McCain, while Hindus, Pagans, Buddhists, and practitioners of indigenous traditions rarely get to ask questions on a national stage. Gov. Johnson’s courage in talking to religious minorities might have been driven by a modicum of desperation in getting his message out, but it should be seen as a harbinger of what campaigning to religious groups will be like in the future.”

Already, some are wondering if a Johnson Libertarian run could act as a spoiler for the Republicans in 2012, though a Libertarian spokesperson pointed out that (aside from the libertarian-beloved Ron Paul) “you can’t spoil tainted meat.”

“All of the Republican Party presidential candidates ” except for Ron Paul ” have a track record of voting for higher levels of government spending. Many have raised taxes, supported bailouts, and/or voted to expand Big Government.

The mere fact that two Libertarian presidential candidates, one past, and one potential, could have narratives so entwined with modern Pagans is remarkable in of itself. Add to that fact that if Barr should run for the LP nomination again against Johnson (though he endorsed Newt Gingrich, so maybe he won’t) it stands to reason that their respective attitudes towards minority religions will no doubt come up in debates and news stories. Pagan leaders and media should prepare themselves now for mainstream reporters looking into the “Pagan angle” of the Libertarian Party’s 2012 candidate. At the very least libertarian/Libertarian Pagans should be pleased that the party may be moving from Barr to Johnson in 2012, one wonders how many conservative Pagans will jump ship from the Republican Party to support Johnson’s candidacy. Interesting times are ahead.

As many have predicted, a wave of voter discontent has swept the Republicans back into power in the House of Representatives, though the Democrats have managed to retain control of the Senate. I’ll leave what this “means” to the pundits, spin-masters, and politicos, and instead focus on the candidates and races that have involved our communities in some way, and talk a bit about how this new landscape might affect modern Pagans. To start off, Nevada State Assembly District 29 candidate Erin Lale, an out Heathen who was running on the Libertarian ticket and had the backing of a local Tea Party organization, did not win her race. Incumbent Democrat April Mastroluca retained her seat, and Lale’s involvement may have shaved off enough swing votes from Republican Dan Hill to make it happen.

In a recent interview with the Pagan Newswire Collective Lale expressed frustration at how difficult it is for third-party candidates to receive equal treatment and consideration in the United State’s two-party system.

“…the traditional media, newspapers and TV, usually ignore third party candidates, although I got a really good interview in the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Voter Guide last Sunday, and I’m all over the internet and radio; some media, including not just internet radio shows but even broadcast TV, frankly email candidates promising news coverage if they buy advertising, and even more blatantly, local news channels — including publicly funded PBS!– refused to allow any candidate for governor who had not raised tens of thousands of dollars to participate in the televised debate; people have the attitude that the election is a horserace and they are supposed to bet on the winner, so voting one’s conscience to vote for a third party or independent candidate is somehow “wasting your vote”, and people think they should vote for the lesser of two evils instead of voting for what they believe in.”

In a message sent to Pagan+Politics last night, Lale had this to say about her campaign.

“Thank you for all your support over the course of this campaign. Although I didn’t win, I did get my ideas in front of a lot of community leaders, organizations, and other candidates, and made a lot of networking connections, so hopefully my ideas can move forward on another front, while I move into another arena of endeavor, whatever that may be. I am now looking for my next challenge.”

This is obviously a disappointment for Lale, but it does show that an openly Pagan candidate with almost no funding or mainstream media attention can affect local politics. As we become more confident, speculations about the “Pagan vote” and Pagan candidates will leave the realm of the hypothetical and be taken more seriously.

Speaking of the “Pagan vote”, one candidate who certainly wasn’t capturing it was Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell.  While some polls saw O’Donnell as competitive early on in the campaign, her dire mishandling of the “dabbling in witchcraft” clip from the 1990s not only created a media firestorm but also earned her the ire of Pagans and real-live Witches.

No matter how Democrats treat the issue, it seems unlikely that Wiccans will turn out for O’Donnell at the polls. “Her inability to separate anything non-Christian from Satanic is going to be an issue not just with her potential pagan constituents but with any other non-Christians or Christians of a flavor that does not match hers,” said Michael Smith, the Wiccan IT analyst who hosted the meet-and-greet the governor visited. “A couple of my local politician friends say she’s losing the Wiccan vote,” said [Ivo] Dominguez. “Well, I said she never had the pagan vote for the most part to begin with.” Ben Crair, The Daily Beast

Ultimately “dabble-gate” cost her the election, and while the abundance of mean-spirited mockery had some in our community questioning why “dabbling” in a minority religion is such a deal-breaker for political office, O’Donnell’s largely unexplored connections to conservative Christianity and how they influence her politics made few Pagans regret her loss.

Turning from Paganism, and those who may have dabbled in it, to other minority faiths, it looks like 2010 will not see the first Hindu in congress. In Pennsylvania’s Sixth Congressional District Republican incumbent Jim Gerlach seems to have retained his seat against challenger Dr. Manan Trivedi. Nor was it a good night for Indian-American candidates in general this election cycle. The sole exception is the win for Nikki Randhawa Haley, the new Republican governor of South Carolina. A convert from Sikhism to Christianity, Haley is the first female Indian-American to win a governor’s race in the United States. While this election may have been disappointing for those who were looking forward to more religious diversity in America’s halls of power, Indian-Americans are a growing political force here, and it’s only a matter of time before we elect a Hindu to high office.

Finally, did the Republican gains also sweep in a lot of Pagan-hating Christian conservatives? The answer to that one is mixed. As I mentioned, O’Donnell was defeated, as was Sharon Angle in Nevada, despite polls saying she was slightly ahead, meaning her somewhat out-of-the-mainstream brand of conservative Christianity won’t be guiding policy decisions. In Hawaii, Republican James “Duke” Aiona, a candidate with ties to the anti-Pagan spiritual warfare-happy New Apostolic Reformation, lost the governor’s race to Democratic opponent Neil Abercrombie, and, as expected, Washington, D.C., Republican congressional delegate candidate, and Wiccan abortion conspiracy theorist, Missy Reilly Smith, lost to the Democratic incumbent.

But is wasn’t all good news. Republican Florida Senate-winner Marco Rubio may be a bit too cozy with rabidly anti-Pagan “Constitutional Scholar” David Barton (who argues that Pagans don’t deserve the same Constitutional protections as Christians) making some wonder how much he agrees with Glenn Beck’s “professor”.

“Senate candidate Marco Rubio revved up a crowd of about 200 supporters at the Alaqua Country Club Wednesday, but Rubio had a little help from the guy who introduced him. David Barton primed the pump with his brand of America first, last and always political/religious revivalism … Barton’s primary message Wednesday – and most days – is that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation, was intended to be a Christian nation and would be a whole lot better if everyone started buying into that. Barton traces a number of social ills, for example, back to the prohibition of compulsory prayer in public schools.”

Too bad no one got to question him on the point of equal treatment for non-Christians, specifically Pagans. On the whole, some are starting to see this election not as the rise of the Tea Party, as some had hoped/feared, but as a second wind for Christian conservative candidates (some of whom have latched onto or gained the support from Tea Party groups). What that all means for minority religions (or for the fiscally-motivated Tea Party for that matter) in the next few years remains to be seen.

Have any election-night insights to share? Leave them in the comments!

Over at the PNC blog Pagan+Politics Cara Schulz has posted the first interview in a series of interviews with Pagan politicians. The first installment is with Nevada State Assemble District 29 candidate Erin Lale. Lale is running on the Libertarian Party ticket and recently got the backing of a local Tea Party group.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

“Yes, the deck is stacked against third party and independent candidates, in several ways: district boundary lines are drawn to protect incumbents; campaign finance laws favor incumbents (the winner of the election gets to keep unused campaign funds for next time and keep building up their war chest between elections, but losers by law in Nevada must close their campaign bank account and give away any unused campaign funds to charity or to other campaigns); corporate and union donors usually only give to Democrats and Republicans (my individual donations are running about even with what the incumbent did in the last election, but I only have individual donations, while she also gets corporate and union donations, so while I raise about $500 she raised $150,000 in the last election; we’ll have to wait til the election is over to see how much she raised this time. And that doesn’t even count the advertising bought for her by her party and by corporate, union, and special interest groups) so I can’t afford to do a big ad campaign; the traditional media, newspapers and TV, usually ignore third party candidates, although I got a really good interview in the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Voter Guide last Sunday, and I’m all over the internet and radio; some media, including not just internet radio shows but even broadcast TV, frankly email candidates promising news coverage if they buy advertising, and even more blatantly, local news channels — including publicly funded PBS!– refused to allow any candidate for governor who had not raised tens of thousands of dollars to participate in the televised debate; people have the attitude that the election is a horserace and they are supposed to bet on the winner, so voting one’s conscience to vote for a third party or independent candidate is somehow “wasting your vote”, and people think they should vote for the lesser of two evils instead of voting for what they believe in.”

Be sure to head over to Pagan+Politics and read the whole thing. Next week’s installment will feature a rare interview with New York City Councilman Dan Halloran, his first with the Pagan community since winning office in 2009.

Hello! It’s good to be back home at The Wild Hunt, and I hope all of you enjoyed the week of thought-provoking and insightful guest-posts. I would like to thank Lee Gilmore, Kulasundari Devi, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, Jordan Stratford, Matthew Ellenwood, and Christian Day for their contributions, and I hope you’ll continue to follow their work in the future. I’d especially like to thank Cosette Paneque for stepping up and running the site while I was away, as well as writing news updates; her efforts are greatly valued, and I’m glad to call her a friend and colleague.

Pagan Spirit Gathering was an immense experience, an intense immersion into a fully Pagan world that leaves you changed in the process. The Pagan Newswire Collective (in partnership with the Proud Pagan Podcasters and Patheos.com) gathered hours of audio interviews from that trip, and as we sort through it, I’ll be sharing some of it with you here, as well as writing about my experiences. You can also experience some of PSG on an upcoming episode of T. Thorn Coyle’s Elemental Castings podcast, and my own A Darker Shade of Pagan podcast. I’d like to thank Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary, and all the Pagan Spirit Gathering organizers for inviting me to the event, and for taking such good care of me once I was there.

It may take me a couple days to get fully on top of things again, but here are a few news items I wanted to share with you today.

The Maetreum of Cybele’s Legal Battle: The Daily Mail has an update on the upcoming court battle in upstate New York between the Maetreum of Cybele, a Pagan temple and convent, and the Town of Catskill over tax exemptions.

“They declared war on us and we’re bringing it to them,” Platine said. “If we file a federal suit we will be looking for punitive damages. We want to send a message loud and clear that you don’t do this to a minority religion,” she said. “They woke up a sleeping giant.” Platine said she has had great support from the pagan community nationwide and was receiving donations to pay the Maetreum’s legal fees. “We just want them to give us back our exemption,” she said, “and leave us alone.”

I’ve been covering this legal saga here at The Wild Hunt, and the outcome could have profound effects on how minority religions approach tax exemption issues, especially if the case goes to the federal level. In the meantime, while Catskill seems to dislike giving property tax exemptions to isolated Goddess temples, mega-retailer Wal-Mart seems to have no trouble getting a big tax break. As a result, the Maetreum’s Reverend Mother, Cathryn Platine, has become something of a local anti-tax icon. I encourage you to read the entire Daily Mail piece, which has lots of interesting details, and I’ll be keeping you posted concerning the court case once I have more information.

Why Are Australian Political Parties Speaking at Christian-Only Events? Bruce Wilson at Talk To Action notes that representatives of Australia’s two dominant political parties recently participated in an event that was closed to non-Christians and broadcasted only to Christian churches.

“Last Monday, the leaders of Australia’s two biggest political parties addressed the right-wing Australian Christian Lobby in an event that excluded non-Christians and was broadcast solely to Christian churches across Australia. As the event website asked, “What values will define the nation after the election ?” Among the issues discussed was government funding of religious schools, which both party leaders support. Banned from the event, the Australian general public couldn’t formulate opinions about positions that Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott, both devout Christians, espoused. Now, only a few days later, Rudd has been ousted from his position as Prime Minister in a Labor Party revolt that has installed Julia Gillard as Australia’s new Prime Minister. It’s unlikely she’ll be a favorite of the Australian Christian Lobby – Gillard is unmarried and rumored to be an atheist. News coverage of Rudd’s ouster has mentioned many reason for his ouster, but Monday’s “Christians only” event does not seem to be on the list.”

The event seems like a slap in the face of all minority faiths, all but making that country’s Christian political power-brokers the de facto king-makers. It is especially troubling when you consider that Australia just recently hosted the world’s largest interfaith gathering. One would hope that such an event couldn’t happen here in the US, though Wilson does remind us that both Obama and McCain willingly participated in a discussion about faith at a conservative evangelical mega-church during the campaign. Reminding all Americans that “religious issues” in this country, at least for the time being, largely means “Christian issues”.

The Religious Litmus Test: To further underline my previous news item, Aseem Shukla, co-founder of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), discusses how the political rise of Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley (both raised in Dharma religions) has gone hand-in-hand with repeated assertions of their Christian identity and rejections of their minority religion roots.

“As any observer knows by now, say what you will about Haley and Jindal, but don’t say that they are not Christian. Ask about the Dharma religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism) of their childhood and their parents–Hinduism for Jindal and Sikhism for Haley–and be referred to Haley’s website where she writes of “living for Christ” or Jindal’s own striking testimonial on his conversion to Catholicism.

This year, eight Indian Americans, most of whom are Hindu, are running for national or statewide office–a record number–and the questions of faith become increasingly urgent. The media storyline–”Haley and Jindal triumph despite questions about their faith”– leaves millions of America’s adherents of Dharma faiths stone cold: What is so miserably wrong and unelectable in being a Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or Jain?”

Shukla notes that while Haley and Jindal’s successes are a positive step for racial plurality in America, it still leaves religious minorities with the message that the US isn’t ready for our full inclusion in the political process. I should also note that Shukla, as he did in a previous post for On Faith, once again includes Pagans when speaking about religious minorities in the United States.

Another Pagan Candidate: In a final note I’m happy to announce that our community has another openly Pagan candidate to root for! Erin Lale, a Gythia of Asatru, is running for a seat on Nevada’s State Assembly on the Libertarian ticket.

“Lale believes in getting government’s eyeball out of your window and its hand out of your pocket. In the last session, the Nevada State Assembly couldn’t agree to balance the state budget by either cutting programs or raising taxes, so instead they raided the budgets of local agencies: cities, counties, water districts, and school districts. They raided the Clark County School District’s capital improvement fund, which was money raised from Clark County homeowners intended for renovating aging school buildings and replacing portables with permanent buildings, and they put it in the general fund to spend who knows where on who knows what. They raided the Clean Water Coalition of $62 million from hookup fees in Clark County intended for wastewater treatment, resulting in a lawsuit. Lale plans to introduce legislation to define fees in Nevada law so fees collected for a specific purpose must be used for that purpose or given back. Her plan to balance the budget is to end marijuana prohibition so we can tax that, spend $500 million less per year on prisons, free up police resources so we put more cops on the street without spending more money, bring parents back to the community which will help kids do better in school and break the cycle of poverty, have less gang violence, less border violence, and more tourist money in our economy.”

You can find out more about candidate Lale at her MySpace profile, which includes a cat-centric campaign ad. If there are any Nevada Pagans of the Libertarian persuasion reading this, I’m sure she could use some local support. I’ll be following Erin Lale’s candidacy in future posts at The Wild Hunt.

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

I don’t know if you heard, but Barack Obama won the race for president of the United States of America last night. Though “won” doesn’t quite express the historic margins of victory on display here. The Obama campaign won commanding majorities of several key demographics.

“Mr. Obama built a coalition that included majorities of women, independent voters, political moderates, Hispanics, African-Americans, people of most income groups and education levels and voters under age 45, according to nationwide surveys of voters leaving the polls on Tuesday and telephone interviews of some people who had voted early.”

So the pollsters, psychics, practitioners of divination, and other “spiritually advanced people” who predicted an Obama win can rest easy in the knowledge that they were correct. Which brings us to the Pagans. How did they vote this election? Thanks to The Witches’ Voice, we have a rough snapshot of who our community supported in 2008.


Witchvox 2008 Presidential Poll

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Pagans overall preferred Obama and the Democratic party, with nearly 3/4ths supporting Barack Obama. This is an improvement of almost 2 percentage points over Kerry in 2004. Republican-leaning Pagans on the other hand seemed deeply unhappy with their party’s nominee. While Bush garnered 17.7% of the Pagan vote in 2004, McCain dropped seven percentage points, with most of those voters migrating to the “None of the above” category. In contrast, only 1.5% of Pagans went with “other” in 2004. Could the appointment of Sarah Palin, with her ties to anti-Pagan “spiritual warfare” churches, have been a poison pill for conservative Pagans?

This election cycle also saw progressive Pagans vote for the Green party in larger numbers, 3.2% this year as opposed to 0.8% in 2004. Support for Ralph Nader, who ran as an independent in 2004 and 2008, remained stable with around 2.5% of the vote in both elections. Among the smaller political parties, the Libertarians were hardest hit this election. While 5.6% went for Michael Badnarik in ’04, only 2.3% voted for Bob Barr. I can only imagine that Barr’s anti-Pagan past came back to haunt him.

While Pagan Obama supporters must be very happy right now, it wasn’t all good news for us. Paganistan (aka Minnesota’s Twin Cities) saw the reelection of congresswoman Michele “investigate the liberals” Bachmann, a woman unafraid to dump money on anti-Pagan charities. It also isn’t looking very good for gay marriage in California (anti-gay marriage bans were also passed in Arizona and Florida). Earlier this year I explained how these marriage bans interfere with the religious liberties of Pagan clergy willing to perform ceremonies for gay couples.

Despite these political setbacks, I can say I’m truly happy that the age of George “I don’t think witchcraft is a religion” Bush is finally coming to an end. I’m also pleased to see the emergence of a more politically engaged Pagan movement. I look optimistically to the future of America, and the continuing growth and influence of modern Pagans in our world.

ADDENDUM: Nate Silver at the 538 blog has posted exit-polling data from the election and finds that the Witchvox poll numbers are pretty darn accurate (with 73% of religious “other” voters preferring Obama).

Al Gore wasn’t the only surprise appearance at this year’s Netroots Nation conference. Libertarian Party Presidential candidate Bob Barr also happened to drop by. Ed Brayton, who blogs at Dispatches From the Culture Wars, was on-hand and managed to ask Barr a question that has been on the minds of many politically-oriented Pagans. Does he now repudiate his anti-Wiccan campaign from 1999?

Bob Barr: Totally lovin' the Wiccans now.

Bob Barr: Totally lovin' the Wiccans now.

“I got to ask Barr a question I’ve wanted to ask him for quite some time. He’s repudiated and apologized for many of his previous positions and I asked him if he would repudiate his absurd anti-Wiccan crusade of 1999, when he wanted all Wiccans banned from the military. He said yes, with a bit of hemming and hawing. He said that he had reports from several military leaders that Wiccans doing rituals on military bases were causing problems and that’s why he did what he did, but that since that time it’s become clear that there are no problems with allowing Wiccans to serve and to practice their religion on military bases like any other religion. I did ask him for any specific problems that were reported to him back in 1999 by these military leaders, but he said he didn’t want to get into specifics. I’m sure that’s because there are no specific incidents and those military leaders who complained to him did so out of bigotry, or because the problems it caused were really caused by bigotry against Wiccans.”

So you see, Barr was merely concerned by “reports” he had received. Reports that he doesn’t want to get into “specifics” on. That deep concern is obviously what led him to say things like this:

“A print of the painting, “The Prayer At Valley Forge,” depicting George Washington on bended knee, praying in the hard snow at Valley Forge, hangs over the desk in my office. If the practice of witchcraft, such as is allowed now at Fort Hood, is permitted to stand, one wonders what paintings will grace the walls of future generations,”

Or this:

“And we wonder why we have kids that are drifting around aimlessly when the United States Army allows not faith in God, but witches to worship on military bases by active duty military personnel; and the best that we can tell our young people and our service people is that we have to struggle through this.”

It is obvious that these statements stem from a deep concern about military order, and not from religious bigotry. I mean, it isn’t like he tried to ban Pagans practice from the military entirely, oh wait, you mean he did?

“The $290 billion defense bill allowed lawmakers to fund Stealth bombers and tanks, but for Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), it also meant a chance to keep witches and peyote out of the barracks and bunkers. Barr’s two amendments to the defense appropriations bill would outlaw the practice of Wicca — a form of witchcraft that worships nature — and the use of the hallucinogenic drug, peyote, on military bases … Barr was unimpressed by the fact that some bases, such as Fort Hood in Texas, have allowed the practice of Wicca for three years without any problems. “I perceive it as a problem,” he said.”

If only he had told us then about those super-secret reports (from “military leaders”) that he can’t divulge “specifics” from. Maybe his anti-Pagan amendment wouldn’t have been tabled. But that is all in the past now! Bob Barr loves Pagans, especially Libertarian Pagans, and wants you to vote for him in the upcoming election. I’m sure his new-found support for religious freedom and free exercise will be unwavering from now on*.

ADDENDUM: I neglected to mention that Joe Max at the Chaotic Good blog tipped me off to this story in the comments of a previous entry. Thanks for pointing it out Joe!

* Unless, you know, he gets some “reports”, secret reports, telling him otherwise.

This past Sunday I mentioned that anti-Pagan bigot Bob Barr had been picked as the official candidate of the Libertarian Party, despite a long and inglorious record of un-libertarian actions. Now Michael Idov, writing for The New Republic, files a report from this year’s contentious Libertarian National Convention. An event filled with uneasy allies across the political and cultural spectrum.

“The movement’s embrace of personal freedom is wide enough to welcome a Wall Street wing concerned mostly with deregulation; a sci-fi contingent dreaming of space colonies and immortality; a sizable anarchist (or “minarchist”) faction preaching dissolution of almost all federal agencies; and, in the last few years, a steady, surly influx of 9/11 “truthers.” All and more of these groups are on proud display in Denver. Vendor booths trumpet Native American mysticism, the “inflation-proof Liberty Dollar,” and, perhaps inevitably, Shotgun Willie’s, a local strip club.”

Idov contrasts former Republican Barr’s candidacy with the campaign staff of former Democrat Mike Gravel. Unlike Barr, Gravel has long embraced a pro-legalization, anti-IRS, pro-science stance popular among many Libertarians, though his run was more a snipe at his former party than a serious bid for the nomination. Despite this fact, he did enjoy some popularity among Libertarians, especially those unhappy with the ascendancy of Barr.

“Gravel is candid about his motives and expectations. He’s mostly mad at the Democrats–who, he says, pushed him out of the race for criticizing the U.S. stance on Iran–and would enjoy a platform from which to dish out some mild payback. His floor team includes Neal, a long-haired Wiccan who has a beef with Barr “because he tried to stop Wiccans from worshiping in the military” and granddaughter Renee, 20 years old and in full Goth regalia featuring a spiky dog collar.”

In the end, none of the more ideologically pure Libertarian candidates gained the nomination, and Barr claimed his prize, though not before some last-minute wheeling and dealing. The result has been deep unhappiness among the Libertarian rank-and-file, especially the younger Libertarians who tend to gravitate to the “left-wing” of the party.

“Inside the hall, a hushed pandemonium breaks out. The Libertarian Party seems to be ungluing before my very eyes. After more than a few people loudly declare their intention to defect on the spot, Steve Kubby goes onstage and pleads with them to stay. Boston Tea Party, a fast-swelling offshoot composed of frustrated anarchists, has put together an alternative nominating convention around the corner, for “serious, radical, Libertarians only.” Neal, Mike Gravel’s Wiccan aide, says he’s going to start his own Wiccan-Libertarian caucus back in Michigan. “The values are virtually identical,” he says.”

Will we see a rupture within Libertarianism? Will the Pagans, pot-smokers, and anarchists leave to form their own parties, while the LP-proper evolves into a sort of second home for disaffected conservative Republicans? While I’m not sure Wiccan and Libertarian values are “virtually identical”, the Libertarian Party has been a sort of home for the more conservative Pagans unhappy with the overly Christian and anti-Pagan flavor of the Republican Party. If the Libertarian Party continues to nominate anti-Pagan conservative Christians, where will these men and women go to find a political home?

I’m back! Did you miss me? I had a lovely vacation at my undisclosed location, and I would like to give a huge thank you to my amazing guest bloggers, who went above and beyond the call of duty to write some wonderfully challenging, moving, and insightful things. I urge my readers to add their blogs (found in the blogroll to your right) to your daily Internet travels, in addition to checking out the many published works they have produced.

Now, let’s catch up on the news…

The Libertarian Party has picked its nominee for President of the United States of America. Former congressional Republican Bob Barr. A puzzling choice considering that Barr’s record isn’t one that lends itself easily to Libertarian values of a small and un-intrusive government.

“Barr not only wrote and sponsored the Defense of Marriage act, but also voted for the Patriot Act; proposed the Pentagon ban a religious group from practice in the military: Wicca; and advocated complete federal prohibition of medical marijuana—succeeding in this last with his “Barr Amendment” – which also forbid any future law that would decrease penalties for marijuana use.”

Barr is widely famous as an anti-Pagan bigot who tried to ban the military from allowing equal access and freedoms to Pagan soldiers, which he claimed set a “dangerous precedent” and that toleration of Paganism led to youth violence. This no doubt leaves many libertarian-leaning Pagans in a quandary, since a vote for Barr is a vote for someone who has actively worked against equality for Pagans.

Another religious freedom battle involving Santeria is brewing. Santeria priest Ernesto Pichardo is threatening litigation if the police dept. in Coral Gables, Florida doesn’t release their records of an incident that occurred last summer.

“Ernesto Pichardo, president of the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, has been trying for almost a year to obtain records relating to the interruption of a Santeria ceremony by police last summer. An attorney he recently hired, David Aelion, has filed a public records request for any documents relating to the incident, which took place June 8. Aelion has requested all the incident reports, any internal investigations reports and communications between officers the day of the incident, as well as photographs taken at the scene, inventory reports and all city communications referring to the scene. ‘We want to find out why they were there for quite a few hours holding them [the practitioners] against their will,’ Aelion told The Miami Herald Friday. ‘It is pretty clear that the U.S. Supreme Court allows them to practice their religion freely. Why did it take many officers and that long to find out that they had no right to be there and no right to bother them?’ He said he was preparing for a possible civil rights violation case.”

According to reports, around two dozen officers with guns drawn interrupted an initiation ceremony after a neighbor reported that he could hear animals suffering. Why dozens of cops with guns drawn were necessary to investigate an animal cruelty complaint remains unknown.

Is the Crowley-inspired horror film “Chemical Wedding” so bad its good?

“Fans of terrible movies shouldn’t miss Chemical Wedding, which contains so many wooden performances it should really have been thinned before release by the forestry commission. Director Julian Doyle shoots the whole thing as though it is a Hammer horror film, and most of the actresses have the Hammer hallmark of being extraordinarily unfit for acting. Most of the cast underact. The one, big – and I do mean big – exception is Simon Callow, who appears to have been taking acting lessons from Brian Blessed and, possibly as a result, gone stark staring bonkers.”

Other reviews seem to be sounding similar notes. All we need is some audience participation, and a regular midnight showing, and we’re good to go! But while “Chemical Wedding” turns Aleister Crowley into a serial-killing horn-dog, works in other mediums are seeking to redeem the great beast, and paint him as a vilified patriot.

“Using documents gleaned from American, British, French, and Italian archives, Secret Agent 666 reveals that Crowley’s clandestine service linked him to the sinking of the Lusitania, a plot to overthrow the government of Spain, the thwarting of Irish and Indian nationalist conspiracies, the Communist International, and the 1941 flight of Rudolf Hess. Author Richard Spence, a professor of History at the University of Idaho, argues that Crowley–in his own unconventional way–was a patriotic Englishman who endured years of public vilification in part to mask his role as a secret agent.”

Did Crowley court public infamy to cover up his dealings with the government? If so it would certainly cast a new light on some of his actions, and make some detractors re-think his motivations.

Archie Bland of the Independent explores the ramifications of the new laws governing psychic practitioners in Britain. Bland wonders in the article if we aren’t asking the wrong questions as to who is a “bad psychic”.

“…perhaps the question should be recast to consider responsibility. Like the doctor, the sensible psychic’s first rule is probably to do no harm, and while there may be no such thing as a good medium to the ardent materialist, the contrast between those who have a code and those who don’t – between the tactful and the terrifying, the reasonable and the rip-off – is obvious to anyone.”

An interesting and sympathetic look at psychic practitioners and the people who frequent them from an unbiased journalist.

The New York Times has a very nice piece on the dedication of a new Hindu temple on Staten Island in New York (the first for that community).

“For Staten Island’s growing Hindu population, a couple of hours more was not long to wait to finally have its own major temple. After 10 years of worship in private homes and community meeting halls and the not-quite-finished structure of the temple itself on Victory Boulevard, the Staten Island Hindu Temple was formally consecrated in a clangorous three-day ceremony that ended on Sunday. For the 500 Hindu families from all over India who live scattered across the island, the days of having to travel to Queens or Edison, N.J., to worship are over.”

Perhaps we will someday be reading similar stories about the dedication of Pagan temples.

In a final note, the recently renewed gay marriage debate has caused some to connect it with the slow move into a truly post-Christian society. For exa
mple, conservative Christian commentator Rod Dreher claims we are living in a “pagan” sensate culture that will inevitably allow for gay marriage and that the best conservative Christians can do is move to a “defensible position” and wait it out.

“Well, it’s cold comfort, but this can’t go on forever. [Pitirim] Sorokin argues that once sensate culture plays itself out, people will have to yield to an ideational model of some sort. It is doubtful that any culture can long survive without strong, traditional families and durable moral norms based in a transcendental source. Our civilization’s prosperity has masked its social weaknesses.”

Of course there is no promise that any future dominant “ideational” culture will be a Christian one. There are myriad ways to approach perceived “social weakness”, and for thousands of years before Christ was born, those ways were “pagan” ways. Meanwhile, Nick Street at Religion Dispatches argues that the battle over gay marriage has little to do with a moral marriage crisis and a lot to do with the erosion of Biblical authority over American culture.

“…the impulse behind the movement’s anti-gay activism doesn’t really have much to do with marriage and sexuality … The real issues are the authority of the Bible and the nature of revelation … a lot is at stake in a political initiative with deep roots in the foundations of canonical Christianity. If religious conservatives can’t persuade a majority of Californians to heed one element in an otherwise obscure list of purity codes in Deuteronomy – and that Jesus’ preaching in the gospels isn’t really complete without Paul’s finger-wagging in Romans – the stitching that holds together the disparate parts of the Good Book will have subtly but irrevocably loosened, along with the Bible’s centuries-old grip on American public life.”

Christian conservatives are using their remaining weapons of fear-mongering and moral revulsion to hold back the post-Christian tide (of which gay marriage is a potent symbol), but it seems that just about everyone agrees that while Christian activists may win the constitutional battle in California, the larger war is all but lost.

That is all I have for now, have a great day!