Archives For Maine

Pagan voters in two U.S. regions have the opportunity to do something unusual –  vote for a fellow Pagan. In Virginia, Lonnie Murray was successful in his bid for re-election as Director of the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District (TJSWCD). And, in Maine, Thaum Gordon is up for re-election as Supervisor for Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District. The Wild Hunt spoke to both men about their experiences as elected officials and what advice they have for Pagans considering running for office.

[Photo Credit: Tom Arthur from Orange, CA, United States ]

[Photo Credit: Tom Arthur from Orange, CA, United States ]

Mr. Murray, who identifies as an Animist, was first elected as Director of TJSWCD in 2011. His bio lists his past experience serving on the Charlottesville Citizens Committee on Environmental Sustainability, the Albemarle County Natural Heritage Committee, and the Biscuit Run State Park Master Plan Advisory Committee. He was also one of the founders of Charlottesville’s Earth Week. In this election, Murray faced Steven Meeks in the November 3 race and defeated Meeks 52% to 47%.

Mr. Gordon, who is an eclectic Druid, was also first elected in 2011 and faces an opponent in his re-election bid. Unlike most other states where supervisors are on the general election ballot, Maine requires voters to request absentee ballots to vote for board supervisor. All ballots are due by November 11.

Lonnie Murray [photo from Facebook]

Lonnie Murray [Facebook Photo]

Although some Pagans and Heathens running for office have faced very public, and sometimes harsh, scrutiny of their religion, both Murray and Gordon said that religion hasn’t come up in either election bid. Murray says he’s fortunate to live near Thomas Jefferson’s home town where he says religious freedom has always been a community value. Although Murray said it’s inappropriate for people to use religion in their campaigns, he believes it’s important for Pagans to know that there are other Pagans holding office. He added, ”When you are a minority of any kind, it helps to know that you do have a voice and that serving in a public office is an option for people like you too. All that said, I represent people of all faiths, and those of no faith.”     

In addition to his time holding elected office, Gordon has been involved with public service over 40 years. “Some folks know I’m Pagan, but I’ve never felt the need to announce myself as such in governmental work,” said Gordon. What he has done is share his experience and qualifications with the public. That won voters over in 2011.

In his election, Murray was able to point out his past accomplishments while serving on the TJSWCD. He said, “As promised, while in office I worked to bring more attention to urban areas, and how we can clean up streams by creating biofilters, and by planting more trees and native wildflowers. Generally people like trees and wildflowers way more than pavement and martian mudscapes.”

Murray said that his advice to Pagans considering running for office is to attend local public meetings and volunteer for public advisory groups. He noted the possible the impact in municipal and county offices.“Local government has way more importance to your life on a day to day basis than anything that happens in Washington. Schools, roads, water, sewer, fire departments, police, land use and many environmental issues are all decided locally.”  

Thaum Gordon [photo from Facebook]

Thaum Gordon [photo from Facebook]

Gordon suggested running for a Conservation District position is a good way to enter public office, “There are almost 3000 Conservation Districts in the US; it’s a great first step to get involved with public service. Likewise, there are thousands of water utility districts, sewer districts, parks commissions, and other special-purpose units of government that need board members. These can be stepping stones to more competitive county or municipal elections.”

Both men believe that Pagans and Heathens may have particular strengths that could prove success in politics. For example, Gordon stressed a certain openness to other people’s ideas and an interest in looking for common ground. Murray notes that there is common approach to working magic and working in politics. “While it takes lots of patience to see progress, there really is magic in how by applying effort and intention you can help solve important problems in your own community.”

WINTHROP, Me.  — On Saturday, April 4, Apple Valley Books closed its doors for the final time, ending a storied run of over twenty years. While it ultimately succumbed to the challenges facing all independent bookstores in the age of e-readers and, Apple Valley Books was also something of a focal point for Maine’s Pagan community. The Wild Hunt was able to reach one of the store’s owners, Rita Moran, to learn more about the store. In doing so, we discovered quite a bit about Moran’s own story along the way.

Together with partner Eric Robbins, Moran opened the store as Throne Books in August 1994. “Eric had worked in a bookstore in Liberty, NY and loved the business,” she recalled. “I was a librarian by trade, so books were my thing, as well.”

With both owners being Pagan, a following of Pagan customers built up over time, first in person and then, as the internet-age dawned, online. However, the pair discovered that the name they had selected for their business was sending a different message than expected. So in time, it became Apple Valley Books. “We changed our name after being open a few years, and discovering that most folks assumed that Throne Books would be a Christian book store,” Moran explained.

Rita Moran (left in black and red) pictured with Congressman Mike Michaud (blue shirt) and others.

Rita Moran (left in black and red) pictured with Congressman Mike Michaud (blue shirt) and others. [Courtesy Photo]

Apple Valley Books was probably not what one might call a “Pagan bookstore.” The shop stocked a variety of titles in every subject, fiction and non-fiction alike. Its shelves, though, also had “a small stock of resin incenses, charcoal, books, Tarot, and some pagan-made art objects,” according to Moran. The store also had a reputation for being able to locate hard-to-find tomes of interest to the Pagan clientèle. The store was also a supporter of the EarthTides Pagan Network by way of its annual book sale held at a local fair.

Moran has never been private about being Pagan, a religion that has shaped her work in the political arena.

Since ours is a self-directed faith, one of our tasks in developing our Pagan lives is to set our moral compasses. To me, there are ultimately two very different possibilities: choose what does the least harm, or choose what does the most good.

The latter was my choice, and it has determined the course of my life. I’ve been involved with partisan politics (a much stonier path than issues politics) since I helped stuff envelopes for the Kennedy campaign. I now chair a county Democratic Party committee, the sort of thing my father did before me. I’m the third of four generations of union members, which informs my politics as well.

The place of politics in leading a Pagan life was validated when, during a wonderful weekend training in Druidry offered by Emma Restall Orr, the subject of her political activity was touched upon. I asked if she was politically involved. She looked at me silently for a minute or two, and said, ‘Of course; how could I not be?’

Part of that work was writing the Pagan+Politics blog for the Pagan Newswire Collective. As we reported in the past, Moran was also believed to be one of only two openly Pagan delegates to the Democratic National Convention in 2008. Her public face got her into the crosshairs of a Christian organization that sought to undermine her political work by attacking her religion, including efforts to make Apple Valley Books seem “sinister.” That attack led to Pagans and internet users rallying behind the Kennebec Democrats.  Now six years later, Moran continues to chair her county committee, making it clear that she was able to rise above the ugliness of that time.

Closing the bookstore ends just one chapter in this Maine Pagan’s life, but there is more left to write in her story.

What lies ahead? I am retired and do lots of volunteer work. In addition to my political work I am a member of several community theater groups and choruses. I am a volunteer mediator for the Maine Division of Consumer Protection, the Maine State Archives, and a local food co-op.

My hopes for what lies ahead include health and happiness, honor, a heathen heart, and a loving partner with whom I can share it all.

Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed your Memorial Day weekend. Here are a few updates on previously reported stories to ease you back into the work week.

Winnemem Wintu War Dance: This past weekend, as I reported here previously, the Winnemem Wintu tribe blocked off a 400-yard stretch of the McCloud River, an area central to their coming of age ceremonies. The reason for the blockade is due to the Forest Service’s ongoing refusal to grant mandatory closures for these ceremonies, resulting in teenage girls being heckled and abused by boating tourists. The direct action happened peacefully, with the Forest Service only requesting that their banner be taken down.

Winnemem Wintu Tribe members blockading the river.

Winnemem Wintu Tribe members blockading the river.

“I arrived at the ceremony just as the banner was being strung up on a cable over the river. Members of the Winnemem, Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa Valley, Pit River, Miwok and other Tribes and activists from Earth First!, Klamath Justice Coalition, Klamath Riverkeeper, Occupy Oakland and the American Indian Movement worked together to erect the banner and to keep boaters from going up the river. […] After the closure banner had been in place for over an hour, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Coast Guard officials demanded that the banner be taken down. To avoid arrests, the Tribal members and activists complied with the request; this was a “practice run” for the upcoming Coming of Age ceremony.”

Not everything was peaceful, however. On Sunday, after most supporters had left, and the blockade taken down, several boaters buzzed through the waters in a show of defiance. Aware that they were being taped, one can be heard on camera advising his friends to not “flip them off.” Another made the sign of the cross at them, a move that some tribe members saw as an act of hostility. Video coverage of the entire weekend can be found, here. This war dance was a “practice run” for the tribe’s coming of age ceremony, where it seems defenders will risk arrest to ensure the ceremony is undisturbed. I’ll post future updates as I receive them.

U.S. Religion Census and the Least Religious Places: At the beginning of May I noted the release of the 2010 U.S. Religion Census by the Association of Religion Data Archives. At the time I noted that the data showed the growth of non-Christian denominations and houses of worship with “Buddhist congregations were reported in all 50 states, and Hindu houses of worship in 49 states.” Another data-set that has folks talking is the ongoing drop in church attendance in the United States, and that some states, Maine in particular, less than 30% of residents belong to a church or religious organization.

Christian adherents as percentage of state population (2010).

Christian adherents as percentage of state population (2010).

“Maine has fewer residents who claim a religious affiliation than any other state in the union. The Pine Tree State is the only one in the country in which less than 30 percent of the population belong to a religious denomination or independent Christian church, according to a census conducted every 10 years by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. This follows a Pew study that found 40 percent of Mainers pray daily — the lowest percentage in the nation. “What’s alarming about those numbers is that more than 300 years after the country was founded by people seeking religious freedom, the large numbers of nonaffiliated folks out here is just the norm,” the Rev. Steve Lewis, academic dean of Bangor Theological Seminary, said earlier this month.”

I happen to live in the second-least Christian state, Oregon, which hovers right around 30%. Much has been written about the lack of formal, congregational, religion in Cascadia, and of the rise of the “nones”in general, with little in the way of a decisive consensus on what these trends ultimately mean for religion in America. The question I have is why, when there are now several American states where formal Christian adherence is in the minority, do we still insist on the fiction of “Christian America” or even “Judeo-Christian America.” Where are the “spiritual but not religious” politicians who do away with a Christian identity entirely? Shouldn’t states like Oregon and Maine be ready to elect non-Christians to high office, so long as their policy stances line up with a majority of voters?

Want to See Dan Halloran’s Scar? Speaking of non-Christian politicians, New York City Councilman, congressional candidate, and Theodish Heathen Dan Halloran recently underwent surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. By all accounts the procedure was a success, and Halloran is already active on social media, sending out a picture of his scar.

Ouch! (Dan Halloran's surgery scar.)

Ouch! (Dan Halloran's surgery scar.)

“So I’m home and trying to adjust- my balance isn’t at 100% but I have my health otherwise in tact. The doctors are still somewhat at a loss to explain the rapid progress, lucky circumstances, and I’m not taking it for granted. I can’t push any harder or faster but am doing everything I can. I started using a voldyne 2500 to improve my lung capacity…. but that’s gonna leave a mark.”

We’ll have plenty to say about Halloran here at The Wild Hunt once he’s back on the trail, but for now we simply wish him a speedy recovery.

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

Top Story: It looks like openly Pagan New York City councilman Dan Halloran has been vindicated in his recent clash with a parking enforcement agent. The NY Daily News reports that a judge threw out the $165 ticket written to him during his confrontation with traffic agent Daniel Chu, and that Chu has been disciplined and sent back to training.

“The lawmaker had tailed Chu after he saw the agent speed through a stop sign with his police lights flashing, he said. When Halloran stopped to snap photos of Chu parked illegally in front of a Dunkin’ Donuts in Whitestone, Queens, Chu hollered at him and wrote him a ticket for blocking a crosswalk. Chu was put on foot patrol and is required to undergo retraining at the Police Academy, which includes sensitivity training. He also faces several days’ docked pay, police sources said. After the Daily News ran a story on the confrontation last month, Halloran was bombarded with calls and e-mails from motorists claiming to have been wrongly ticketed by Chu. Complaints included the agent doling out tickets to a funeral procession, he said, adding that he is still calling for a review of every ticket the agent wrote.”

Considering how many New Yorkers feel about traffic agents, I’m sure Halloran has won himself a few new supporters from this little tempest in a tea-cup. But this doesn’t look like the end of troubles for the freshman council member, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) is calling for a federal investigation into the election that made Halloran a councilman, citing accusations of racial intimidation at the polls.

AALDEF told us their observers saw Asian-American voters and volunteers for Kim’s campaign harrassed and even assaulted by whites. The Halloran campaign countered that vanloads of Asian voters from outside the district were brought in to vote, and that voters were encouraged not to support him because of his pre-Christian pagan religious beliefs. Today, AALDEF is also claiming Korean-American voters also faced roadblocks to casting their ballots, thanks to the “racially discriminatory application of election procedures by New York City Board of Elections officials.”

I’m very certain there were racial tensions heightened during the campaign, and I don’t doubt that some thugs engaged in direct harassment of Asian voters, but there’s been no real proof that the Halloran campaign participated, encouraged, or benefited from such actions. Halloran, for his part, says he welcomes “any investigation to address election issues, especially voter fraud and electioneering inside the prohibited zones, as well as whether monitors followed the rules for avoiding voters entering polling sites before they voted.”

Another Pagan Music Festival: We have the music-focused Faerieworlds in Oregon, and the upcoming festival of Pagan Music That Doesn’t Suck in Missouri, and now Bangor Daily News reports that the Eastern Maine Pagan Pride Association will sponsor the state’s first pagan music festival.

“What makes a pagan song pagan is the lyrics rather than the kind of music or the instruments, according to Keri Alley, who helped organize the event. “Portland has held a pagan pride event, but this is the first event in the state devoted to pagan music,” she said recently. The performers will include Women with Wings, 1476, SadisTech, Lorelei Greenwood, Wolf Bone and Brite Phoenix. Members of Dark Follies, including Selcouth, are scheduled to perform. Brotha Luv, the host of WERU’s “Head Rush” show, will act as emcee.”

A sign that Pagan music’s time is soon arriving? Harbinger of a generational shift in Pagan-themed events? The most exciting thing about this show is that I haven’t heard of many of these bands, which points to a far larger underground of Pagan music-making than maybe any of us have anticipated. Artists at the festival include Lorelei GreenwoodDark FolliesWomen with Wings1476SadisTech, and Wolf Bone.

Botanicas and Those Who Supply Them: Fascinating in-depth journalistic treatments of minority faiths, and the businesses that grow up around them, are truly rare. So I was very happy to see the Dallas Observer’s profile of Chango Botánica in Oak Cliff, and its resident folk healer (curandero) Francisco “Pancho” Diaz.

“You can’t take out the religious element from the botánicas,” says Northern Arizona University anthropology professor Robert Trotter, who has researched curanderismo, Mexican-American folk medicine. “But, if you were to do so, there would be a huge overlap between what they carry and many of the supplements and products sold at, say, a GNC or someplace like Whole Foods.”

Despite Chango Botanica’s popularity and success, its future is threatened by a cancer diagnosis for Pancho, and a planned rezoning and gentrification of the neighborhood that will drive up property values, and drive away the shop’s usual clientèle.

“Imagine one day you’re driving and you don’t see that lighthouse of beautiful saints from multiple faiths and beliefs, and you ask yourself, ‘What happened?'” Jorge says. “We are a fixture in this community and so is every other business on West Davis. It’s sad to see even one tire shop disappear. And if a tire shop can make me feel that way, think about Chango Botánica.”

The whole article is worth the read, and I encourage you to do so. Better yet, as evidence of the amount of research Daniel Rodrigue did for this piece, he presents a story thread that didn’t make it into the main article; a spotlight of the candle manufacturer that supplies many of the local botanicas. It, along with a slideshow of Chango Botanica’s back rooms give an engaging portrait of a thriving economy that many of us barely notice.

A New Training Program for Pagan Clergy: Pagan organization Earth Traditions, co-founded by Angie Buchanan and Drake Spaeth, has officially launched their new training program for Pagan clergy.

“Thank you for your interest in the Earth Traditions Ministry Training Program. This is not a Seminary, a program of magical instruction, or necessarily an ordination track. This is a practical certificated training program designed to provide Pagans who wish to be Ministers, (servants of the community) an array of tools and resources to inform and protect both the individual and the communities they serve.”

You can find an outline of their curriculum, here, and a list of instructors, here. I couldn’t find word on when their Fall semester begins or ends, but I’m sure interested parties can find out by contacting Earth Traditions.  In other Pagan clergy/leader training news, the next National Pagan Leadership Skills Conference is coming up next week in Virginia, and Cherry Hill Seminary’s Fall registration is now open. It should be interesting to see how all these organizations, and others, rise to the challenge of providing leadership training to an ever-expanding modern Pagan community in the years to come.

A Ritual Death Results in Homicide Charge: A Santero in Puerto Rico, Jose Cadiz Tapia, has been charged with negligent homicide in the death of a woman who suffered extensive second-degree burns after he allegedly dropped a candle into an alcohol bath she was undergoing under his direction.

“Police consider 28-year-old Stephanie Rodriguez Pizarro’s death in July 2009 in a San Juan housing project to be an accident, and say she sought the treatment to help with marital and financial troubles. She died of second-degree burns over half her body. The healer, 46-year-old Jose Cadiz Tapia, was charged Tuesday following an investigation that took about a year to complete, police said. He faces six months to three years in prison if convicted.”

What is it with bizarre ritual deaths lately? Needless to say, if you are bathing in flammable liquid, do so well away from flames. If you do think alcohol baths and candles mix, be sure you really, really, trust the person holding the candles, and that you take precautions against an agonizing fiery death.

A Quick Final Note on Catholic Empathy: A Zambia chief is imprisoning “witches” in an illegal dungeon in his palace basement, and the Malole Catholic Church Parish Council has threatened to withhold holy communion from the chief (who apparently is nominally Catholic) if the practice continues. Good for the local Catholic Church, right? Well, apparently it’s snarky comedy gold for National Catholic Register blogger/commentator Pat Archbold.

“It seems the deal-breaker in this case is that the Chief’s sorcerer slammer does not provide adequate toilet facilities.  Nothing will bring down the full wrath of the God and Amnesty International like not having adequate porta-potties in your own personal Azkaban. While sharia law may allow for attempted murders (or actual murders) on the cast of Harry Potter actresses, the Church still frowns upon such activity.  Porta-potties or no porta-potties. Closer home, certain Catholic politicians who oppose the Church do not seem to be in any danger of being banned from Communion any time soon.  Not that they are too worried about that anyway. Apparently in U.S, just as in Zambia, the witches are still free to receive communion.

Yes, because voting the wrong way in a democracy is equatable to illegally imprisoning accused witches in your basement! Also note that he makes no mention of the hundreds of thousands killed, tortured, and abused because of witch-hysteria around the world, but instead makes a correlation to the “witches” (ie Catholic politicians who are pro-choice) receiving communion in America. Truly, his empathy and sense of proportion is staggering.

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

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!

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:, 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 ( 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.