Archives For Religion Clause

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.

Ronald Hutton (center) with symposium presenters and CHS staff.

Ronald Hutton (center) with Pagan scholars and Cherry Hill Seminary staff.

  • The Economist reviews Ronald Hutton’s new book “Pagan Britain,” and finds that it presents “more questions than answers.” Quote: “Mr Hutton leads readers to question not only the ways in which Britain’s ancient past is analysed, but also how all history is presented. He is also a lovely writer with a keen sense of the spiritual potency of Britain’s ancient landscapes. Though he offers many interpretations of each archaeological finding, such variety serves to expand the reader’s imagination rather than constrain it. Towards the end of this engrossing book, Mr Hutton laments the way the open-ended questions of ancient history and archaeology appear unsuited to television, a medium that prefers definitive answers.” The book is out now in the UK, and will be released in the United States in February (though it seems you can purchase the Kindle edition now).
  • Courts in the UK have, for the first time, awarded a Wiccan monetary damages over claims that she was fired for her religious beliefs. Quote: “Karen Holland, 45, was awarded more than  £15,000 by the courts in what is believed to be the first payout of its kind in  Britain. Her Sikh bosses insisted they fired her after  they caught her stealing. But she accused them of turning on her when  they found out she was a Wicca-practising pagan and took them to an employment  tribunal, which ruled in her favour.” As the article states, her employers were Sikh, not Christians, as some might suspect. Her employers say they will appeal the decision. More on this story here.
  • The killing of women accused of witchcraft and sorcery in Papua New Guinea continues to be a hard problem to solve, with tough news laws facing the issue of proper enforcement. Quote: “Nancy Robinson from the United Nations Human Rights Commission says toughening up the laws is no solution if they’re not implemented. ‘Implementation is the big obstacle,’ she said. ‘You may have a law but then if you don’t have the police capacity to enforce it, or if the police themselves view the situation of sorcery related killings with indifference then we still have a big issue of how to address impunity. Those who perpetrate this violence know full well they’ll get off scot free – this has to change.’” You can see all of my coverage of this issue, here.
  • The Quietus revisits Enya’s “Watermark” on its 25th anniversary. Quote: “Essentially, Watermark is a deeply weird album in the context of its bright and garish era, and as well as that a strongly and confidently female album. It also stands out as a record inspired by spiritual music in a mainstream pop world that has in recent years chosen to end the centuries-old musical dialogue between the secular and religious, the sacred and profane.” As the author points out, Enya’s influence has never been stronger, with critically acclaimed artists like Julianna Barwick employing elements of her sound.
  • There’s going to be an epic fantasy movie starring Egyptian gods? Apparently so. Quote: “Up-and-coming Australian actress Courtney Eaton has nabbed the female lead in Summit’s epic fantasy Gods of Egypt. Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites and Geoffrey Rush are the male leads in the story, which is set in motion when a ruling god named Set (Butler) kills another, Osiris. When Osiris’ son Horus (Coster-Waldau) fails in his attempt at revenge and has his eyed plucked out, it’s up to a young human thief (Thwaites) to defeat the mad god Set. Eaton will play a slave girl whom the thief falls for.” Currently scheduled for a 2015 release.
Solstice Stonehenge revelers in 2009.

Solstice Stonehenge revelers in 2009.

  • This week a new visitor center will open at the world-famous Stonehenge in England. Its goal? To give visitors who may never walk among the (restricted access) stones, and sense of that experience, in addition to giving an overview of the many scholarly theories about Stonehenge’s purpose. Quote: “With tourists and day-trippers barred since the late Seventies from entering the circle in order to protect the stones from damage, there has been a fierce and long-running debate on how the site should best be displayed. But on Wednesday a new £27 million centre will open at Stonehenge with a 360 degree cinema at its heart where visitors can ‘experience’ standing in the ancient circle.” Currently, Pagans are allowed access at the solstices and equinoxes, but many want greater access. Concept art for the center can be found here.
  • The Christian cross that stands on Mt. Soledad in California, which some had the audacity to claim was “secular,” has been ordered removed by a federal court. Quote: “A federal court has ordered the removal of the controversial Mt. Soledad cross near San Diego. The towering symbol of Christianity, built in 1954 on the peak of Mt. Soledad, is a 43 foot high Latin cross – and it sits on government-owned land. By ruling that the cross violated the First Amendment, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns has tried to put an end to a 24-year-old legal battle over the constitutionality of the display. Critics have long argued that the cross, built in 1954 and dedicated on Easter Sunday as a “gleaming white symbol of Christianity,” clearly violates the First Amendment.” It isn’t known if an appeal will be made.
  • Protestant Christian notions of “religion” are being destabilized. Quote: “Religion is nothing if not practiced, nothing if not communally created by and for people who find meaning, yes, but also find ways to put our bodies into relation with other bodies. Religions are sensually established and engaged through sights and smells and sounds, as human bodies sway and sing, pray and play. Rituals are carried out, ancient stories are told anew, the candles are burned, and the flowers garlanded. Religion is embodied practice, done with others, extending far beyond ‘belief in god.’”
  • Religion Clause points out that the Defense Authorization Bill, recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, contains religious freedom language for military personnel. Here’s the language: “Unless it could have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline, the Armed Forces shall accommodate individual expressions of belief of a member of the armed forces reflecting the sincerely held conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the member and, in so far as practicable, may not use such expressions of belief as the basis of any adverse personnel action, discrimination, or denial of promotion, schooling, training, or assignment.” So talk about polytheism all you want, Pagans!
  • Either you have to include everyone, including Satanists, or you have to remove sectarian expressions of religion from federal property. Seems simple enough, doesn’t it?
  • Here’s an article discussing the traditional African beliefs and practices employed in the funeral and burial rites for South Africa’s Nelson Mandela. Quote: “‘We as Africans have rites of passage, whether it is a birth, marriage or funeral. Mandela will be sent off into the spiritual world so that he is welcomed in the world of ancestors. And also so that he doesn’t get angry,’ said Nokuzola Mndende, a scholar of African religion.”
  • Remember that story about Hopi relics being sold in France against their objections? Well, it looks like the Annenberg Foundation purchased the items, and will be donating the items back to the two tribes who were leading the protest. Quote: “Hopi cultural leader Sam Tenakhongva said in the same statement that the tribe hopes the Annenberg decision to intervene “sets an example for others that items of significant cultural and religious value can only be properly cared for by those vested with the proper knowledge and responsibility.” “They simply cannot be put up for sale,” he said.”

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

On Sunday, Politico published a lengthy piece exploring why Christian pseudo-historian David Barton has retained his political influence and popularity despite recent blunders with his highly questionable view of history. In short, he never backed down, accused his critics of being partisan operatives, and simply waited for the attention span of the American public to move on.

David Barton

David Barton

“Barton has bounced back. He has retained his popular following and his political appeal — in large part, analysts say, because he brings an air of sober-minded scholarship to the culture wars, framing the modern-day agenda of the religious right as a return to the Founding Fathers’ vision for America. ‘It has been shocking how much resistance there is to critically examining what Barton says,’ said Scott Culpepper, an associate professor of history at Dordt College who has critiqued Barton’s scholarship. ‘I really underestimated the power of the political element in evangelicalism.’ In March, Barton gave his presentation on America’s biblical heritage to dozens of state legislators in Kansas. In May, he spoke at the official National Day of Prayer breakfast at the Fort Leonard Wood Army base in Missouri. He rallied activists at the National Right to Life Convention in June with a rousing speech drawing on the Declaration of Independence to make the case for abortion restrictions. Cruz followed Barton in the program and echoed his analysis to thunderous applause.”

Barton has made it clear that in addition to his normal causes, he’s willing to advise the next Republican candidate for United States President.

“Barton hints he’ll soon be back in the arena of presidential politics, advising candidates looking to appeal to the religious right. ‘I remain available to whoever wants to move that ball down the court,’ Barton told POLITICO. [...] ‘Barton has huge standing among “social conservatives that make up a significant base of a caucus electorate,’ said Craig Robinson, editor of The Iowa Republican website. ‘You want to appeal to those people if you’re a Ted Cruz or a Rand Paul.’”

So what makes David Barton different from any number of conservative Christian movers and shakers? Why is The Wild Hunt paying any attention to his political (re-)ascension? Because he’s on-the-record as saying that modern Pagans don’t have constitutional rights.  Back in 2010 Barton’s organization Wall Builders sent in an amicus brief in a case coming before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that involved California’s prison chaplaincy system, a Pagan chaplain, and a policy that limited the hiring of paid chaplains to certain faiths. After a prologue explaining Barton’s bona fides as a historian, the brief gets right to the point.

“…this Brief surveys the historical data to demonstrate that no matter which of several possible definitions is correct, none of them support McCollum’s Amici’s assertion for the simple reason that the Founders did not intend the Religion Clauses to protect paganism and witchcraft [...] The true historic meaning of “religion” excludes paganism and witchcraft, and thus, does not compel a conclusion that McCollum has state taxpayer standing [...] paganism and witchcraft were never intended to receive the protections of the Religion Clauses. [...] There are, of course, references to ‘heathens’ and ‘pagans’ among the writings of the Framers, but there is no indication that those belief systems, including polytheism, are considered ‘religion.’”

There are any number of political and social views participants in a free democratic society should tolerate, but the view that religious minorities, specifically Pagans, shouldn’t have the same rights and protections as Christians isn’t one of them. The fact that Rep. Michelle Bachmann wanted Barton to teach Constitution classes to incoming members of Congress is chilling once you remember that he’s convinced the Constitution only protects Christians. So consider this post a place-holders of sorts, a reminder to watch the race for the U.S. Presidency in 2016. Anyone who would invite Barton on as an advisor, seek his endorsement, or use him as point-person for evangelical outreach is inviting someone who stands against a pluralistic and inclusive society. This isn’t about partisanship, it’s about the simple fact that our leaders, no matter their party, should accept the basic premise that religious freedom and religious protections are for all religions.

A final point: America’s Founders new exactly what their new Constitution would do, and that it would even protect us Pagans someday.

“The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason and right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read, “a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.”Thomas Jefferson

The notion that our Founders were blind to our possible emergence is revisionist folly.

 

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.

Richard Ramirez

Richard Ramirez

The Great Serpent Mound

The Great Serpent Mound

  • Indian Country Today reports on how New Age woo demeans and threatens The Great Serpent Mound in Ohio. Quote: “Kenny Frost a Southern Ute citizen, has worked to protect sacred places for more than 20 years. He is a well-respected authority on Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act issues and law and frequently consults with state, federal and tribal governments. ‘The protection put down by Native people at sacred sites is still there. Non-Native people dig around and see what they can find; they may end up opening a Pandora’s box without knowing how to put spirits back,’ he notes.” 
  • “Sorry Pagans,” that’s what Baylor history professor Philip Jenkins says as he engages in the hoary exercise of telling Pagans about how stuff they thought was pagan was actually, totally, not. Quote: “In reality, it is very hard indeed to excavate through those medieval Christian layers to find Europe’s pagan roots. Never underestimate just how thoroughly and totally the Christian church penetrated the European mind.” So why even bother, am I right? I know this is a popular topic for columnists looking for material, but we aren’t ignorant of the scholarship, and cherry-picking two (popular) examples isn’t going to embarrass us back to church. You’d be surprised at how well-versed some of us are in history. 
  • Religion Clause reports that a judge has allowed a gangster’s  Santa Muerte necklace to remain as evidence during the penalty phase of the trial (for which the defendant was found guilty of murder). Quote: “The court held that appellant had failed to object on any 1st Amendment religious ground to introduction of the evidence.” Further, the judge says they may have allowed it even if the defendant has objected earlier in the case noting the faith’s ties to narco-trafficking. Could this ruling lead to a problematic precedent? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.
  • Christians opposed to same-sex marriage know that the battle is lost. Quote: “Just 22% of white evangelical Protestants favor same-sex marriage, but about three times that percentage (70%) thinks legal recognition for gay marriage is inevitable. Among other religious groups, there are smaller differences in underlying opinions about gay marriage and views of whether it is inevitable.” I think that means marriage equality has won, don’t you? Now to undo 50 years of legislative hysteria.
  • Speaking of marriage equality, it’s very, very “pagan.” Quote: “As to the future of America – and the collapse of this once-Christian nation – Christians must not only be allowed to have opinions, but politically, Christians must be retrained to war for the Soul of America and quit believing the fabricated whopper of the “Separation of Church and State,” the lie repeated ad nauseum by the left and liberals to keep Christian America – the moral majority – from imposing moral government on pagan public schools, pagan higher learning and pagan media. Bill Bennett’s insight, “… the two essential questions Plato posed as: Who teaches the children, and what do we teach them?” requires deep thought, soul-searching and a response from Christian America to the secular, politically correct and multicultural false gods imposing their religion on America’s children.” That’s David Lane, one of Rand Paul’s point men in improving his relations with evangelical Christians. I’ll spare you the Dragnet P.A.G.A.N. reference.
  • “Occult,” a new television series in development for A&E, follows the exploits of an “occult crime task force.” Quote: “‘Occult’ revolves around Dolan, an FBI agent who has returned from administrative leave after going off the deep end while investigating his wife’s disappearance. Eager to be back on the job, he is paired with an agent with her own complicated back story who specializes in the occult. Together, they will solve cases for the newly formed occult crimes task force.” Whether the show actually gets on the air is still an open question. If it does, we can start a betting pool for when Wiccans, Druids, and Asatru are mentioned in the series.
  • Frank Lautenberg, the Democratic Senator from New Jersey who passed away recently, took an active role in combatting the revisionist Christian history of David Barton. Quote: “I want those who hear me across America to pay attention: ‘Christian heritage is at risk.’ That means that all the outsiders, all of those who approach God differently but are people who believe in a supreme being; people who behave and live peacefully with their neighbors and their friends. No, this is being put forward as an attempt — a not too subtle attempt — to make sure people understand that America is a Christian country. Therefore, we ought to take the time the majority leader offers us, as Members of the Senate, for a chance to learn more about how invalid the principle of separation between church and state is. I hope the American public sees this plan as the spurious attempt it is.” For why David Barton is infamous among Pagans, check out my previous reporting on his antics. 
  • Finally, here’s some pictures from the Pagan Picnic in St. Louis!

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

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.

Indonesian politician Permadi, photo by Edi Wiyono.

Indonesian politician Permadi, photo by Edi Wiyono.

William Blake, The Whore of Babylon, 1809, Pen and black ink and water colours, 266 x 223 mm, © The Trustees of the British Museum

William Blake, The Whore of Babylon, 1809, Pen and black ink and water colours, 266 x 223 mm, © The Trustees of the British Museum

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.

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.

Spencer Butte in Eugene, Oregon

Spencer Butte in Eugene, Oregon

  • This just in: walking in the woods is good for you! Quote: “In an effort to benefit the Japanese and find nonextractive ways to use forests, which cover 67 percent of the country’s landmass, the government has funded about $4 million in forest-bathing research since 2004. It intends to designate a total of 100 Forest Therapy sites within 10 years. Visitors here are routinely hauled off to a cabin where rangers measure their blood pressure, part of an effort to provide ever more data to support the project.” Those of us who love to sojourn into nature regularly can most likely attest to the salubrious effects of wooded terrain.
  • Religion Clause reports that the USDA has “released a lengthy report titled USDA Policy and Procedures Review and Recommendations: Indian Sacred Sites.” Quote from the summary: “[The report calls] for USDA and the U.S. Forest Service to work more closely with Tribal governments in the protection, respectful interpretation and appropriate access to American Indian and Alaska Native sacred sites on national forests and grasslands. The report recommends steps the Forest Service should take to strengthen the partnerships between the agency, Tribal governments, and American Indian and Alaska Native communities to help preserve America’s rich native traditions.” This seems a welcome step forward after some recent incidents involving sacred lands.
  • Moral panics often help promote the very thing they (sometimes literally) demonize. Quote: “The most common way for music to blow up from a small scene into global pop is for a controversy to erupt. Music history is littered with examples of “moral panics”: be-bop jazz was blamed for white-on-black race riots in the mid-1940s, just as rap music was blamed when riots erupted in Los Angeles following the Rodney King trial. In both cases, sensationalized news reports and especially a focus on the “dangerous” elements in the music attracted young people in droves. Moral panics, like magnets, repel and attract.” That quote is from Jennifer Lena, whose book “Banding Together: How Communities Create Genres in Popular Music,” looks very interesting. To give this a Pagan spin, one wonders if the “Satanic” panics of the 1980s and 1990s actually drew people into the occult and modern Paganism? Yet another factor to explore in the “teen witch” boom?
  • Remember folks, reality television, all reality television, distorts its subjects.
  • In a final note, Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish is going independent, and will subsist on reader donations. Which makes me wonder, will the future of media not be with massive ever-expanding content hubs, but with smaller, curated, islands that are more responsive to the communities they serve? Or, at the very least, will the new media ecosystem allow for both to thrive?

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

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

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

 

Religion Clause (the best source for religious litigation news) just posted some new developments in the numerous legal challenges that Wiccan chaplain Patrick McCollum had brought against the state of California’s prison system, and it looks like more bad news.

“In McCollum v. California, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13580 (ND CA, Feb. 23, 2009), a volunteer Wiccan prison chaplain claimed that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has not given him the same access to prisoners and facilities as it gives to chaplains of other faiths, and that it retaliated against him because of his complaints about the treatment of Wiccans in California prisons. The court held that plaintiff had not shown sufficient evidence of disparate treatment to support his equal protection claim. Nor had he proven that the temporary suspension of his volunteer privileges or the failure to hire him for a position for which he applied were because of his exercise of 1st Amendment rights. (See prior related posting.)”

This, along with McCollum’s loss concerning challenges to California’s “five faiths” policy, doesn’t exactly paint a rosy picture concerning the future of Wiccan/Pagan prison chaplaincy. No word yet on if McCollum plans to challenge these rulings to a higher court. One brief ray of hope here is that law professor Howard M. Friedman (author of Religion Clause) points to a recently-released ruling from last year that could help McCollum lauch a more successful challenge to the “five faiths” policy.

“While the Northern District of California denied standing to a chaplain to challenge the 5 Faiths Policy, a decision from last year has just become available through LEXIS in which the Eastern District of California finds that an inmate does have standing to challenge the policy. In Rouser v. White, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 107199 (ED CA, Sept. 16, 2008), the court also found that plaintiff’s complaint alleges “plausible grounds” for relief in his Establishment Clause challenge.”

So if McCollum partners up with a Wiccan or Pagan inmate willing to challenge the “five faiths” he might get a bit further next time. This may also be true in issues concerning equal access of Pagan prisoners to chaplains. In the meantime, the ongoing mistreatment of minority religions in prison continues.

The Religion Clause blog reports that a case involving a controversial Nativity Scene erected on city property in Green Bay, Wisconsin this past December has been dismissed by the judge.


A brief moment of religious inclusiveness in Green Bay.

“…a Wisconsin federal district court dismissed an Establishment Clause challenge to a nativity scene displayed last year on the roof of the entrance to Green Bay’s City Hall. Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment, an injunction and nominal damages. Without reaching the merits, the court concluded that plaintiffs lacked standing because “none of the relief they seek would redress the injuries they claim.” City Council had already enacted a moratorium on all displays, until a policy is worked out in the future. Also the city took down the display at issue on December 26, just hours before this lawsuit was filed. The claim for nominal damages was not sufficient by itself to create standing.”

This ruling isn’t exactly a rousing victory for Mayor Jim Schmitt. While Green Bay won’t have to pay damages, this “Christmas Wars” showdown hasn’t endeared him to the local press, and even local clergy have told him to keep city hall secular.

“Mayor Jim Schmitt has met with clergy to get their ideas on a city policy. They agreed that the city should stick with secular decorations and leave the religious displays to area churches and synagogues.”

This case has displayed the worst impulses of politicians. Enacting policy in order to “take the fight to” organizations they disagree with, inviting religious diversity to cover their tracks, and then insulting a local Wiccan organization (Circle Sanctuary) by refusing to replace a holiday display that had been vandalized. It makes one wish that Green Bay’s mayor had the same good sense as Muskego’s.

“You have to be respectful of all religions and if you start putting one display up, you have to put up displays for everybody,” Muskego Mayor John Johnson said. “If you put up a Nativity scene and then a group asks you to put up a Hanukkah display or a display for the Muslim holiday, do you tell them no? You can’t.”

While the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s suit was dismissed, they, and the Green Bay residents who filed with them, really won the larger battle. It seems very likely that Mayor Jim Schmitt and the city council will take the advice of local clergy and keep things secular this year. Avoiding future games of litigious “chicken” for the sake of proving that Green Bay is more Christian than Madison. Let’s hope this case fizzling out will be a harbinger of the larger “War on Christmas” finally losing momentum among the punditocracy.

In Other News

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 28, 2008 — Leave a comment

While Starhawk’s meditation on McCain gets top billing from The Wild Hunt today, it isn’t the only story of interest to our communities happening right now. Here are some links to other stories of note.

New Jersey’s Packet Online looks at the careers of Darlene Prestbo and Hazel Staats-Westover, elders within the women’s spirituality movement, who contribute a chapter to the recently released work “WomanSoul: The Inner Life of Women’s Spirituality”.

“Because of their longtime involvement in women’s spirituality, their professional reputations and friendships, Ms. Prestbo and Ms. Staats-Westover were invited by Carole A. Rayburn, a noted research psychologist who had visited the women’s spirituality groups and been touched by the experience, to contribute a chapter to Womansoul: The Inner Life of Women’s Spirituality. Ms. Rayburn co-authored the book with Lillian Comas-Diaz, also a respected psychologist and educator. The icing on the cake for the two local women was an invitation to the 116th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in Boston, where they spoke Aug. 15. The book explores and advances the concept of “womansoul” — a gender specific way of embracing spirituality. It discusses the personal and professional impact of spirituality in the lives of women from a variety of ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds — Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Native American and more.”

Prestbo and Staats-Westover also co-founded (in 1987), and help run, a Princeton area women’s spirituality group called the Daughters of Gaia.

If you happen to be institutionalized, you have a right to write letters in “Atlantean” undisturbed, so long as it is integral to your belief system.

“DeSimone v. Bartow is a lawsuit by plaintiff who has been civilly committed to a mental health facility operated in part by the Department of Corrections. A Wisconsin federal district court permitted him to proceed with a claim that his 1st amendment and RLUIPA free exercise rights were violated when he was prohibited from writing in his Atlantean language, a practice plaintiff said was central to his religious belief. Officials said it took too long to translate the writings, and untranslated writings posed security risks, even though they did not impose the same restrictions on others who wrote in different foreign languages.”

I can only assume that letters written in Enochian, Theban, Angelic, and Malachim scripts would be similarly protected. I wonder, is the “Atlantean” alphabet he is using the one invented by Disney?

In a final note, Switzerland has exonerated Europe’s last beheaded witch.

“Swiss officials have granted a pardon to Europe’s last beheaded witch – more than 220 years after she was executed. The parliament of the Swiss canton (state) of Glarus decided unanimously today to exonerate Anna Goeldi as a victim of “judicial murder,” said Josef Schwitter, a government spokesman. Goeldi was executed in 1782 for an alleged case of poisoning.”

Goeldi, who is something of a (in)famous figure in Swiss history, had a museum opened in her honor, and the Swiss government is donating $118,000 towards the creation of a play about her life.

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

Getting excited about Hellboy II yet? I sure am! The film, directed and co-written by “Pan’s Labyrinth” director Guillermo del Toro, is chock-full of pagan-friendly elements. To whet your appetite for the July 11th release date, an animated comic prologue has been released.

For more pre-release fun, check out the multiple trailers at the Apple site. You might also want to read some advance reviews from Variety, Hollywood Reporter, and Cinematical.

While I’m on the subject of movie news, a recent Virgin Media survey places “The Wicker Man” in the top ten best British films of all time.

“Four Weddings And A Funeral has been named best British film of all time in a survey out yesterday. The 1994 romantic comedy just beat Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, and made a star of Hugh Grant, who comes fourth in the Best Actor poll. Trainspotting, Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig as James Bond, Guy Ritchie’s Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, Lawrence Of Arabia, Withnail And I, Atonement, The Wicker Man and Get Carter completed the top 10 in the Virgin Media survey.”

Speaking of “The Wicker Man”, star Christopher Lee has lashed out in the press about ageism in the film industry after his role in the Scottish movie “Stone of Destiny” was edited out.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama seems to embody the religious hopes and fears of America. He’s been called a secret Muslim, spurred claims that he might be the messiah, or a perhaps a “light worker”, pissed off James Dobson, gained the support of a Pagan delegate (and had supposed Pagan ties used against him), and was formally adopted into the Crow Indian Nation. Now Hindus think he might be one of them.


Spot the Monkey God!

“If charges of being a “secret Muslim” weren’t enough, Barack Obama may now need to prove he’s not a secret Hindu as well. According to the Times of India, a group of supporters in New Delhi have sent Obama a two-foot, gold-plated statue of the monkey god Hanuman. According to Indian politician Brijmohan Bhama, “Obama has deep faith in Lord Hanuman and that is why we are presenting an idol of Hanuman to him.” The apparent source of this pronouncement of Obama’s newly-discovered faith is this photo from Time magazine, which shows a collection of lucky charms Obama carries with him, including a small Hanuman charm.”

What better way to debunk “secret Muslim” smears than to have the Hindus claim you! Of course Obama is actually a liberal Christian, but this swirl of activity proves just how far America has moved from its “Christian” identity.

The Miami Herald has put out a very nice story about the shrine of la Ermita de La Caridad, a place where Cuban refugees come for solace and to pray. Though technically a Catholic shrine, it also attracts followers of Santeria who see la Caridad as a manifestation of Ochun.

“At the northern end of the seawall, where historic Vizcaya serves as a foreground to the glossy towers of Brickell Avenue, a stone Eleggua (the Santeria god known as the opener of paths) with cowrie-shell eyes gazes up toward the water’s surface. At the southern end, near Mercy Hospital, someone’s Santeria necklaces cling to a rock, a school of little silver fish brushing by the yellow and amber beads for Ochun, the blue and white ones for Yemaya … As Catholic as the shrine is, many of the devoted who come here are also followers of Santeria. In the religious syncretism of Cuba, la Caridad, an apparition of the Virgin Mary, is also called Ochun, one of the orishas, the Santeria gods. “A sanctuary is precisely a place where the Catholic religion makes contact with el pueblo,” Roman says. “We know there are people who perform rituals out there by the seawall. But they do it very respectfully. They don’t let us see it.”

A touching and balanced story about how culture and shared experience can sometimes overcome the barriers erected by religion.

In a final note, Religion Clause links to a story about how legal peyote used for religious purposes by Native Americans is becoming increasingly scarce due to local land being leased to oil speculators.

“South Texas property owners have realized there is profit in leasing their land as oil or hunting preserves. Suddenly, the small pittances peyoteros could pay for access didn’t seem worth it. “Now, it’s getting to where the ranchers don’t want to give permission for us to look on their land,” he said. “You have to keep going back to the same patches and waiting for it to grow again.” This presents a conundrum. If Morales and his colleagues keep revisiting the same patches, the cactus doesn’t have enough time to re-grow. Repeated overharvesting also affects the potency of the plant, said Martin Terry, an assistant professor of biology at Sul Ross University in Alpine. “If the demand continues to increase – even slowly – and the supply continues to decrease, then the amount available to the church will just keep continuing to decrease,” he said.”

Religious prohibitions prevent greenhouse-grown peyote, and trips to Mexico, where the cactus is still plentiful, is wrought with legal entanglements. With only a few legal peyoteros left, and available land dwindling, it remains to be seen if the Native American Church can find a way to solve this problem.

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