Archives For Rita Moran

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.

Public Domain / via Pixabay

[Public Domain]

Over the past seven months, a large group of people came together to craft a “Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.” The idea was born after Covenant of the Goddess issued a similar statement in August 2014. John Halstead led the charge, coordinating the discussions within this “working group.” However, the statement itself was created wholly by the coalition of diverse voices from various communities, religious practices and regions.

Near the end, the statements reads, “We hold that living a fulfilling and meaningful life, and allowing the same for future generations, is only possible if the entire Earth is healthy. We will therefore strive as individuals, as groups, and as members of a global society to promote the current and future health of our entire Earth…”

Presented in draft form, the statement can be read at a newly launched website, where the public is invited to make comments and suggestions. Organizers add, “The Statement will be published in its final form on Earth Day, April 22, 2015, when it will be made available for electronic signature.”  They add, “The statement only represents you if you sign it.” 

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Nearly a year after news of his arrest rocked many Pagan communities, Kenny Klein has still yet to be heard in court. Charges were filed in June but the process has been stalled with hearings scheduled each month, but then postponed for a variety of reasons.

For Klein’s ex-wife, Tzipora Katz, and her children, the delays have been difficult  and increasingly frustrating, as they are all seeking closure. Katz recently said, “The arrest and the past year have, needless to say, dredged up many old wounds and reawoken our collective PTSD. This has manifest differently for each of us, but the common themes are: second guessing decisions (especially about interpersonal relationships), feelings of low self-esteem or self-worth, nightmares and inability to separate past from present emotions, and feelings that we are on trial again as we have had to defend our statements of what did happen to us. And of course, an utter disdain for the slowness of the judicial system.” The next scheduled hearing is for the end of April.

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Indiana-StateSeal.svgIndiana’s newly signed RFRA has taken center stage in the national spotlight, as well as in Pagan and Heathen communities. John Halstead published a blog post regarding the legislation. In “A Pagan Lawyer’s Take on Indiana’s “Religious Right to Discriminate Law,” Halstead writes, “The law allows Hoosiers who are sued for discrimination to cite their religious beliefs as a defense in a private discrimination suit.” Last week, thousands marched in protest and tweeted in outrage, including celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, George Takai, Ashton Kutcher, Ellen Degeneres, the NCAA organization and others.

Indiana will be joining the Federal Government and 19 other states, who all have similar “religious freedom” legislation. Over the past two years,The Wild Hunt has reported on a number of these laws or proposed bills, including those in Georgia and Arizona. Every state RFRA must be read carefully as they are all worded differently. As a result, each one raises different levels of concern and corresponding public reaction. For those interested in following the issue more closely, Americans United provides regular updates on the debates and actions specific to each state’s bill or legislation.

20 states with RFRAs as of March 27, 2015 [Graphic by: PiMaster3]

20 states with some form of RFRA, as of March 27, 2015 [Graphic by: PiMaster3]

In other news:

That is it for now. Have a nice 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!

(Pagan) News of Note

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just to remind my readers keeping track of the Democratic National Convention that our own embedded Pagan reporters over at Blue Pagans at the DNC will be sending in regular updates as everything unfolds. Maine delegate Rita Moran has already posted her impressions of the opening interfaith ceremony.

“The high point for me, where Rev. Daughtry proved how inclusive she had planned the service to be, came when she stated, “We are created in the image of our Creator, whatever we call Him or Her.” Acknowledgment of the feminine divine truly demonstrated how inclusive the Democratic Party is, and made me proud to be a Democrat.”

Be sure to read the entire post. You can keep track of future posts from Blue Pagans at the DNC in a number of ways. Follow them on Twitter, subscribe to their feed at LiveJournal, place a widget on your site, subscribe to their syndication feed, or have the posts e-mailed to you. We here at The Wild Hunt will also be checking in with the Blue Pagans team as the convention progresses. I wish Rita, Ed, and other Pagans at the convention good luck, and hope this is just the beginnings of a Pagan presence within American politics.

I would like use this light news day to alert my readers to a new blog/project that I have a hand in coordinating. You may remember my interview with Maine Democratic Party official and out(ed) Pagan Rita Moran back in April. Ms. Moran, though losing her superdelegate status, has been chosen by the Maine Democratic Party to be a part of the delegation for that state. Realizing that this was a unique opportunity, she offered to report back from the Democratic National Convention and deliver a Pagan perspective on the proceedings. So Rita, along with fellow Democratic Party official and credentialed blogger ?Ed Lachowicz, have started a special blog to post their reports.

“We’ve got a great opportunity here, a chance to make our mark on a campaign for change, a chance to be a constant reminder that we expect “Change We Can Believe In” means an America that treats Pagans fairly and equally….from an ensured right to worship for military Pagans (including Pagan chaplains), to true enforcement of the separation of Church (Grove?) and State.”Rita Moran, Change Who Can Believe in?

I believe that this is a unique opportunity to have an embedded Pagan voice at a major political event, and The Wild Hunt will be posting links to their coverage of the convention. In the meantime, Rita and Ed have already started blogging in anticipation of the upcoming event, and there are a variety of subscription services and tools at the site that allow you to follow along and promote their posts. I hope those of you interested in the project will help promote Blue Pagans at the DNC by adding it to your blogrolls, telling your friends, and linking to the convention coverage later this month.

I would also like to take this opportunity to put out a call for openly Pagan Republican delegates or credentialed press who are planning to attend the Republican National Convention in September. If you would like to see a “Red Pagans at the RNC” blog happen, send me an e-mail. While I happen to “trend blue” personally, this site refrains from endorsing any political candidate or party, and remains a “neutral” ground open to Pagans of all political persuasions.

Over at Politico, Robert M. Eisinger analyzes the upcoming election battle between Oregon Republican senator Gordon Smith, and Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley. Smith is the last remaining Republican senator from the coastal West, and many from Oregon’s progressive/liberal strongholds are feeling confident about ousting him this time around. Eisinger describes the political climate in Oregon (“chill” and trending Blue), and opines on the kind of lefties one finds in Oregon.

“Oregon’s liberal enclaves of Portland, Eugene and Ashland are abundantly weird. Citizens discuss (or embrace) paganism, Wicca massage, sustainable arugula farms and nonmedicinal marijuana with ease. Recycle an old bridge by converting it into a downtown bicycle-and-pedestrian-only path to the art galleries? Let’s consider it. Latte in hand, these earnest anti-war protesters do not conceal their disdain for the establishment. (Can agnostics be mad as hell?) The progressives (liberals are so yesterday) listen to three radio stations exclusively: Pacifica’s KBOO, the local NPR affiliate and Air America. Surely they are ready for a verbal bomb-thrower, but what about the rest of the state?”

It seems that embracing, or even discussing, modern Paganism makes you “abundantly weird” and outside the mainstream. Then again, sustainable farming, opposing the Iraq war, and wanting to recycle run-down infrastructure does too, which makes many millions of Americans across the country potentially (and “abundantly”) “weird”.

While Robert M. Eisinger brands acceptance and adherence to modern Paganism strange, real Pagans continue to make inroads into mainstream politics. For example, Rita Moran (whom I interviewed recently), is a state Democratic party official from Maine, and “out” Pagan. While Moran recently lost her bid to become a DNC official and superdelegate, she was selected to be a part of the Maine delegation at the DNC national convention according to fellow Maine resident (and Pagan) Jane Raeburn.

“Pagan Democrat Rita Moran did not win election to the Democratic National Committee at last weekend’s state convention. She did, however, win a delegate’s seat at the Democratic National Convention, supporting Barack Obama. (Maine is one of two states, Nebraska being the other, that allows a split delegation — we’re sending 16 Obama delegates and 9 Clinton ones.) I expect there have been other Pagan delegates in the past, but she plans to wear a pentacle and attend the Religious Caucus as a Pagan while she is there. The local Pagan community will be raising money to help her defray the expected $2,000-$3,000 cost of attending the national convention.”

The fact is that as Pagan populations increase, who we vote for and support will become more and more important to the “mainstream”. We are no longer the fringe, but a part of America’s religious tapestry. A fact exemplified by Rita Moran’s upcoming presence at the Democratic Religious Caucus. If Paganism is “abundantly weird”, then perhaps Hunter S. Thompson is right, “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

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.

Back in July I reported on the actions of Dixie Deerman (aka Lady Passion), a Wiccan from Asheville, North Carolina, who was trying to save a local magnolia tree marked for cutting by developers.

“Wiccan priestess Dixie Deerman of Coven Oldenwilde in Asheville says the line has to be drawn somewhere, and this is it. Deerman, also known as Lady Passion, has invited Pagans, Wiccans and others to encircle the tree Friday evening and chant spells to protect it.”

It seems that some local environmentalists showed up to her rally, including Elaine Lite, a candidate for the Asheville City Council. Lite, I’m sure, thought nothing of her appearance until news footage of the event was re-edited and used as a political attack ad by local conservative group Carolina Stompers.

Local Democrats weren’t pleased and filed a complaint saying that the Carolina Stompers need to register as a PAC (political action committee) if they are going to run attack ads. But so far the conservative group has used the loophole of not telling people how to vote to escape this legal classification.

“A television ad bought by the conservative Carolina Stompers – which mocks City Council candidate Elaine Lite for participating in a Wiccan prayer – may not force the group to register as a political committee. The commercial doesn’t explicitly ask voters to reject Lite, the message that would legally identify it as a campaign expenditure, according to the state elections board.”

Lite calls the attack “desperate”, and support for the candidate has been snowballing. But this ad marks yet another occasion in which affiliation (real or otherwise) with modern Paganism has been used as a political weapon. This event recalls the recent story of Rita Moran, a Democratic Party Chair in Maine, who was “outed” as a Pagan and subsequently stalked in order to smear the State party. The Republicans who engage in these activities must be truly bankrupt morally and ethically if using religion as a weapon seems like a good idea to them.

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.