Archives For The Daily Show

File this under things I never saw coming. Patheos.com Pagan Portal manager Star Foster has had enough of conservative Christian distortions concerning modern Paganism, their leaders saying one thing to supporters, and then moderating (or outright lying) about their views when the media spotlight turns to them. Star was so angry, that she decided the productive solution would be to lobby The Daily Show and have them bring me on as a guest.

“Instead I’m going to ask you to write The Daily Show and suggest they invite The Wild Hunt author and Washington Post columnist Jason Pitzl-Waters on the show to discuss David Barton and the real challenges religious minorities face in this country. As a journalist he is familiar with the legal battle facing Patrick McCollum, the discrimination against Santeria, the triumphs of and challenges before the Lady Liberty League, the AFA earth-centered spirituality space, the Witch-Children of Africa and India, and many more stories important to our communities. He’s the journalist at the nexus of all of these stories, and he’s an excellent public speaker.”

Within a few hours, a page entitled “100,000 to get Jason Pitzl-Waters on the Daily Show” appeared, and now has nearly 800 supporters. People are writing letters to The Daily Show, and posting supportive messages at their Facebook profiles and on Twitter.

I’m really quite taken aback, flattered, and surprised by all of this. Naturally, if some minor media miracle occurs and I actually get a call from The Daily Show people I’d be happy to appear and talk about minority religions and that question no one is asking David Barton. Even if I don’t, I think this outpouring shows just how invested we’ve become in building and maintaining our own Pagan-centered media. We are no longer voiceless or powerless, and we care about setting the record straight. So thank you to everyone who has put time and effort into this, and I guess we’ll see what happens!

This past week saw a flood of new coverage and commentary concerning Christian pseudo-historian David Barton thanks to a New York Times profile and a much-discussed appearance on The Daily Show. The wave of media attention is due to his standing with three possible Republican presidential candidates, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Representative Michele Bachmann. While I appreciate the various examinations and criticisms about Barton that have popped up as a result, none have broached one of the most troubling views Barton peddles to his admirers and followers.

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. Thus, in the present case there can be no violation of those clauses … Should this Court conclude that McCollum has taxpayer standing … this Court should at least acknowledge that its conclusion is compelled by Supreme Court precedent, not by history or the intent of the Framers.”

That quote is from an amicus brief written by Barton in the case of Patrick M. McCollum; et al., v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, currently before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. McCollum v. CDCR centers on the state of California’s discriminatory “five faiths” policy, which limits the hiring of paid chaplains to Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Native American adherents. Right there, on the record, Barton straight-up denies Pagans equal religious protections under the law. This is why I become concerned when politicians say his views should be taught in public schools. Not because he’s Christian, or a bad historian, but because he flatly denies minority faiths equal treatment under the constitution. If the mainstream media had any teeth, they would be pressing Barton, and any politician who seeks his approval, on this issue.

The fact is that early Americans did indeed consider the issue of non-Christians gaining equal rights under the constitution, and spoke (and debated) at great length on the subject. The idea that the Free Exercise Clause doesn’t apply to non-Christians is dangerous, ahistorical, and stupid. That Barton is preaching this lie weakens the very foundations he claims to revere. The fact is that the Founders were educated and far-sighted men who understood quite well what they were constructing and its implications. Barton would have them be short-sighted dolts. So long as the depth of Barton’s extremism is glossed over, we’ll never get a chance to pin him down on this very, very important issue.

A few quick updates on stories previously reported here at The Wild Hunt.

Archdruid Terry Dobney (no longer) in Trouble: Just yesterday I wrote about the legal plight of Terry Dobney, Archdruid of Avebury and Keeper of the Stones, who was accused of welfare fraud. Today, and I’m going to break my no-linking-to-the-Daily-Mail policy just this once, it is being reported that Dobney has been cleared of all charges.

A jury found Dobney not guilty of three charges of false representation to gain benefits and exemption of liability following a three-day trial at Salisbury Crown Court. They accepted his claim that the cash was collecter for his elderly mother and acquitted him on a majority verdict. [...] Speaking outside court, he said: ‘Truth, honour and justice has prevailed.”

I’m very heartened to hear this news, and glad to spread the word. I hope that the Religion News Service (RNS) follows suit and also posts an update on this story, one that was isolated to the tabloids in the UK.

Huckabee Gets Grilled on David Barton: I’ve spoken at some length at this blog about potential presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s troubling admiration for Christian pseudo-historian David Barton, a man who believes Pagans aren’t protected by the 1st Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. So far, no mainstream media outlet has grilled Huckabee about how far his admiration goes, or why he thinks Barton’s views should be taught in public schools. Which leaves satirist Jon Stewart of The Daily Show to pick up the slack. In a nearly twenty-minute interview posted to The Daily Show’s website (part 1, part 2, part 3), Stewart tries to figure out how deep Huckabee’s admiration goes.

Huckabee tries very hard to separate himself from Barton, while reiterating what a great historian he is. Sadly, Stewart never asks him the question I would love to ask him, which is whether or not he believes that the First Amendment protects the religious rights of all Americans, not just the Christian ones. Stewart does claim he’ll try to bring Barton himself on the program, but I can only imagine in would be a cold day in heck before that happens. Still, this interview does put the Barton association on the table, and perhaps some “serious” journalists will be now inclined to dig a bit deeper.

James Arthur Ray’s Bad Sweat History: On Wednesday, the trial of James Arthur Ray, accused of negligent homicide when a sweat lodge ceremony went horribly wrong and killed three people, took a dramatic turn. Judge Darrow will now allow testimony regarding previous sweat lodge ceremonies that Ray has held, something the defense has fought tooth-and-nail to prevent.

“Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk argued Wednesday that the medical testimony has taken place and that the alleged suffering of participants in Ray’s pre-2009 sweat lodge ceremonies established a pattern she said was inescapable: that when Ray led a sweat lodge at the Angel Valley Retreat Center, people got sick, and that when others did so, no one got sick. Defense attorney Luis Li reiterated his argument that the pattern theory was evidence of propensity and not causation, and that even if such evidence were relevant, it should not be admissible because the sweat lodges were not identical from year to year. Darrow ruled for the state, though, a move that defense attorney Tom Kelly said meant “the… floodgate is open. We’re eight weeks into trial and the rules have changed.”  The defense team moved for a mistrial on the basis that the timing of the ruling denies Ray a fair trial, but Darrow denied that motion.”

Key witnesses for the prosecution, freed from the restriction of not mentioning Ray’s previous sweat lodge ceremonies brought forth some pretty damning information.

“In 2007, Mercer had observed a tall woman exiting the sweat lodge with her eyes rolling up in her head before she collapsed onto the dirty ground. He dragged her over onto a tarp. He also described three women who had come out of the sweat lodge who stared right through him. They didn’t even know their own names, said Mercer.   In that year, he estimated about ten people needed assistance after exiting the sweat lodge.  In 2008, he saw a woman come out with severe muscle cramps. She’d remained locked in a fetal position for half an hour to fourty-five minutes. In both 2007 and 2008 he saw numerous people vomiting and collapsing.

It is becoming very clear that 2009′s deadly sweat ceremony wasn’t some isolated accident, but that Ray held court over multiple poorly led sweats where people were clearly in distress. Which clearly paints him as negligent, and no doubt has his defense team scrambling for something better than conspiracy theories about poisonous wood.

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

Yesterday the NPR interview program Fresh Air interviewed actress/comedienne Samantha Bee of The Daily Show fame on the release of her new memoir “I Know I Am, But What Are You?”, which includes tales of growing up with a Wiccan mom while harboring a crush on Jesus Christ.

“Ms. BEE: And she found it really repellant. My father is just a complete atheist and my mother is into Wicca. So she decided that it was – she felt compelled to introduce me to some other stuff, so she made me go to like a Wiccan mass, which was just horrible for me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BEE: Just terrifying.

GROSS: We should explain that Wiccan means more of a kind of contemporary, kind of feminist-spiritual approach to witchcraft.

Ms. BEE: Mm-hmm. Yes. Yes. It was very important to her. It has always been very important to her. But to me it was just satanic, because I just thought it was. It was just the people sort of looked vaguely – it was just too counterculture for me. But she, you know, she made me go and attend some rituals and it was terrifying. I found it just terrifying.

GROSS: You know, I’ve known people who have been into Wicca but I’ve never really known the child of somebody who’s been into it and I’ve always wondered what it’s like to be the child of somebody who has beliefs that are considered like far out of the mainstream like that.

Ms. BEE: Well, when I – I kind of felt sorry for my mother when I was growing up because I was so into Jesus. I thought oh, this poor lamb of God. She doesn’t understand. She just doesn’t get it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BEE: But now, I mean, you know, I’m proud of my mom. She stuck with it. You know, lots of people don’t stick with it, but she’s always had her little, her, you know, oh that was so, oh her little amulets. That’s terrible. But she’s always had her rituals and the things that she does. It’s really an important part of her life. And so I respect the fact that she stuck with something.

Now, it’s not for me. It’s not for my husband, but she loves it and so, I wouldn’t say that it’s – it’s not horrible or terrifying. It’s not very intrusive when you’re growing up. It’s the most unobtrusive religious practice imaginable. It’s very not in your face. It’s kind of a private thing and people gather on the wrong side of the tracks to practice, whatever it is that they’re doing. Being a child of Wicca has not affected me negatively. And you get to know a lot about plants.”

There’s more at the official transcript, including discussion of the term “warlock” and whether “witchcraft” is the appropriate term to use. You can listen to the program, here. What’s interesting about the interview, besides the fact that Fresh Air host Terry Gross “knows people who have been into Wicca” yet considers modern Paganism “far out of the mainstream”, is the fact that it drives home that modern Paganism is a multi-generational faith. Bee’s mother probably came to Wicca in the 1980s, when books like “The Spiral Dance” and “Drawing Down the Moon” were making waves, and Bee was a teenager, now Bee is 40 (only four years older than myself) with children of her own. Unlike Bee, it’s very likely that many adult children of the 1970s-80s Pagan converts have retained and cherished some sort of Pagan identity, a notion that flies in the face of critics who like to portray Paganism as either a refuge of 60s-era feminists or goth teenagers.

Thanks to Chas Clifton for the heads-up on this story. Oh, and if Samantha Bee’s mom is reading The Wild Hunt, I’d love to interview you about the difficulties in raising a teen with a crush on Jesus! Just drop me a line!