Archives For Thomas Jefferson

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.

I want to begin this week’s edition of Unleash the Hounds with a quick announcement. Columnist Teo Bishop will be stepping down from his position at The Wild Hunt effective immediately. I sat down to speak with Teo personally on Tuesday, and we both agreed that his spiritual journey had changed his relationship with modern Paganism, and that it would be best if he concentrated his writing at his personal site, and on the Huffington Post. I count Teo as a personal friend, and I truly wish him the best in his journey, wherever it may lead him. I thank him for a year’s worth of thought-provoking and insightful columns.

Now then, on to the links.

Olivia Robertson

Olivia Robertson

  • First off, I have to say I’m hugely disappointed that Get Religion allowed themselves to write an utterly disrespectful post about the recently passed Olivia Robertson of the Fellowship of Isis. I had no idea that critiquing religion journalism included mocking the dead, and involving yourself directly in the story (thanks to a major conflict of interest). They call the Fellowship a cult, use scare quotes, and then try to excuse their behavior as an exercise in promoting better journalism. Get Religion, which once pretended to be interested in fair coverage for all faiths, has now degraded into a conservative Christian organ concerned more with press coverage of gay marriage and abortion than anything else. I will, from now on, treat Get Religion as a hostile outlet when compiling links.
  • Right Wing Watch profiles yet another Christian book that slurs modern Paganism as a pathway to Satanism, sexual hedonism, neo-Nazism, and demonic control. Quote: “I think my further descent into hell started with an occult sex ritual that I engaged in” with “a gay cabal of male witches,” where he had group sex with a man with “the head of a goat or ram.” There’s so much crazy material, they felt it deserved a follow-up post. If you want to see where communication between evangelical Christians and modern Pagans is damaged, look no further than this industry of destructive propaganda.
  • Is the Church of England doomed to extinction in a generation? One commentator argues that if it is, it only has itself to blame. Quote: “Among younger people the picture is different. Indifference diminishes, and is partly replaced by a belief that the church is actively malevolent. Whereas only 12% of the over-40s regard the church as a negative force in society, this proportion nearly doubles – to 21% – among the under-24s. This is almost entirely a result of the policies actively pursued by Lord Carey as archbishop of Canterbury and then passively continued by his successor, Rowan Williams.”
  • Was Thomas Jefferson a Unitarian? James Ford explores the question. Quote: “Jefferson had been raised an Anglican and retained a pew at his local Episcopal church to the end of his life. He, however, rarely attended services at that church. And his writings revealed his spiritual life had journeyed far from the wisdom of Canterbury. Both of the sometimes allies, sometimes enemies and by the end of their lives deepest friends, Adams and Jefferson wrote of their scorn for all things neoPlatonic, for every sort of priest craft, and, instead their admiration for applying reason to all things, including religion, and that religious sentiments were meant to be applied in this life as ethical principles.”
Carlton Gebbia

Carlton Gebbia

  • Carlton Gebbia, resident Wiccan on reality television program “The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills,” is apparently fulfilling her quotient of requisite outrageousness and drama. Expect lots of ink on Gebbia in our witch-crazed pop-culture moment. Oh, and here’s a profile in People. So, expect questions about Wicca from the relatives this Thanksgiving!
  • Salon.com explores the complicated racial politics of American Horror Story: Coven. Quote: “For me, inclusion is paramount — inclusion in the zeitgeist, inclusion in the ongoing dialogue of pop culture, inclusion into whatever specific, fucked-up world is being created for the sake of entertainment. To me, “Coven” and HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” are similar in that, not only do they both openly and expansively acknowledge black people’s place in American history, they also allow for their black characters to get their hands dirty — even bloody — actively participating in that history at its most sordid.”
  • Author Sally Green is being heralded as the next Stephanie Myer or JK Rowling after she signed a million-dollar deal for a series of witchcraft themed fantasy novels. Quote: “The black and white witches in Half Bad are divided by rivallry but united in their fear of a boy called Nathan, who has ancestry on both sides and is “wanted by no one; hunted by everyone”. Green said she never really believed she could write, but after embarking upon the novel’s draft found herself “staying up until 2am just writing”. Penguin acquired the novel earlier this year and predicts it will have the Twilight effect for witches…”

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.

On this day in 1786, the Virginia General Assembly enacted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson, the statute would help shape the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which today (largely) protects the rights of religious minorities from the tyranny of the majority.

“Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.”

In honor of that statute’s passage, United States Presidents, starting with Bill Clinton in 1993, have proclaimed this day Religious Freedom Day. Here’s an excerpt from President Obama’s 2011 proclamation.

“The writ of the Founding Fathers has upheld the ability of Americans to worship and practice religion as they choose, including the right to believe in no religion at all. However, these liberties are not self-sustaining, and require a stalwart commitment by each generation to preserve and apply them. Throughout our Nation’s history, our founding ideal of religious freedom has served as an example to the world. Though our Nation has sometimes fallen short of the weighty task of ensuring freedom of religious expression and practice, we have remained a Nation in which people of different faiths coexist with mutual respect and equality under the law. America’s unshakeable commitment to religious freedom binds us together as a people, and the strength of our values underpins a country that is tolerant, just, and strong.”

Naturally, some Christian groups have tried to hijack the day and its true meaning, telling educators that Religious Freedom Day isn’t “celebrate-our-diversity-day,” but that shouldn’t prevent religious minorities from stepping forward on this day and celebrating the rights, freedoms, and responsibilities handed down to us by our Founding Fathers.

And remember, the Statute means all religions – not just Christian faiths. When the measure was being deliberated, an attempt was made to limit its protections to Christians only. That failed. When he learned of this, Jefferson rejoiced. He later wrote that he was pleased that this gambit “was rejected by the 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, the infidel of every denomination.

Despite the efforts of some revisionists, religious freedom in the United States was always meant to include us. The Hindu, the non-Christian, the “infidel of every denomination,” are protected under law. The moment we stop believing that, and stop fighting to have religious freedom mean all religions, not just the popular ones, we cede ground to those who would twist the meanings of Jefferson and the Founders to their benefit. As Pagans, we should stand up, speak out, and remind everyone that religious freedom, if it is to have any meaning at all, includes and protects us all.