My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.
We start off with news of a custody case involving accusations of anti-Wiccan judicial bias. An Arkansas woman, who says she lost custody of her son due to the judge’s perceptions of Wicca, has lost her appeal to the state Court of Appeals.
“A Southeast Arkansas woman who argued she lost custody of her son because of a judge’s perception of her alleged practice of Wicca lost her appeal Wednesday before a divided state Court of Appeals Wednesday. In a 4-2 ruling, the appeals court affirmed a decision granting custody to the child’s father, though the judges disagreed on whether the lower court considered the mother’s religious beliefs. In her appeal of Chicot County Circuit Judge Robert Vittitow’s decision, the mother noted Vittitow described Wicca in his opinion letter as ‘a religion, movement, cult or whatever it that may be.’ The judge also wrote that while the mother testified she was only joking when she told the boy’s father that she was involved with Wicca, the ‘court believes she is much more involved than she would lead us to believe.’”
The two dissenting judges claim that the majority simply ‘set aside’ concerns over religious bias and that the initial ruling ‘impermissibly considered’ her religious beliefs. You can read the opinions of the judges on the appeal court, here (Andrea Hicks v. Joshua A. Cook). There is no word if Ms. Hicks will attempt, or be able to, appeal to a higher court. Considering the fact that one of the dissenting judges accused the majority of “torturing” the law and “mishandling the judicial-review process” one would hope that this case is explored further.
Is a psychic fair secular entertainment or a religious gathering? That is the question surrounding a controversial event being held on New York state property.
“The state Office of General Services, however, said the second annual Psychic Fair and Halloween Festival is just good clean fun. Psychics, astrologers, mediums, people who talk to angels, dream interpreters and tarot card readers will be on hand Oct. 29 at the Empire State Plaza’s concourse, where thousands of state workers pass daily … “These vendors who are coming are strictly entertainment,” said OGS spokesman Brad Maione, noting the fair isn’t a cost to state taxpayers.”
Rev. Jason McGuire calls the event a breach of church-state separation that contains “Satanic” and “occult” elements, while Dennis Poust, Director of Communications at New York State Catholic Conference, is a tad more measured in tone.
“I’m not saying these psychics are Satanists, though. The Catholic church does warn against divination, which is foretelling the future.”
I personally think its funny how many conservative Christians only seem to care about the separation of Church and State when it doesn’t immediately favor them. As for psychic fairs, anyone who hasn’t gone to one might be surprised that money and commerce, not religion, is the primary order of the day. A decidedly secular and multi-faith activity in our capitalistic society.
Was Jesus a magician in addition to (allegedly) being the Messiah? A pot that may contain the earliest written reference to Christ marks him as a magus.
“A team of scientists led by renowned French marine archaeologist Franck Goddio recently announced that they have found a bowl, dating to between the late 2nd century B.C. and the early 1st century A.D., that is engraved with what they believe could be the world’s first known reference to Christ … The full engraving on the bowl reads, ‘DIA CHRSTOU O GOISTAIS,’ which has been interpreted by the excavation team to mean either, ‘by Christ the magician’ or, ‘the magician by Christ.’”
The bowl could provide further proof of the intertwining of Christianity and paganism in the ancient world. Scientists also speculate that the bowl may have been used for divination purposes, which would certainly add a new twist to arguments against psychic practitioners by conservative Christians. Thanks to Megan for pointing me towards this story.
Looks like the Pagans, atheists, Buddhists, UUs, and other groups need to step up, because San Leandro middle school has decided to allow religious organizations to distribute flyers to children in classrooms.
“Last spring, Pastor Derek Jung of the Fundamental Gospel Baptist Church of San Leandro challenged the district when it refused to distribute a flyer about vacation Bible school. “I was shocked we were the first church that had ever used their system,” Jung said on Tuesday. Armed with legal advice from the Florida-based Christian Law Association, Jung told the district that if it allowed schools to distribute information for community groups such as the YMCA, 4-H clubs, Boys and Girls Clubs or school fundraising foundations, it could not discriminate against religious organizations. District lawyers researched the issue – and agreed.”
Remember, religious inclusion means all or nothing. When this happened to a school in Virginia, they quickly switched from “all” to “none” once the Pagans and atheists started distributing flyers. So lets not miss an opportunity to see how committed this school really is to including a wide range of religious options to middle-schoolers. Thanks to Kate for tipping me off to this story.
In a final note, author and “Techgnostic” Erik Davis has one of the more thoughtful ruminations on the religion of Sarah Palin, what the connection to African witch-hunter Thomas Muthee means, and how Pagans should ultimately respond.
“Muthee’s Christianity trumps witchcraft not by disbelieving it–in other words, by dousing it with the holy water of secular rationalism and skepticism, like mainstream Euro-American Christians have done for a couple centuries. Instead, it tries to beat witchcraft at its own game, using what one can only think of as a rival spell–the spell of the Word. It’s all about power and manifestation, the shape-shifting of social perception. But notice this: the game only really works if witchcraft remains, as the professor said, a reality.”
As for what Pagans, occultists, and other magic-workers concerned about Palin should do? Davis suggests we all “get thy mojo working!”.
That is all I have for now, have a great day!