Archives For Top 10 religion stories of the year

Every year, in retrospect, can seem impressive (condensing 12 months of articles into 10 highlights will do that). However, 2013 seemed like an especially notable year for stories involving or affecting modern Pagans. Here are the ten stories that I feel were the most relevant, the most impactful on our day-to-day lives. That said, I would encourage folks wanting to get a taste of where we were at in 2013 to read through my Pagan Community Notes and Pagan Voices archives to track the conversations and achievements that marked our community. I also want to quickly note that I’ve decided not to number the stories, or rank them in any order. They each hold their own importance, and this year I wanted to shy away from the idea that one took some precedence over another.

Now then, on to the top ten…

Dan Halloran

Dan Halloran

Heathen Politician Dan Halloran Arrested, Charged With Fraud and Bribery: “In a shocking turn of events this morning, New York City Councilman Dan Halloran, along with State Sen. Malcolm Smith, were arrested on charges of fraud and bribery in connection to an alleged plot to fix the mayoral race. The arrests came after an FBI-led investigation, one in which U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara claims Halloran “quarterbacked” the drive to find party officials willing to be bribed. In a meeting with an informant, Halloran allegedly expounded at length on what it takes to “grease the wheels” of New York City politics. […] Halloran is the highest elected official in the United States who also happens to openly be an adherent of a Pagan/Heathen religion. Specifically, he was for a time a prominent (and eventually prominently controversial) member of the Théodish belief system, a faith that seeks to practice Germanic pre-Christian religion. Though Halloran never denied being a Théodish Heathen, he also wasn’t very transparent about it in the beginning, causing a great deal of havoc when he was “outed” by the local press during his city council run. His beliefs were often sensationalized by the press, including Village Voice cover art depicting Halloran with a dead sacrificed goat, ceremonial robe and runic cloak.” More on this story here.

maetreum sign largeMaetreum of Cybele Wins Tax Fight: “The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, which has been in an ongoing battle with the Town of Catskill, New York, over religious property tax exemptions, was today vindicated in their multi-year struggle when a State Supreme Court ruling against them on this issue was overturned on appeal. The decision, which was issued on Thursday by the New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Divsion, says the religious organization “satisfied the legal requirements in order to receive a real property tax exemption.” […] This is a huge reversal of fortune for the Maetreum, which has been fought relentlessly by the Town of Catskill on this issue. By the Maetreum’s estimate, the town has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs, and when the initial Supreme Court victory was handed down to them last year, their lawyer crowed to local press that he “does not expect much protest from pro-pagan groups now that a judge has carefully analyzed the evidence.” Even some Pagans were skeptical of the Maetreum’s chances after that decision, but the Maetreum of Cybele were determined to fight on, and with some fiscal help from the larger Pagan community, they moved forward with their appeal.” More on the Maetreum here.

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court

Town of Greece Prayer Case Heard Before the Supreme Court: Today’s the day. The Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway, which centers on the role of prayer at government meetings, and could shape the legal landscape on this issue for decades to come. I have written extensively on this case, and you can find a round-up of my coverage here. […] No matter what the decision, it will no doubt have a major effect on prayer policy. Repercussions that will deeply affect all religious minorities, including Pagans, who have played an outsize role in the development of this case.” For more, read “The Supreme Court Case With A Wiccan Angle.” Quote: “This case directly involves modern Pagans, specifically Wiccans, in the case and in the legal maneuvers that led to it. Something I’ve been harping on for some time, even to the point of chastising religion reporters for not picking up on it.”

Thor's Hammer Emblem.

Thor’s Hammer Emblem.

Thor’s Hammer Approved for Use On Military Headstones and Grave Markers: “In 2007, after a decade-long struggle, Pagan and Wiccan organizations succeeded in getting the Pentacle approved for military veteran headstones and markers. After that victory, in July of 2007, a rally was held to start the push for two more symbols: the Druid Awen and the Heathen Thor’s Hammer. Two Heathen organizations, The Troth and the Asatru Folk Assembly, were represented at that rally, and from it a wider movement to get the Thor’s Hammer approved emerged. Now, after a six-year journey which included some inter-organizational tensions within the Heathen community and a U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs rule change, it appears the symbol has finally been approved.” More on how this came about here. Quote: “We know that the listing went up on May 2nd, and thanks to a statement sent to The Wild Hunt from the Guardian of The Northern Winds Hearth we now know the circumstances of the emblem’s approval.”

A partial listing of BISAC codes in the Body, Mind & Spirit category (Image: Llewellyn.)

Listing of BISAC codes.

Wicca and Paganism Leaving the Occult Section, Heading For Religion: So the occult section (hence the “OCC” prefix code), which in time became known as the “New Age” section, and finally, the “Mind, Body, Spirit” section, will soon see an exodus of Wiccan and Pagan books to the religion section. For most of us who still visit brick-and-mortar stores that most likely means your local Barnes & Noble (or possibly Books-A-Million) will soon be seeing some changes. How quickly these changes will happen remains to be seen, and it may take some time as stock rotates in and out of the stores.” For more, read Elysia Gallo’s reporting. Quote: “Wicca, in the eyes of the book selling industry, is now a religion. It crossed over from OCC026000 Body, Mind & Spirit / Wicca and Witchcraft, to two separate BISAC codes. One remains in the occult section – OCC026000 is now simply Body, Mind & Spirit / Witchcraft. But Wicca itself is now REL118000, or Religion / Wicca. […] there’s more. The BISAC code that used to be OCC036020 Body, Mind & Spirit / Spirituality / Paganism & Neo-Paganism (a relatively recent addition on its own) is also now listed in Religion, as REL117000, or Religion / Paganism & Neo-Paganism.”

The Warrior's CallUK Pagans Organize Against the Practice of ‘Fracking': “We, as Pagans, believe that the natural world is profoundly sacred. In particular though, sites such as Chalice Well are our holy places. To have them desecrated is a direct attack upon our ways and upon us. Fracking will not alleviate fuel poverty, nor will it provide us with greater fuel security. Its long lasting destruction to land and water is neither needed nor wanted. There are many practical alternatives, yet they are being ignored (with catastrophic consequences) because of corruption and ideological extremism within the government. Corporations should not dictate state policy. Around the world on the 28th of September, rituals (both large and small) will be held to protect these sacred islands from harm. Although we all come from many different pagan paths, on that day we will speak with one voice. The Warrior’s Call is that unified voice. And it sings with the blessings of the Gods and Goddesses.” Warrior’s Call now has a website up and running, with resources for Pagan who want to fight the practice of “fracking.”

tempestmainpageTempest Smith Foundation Closes its Doors: “In February 2014, the Tempest Smith Foundation (TSF) will be holding its very last ConVocation fundraiser before permanently closing its doors. Annette Crossman, TSF’s current executive director and widow of founder Denessa Smith, says that it is “time for the torch to be passed on …and return to normal life.” For over ten years, TSF has been a voice for diversity tolerance in its Michigan community and an advocate of anti-bullying campaigns. Launched in 2003, The Tempest Smith Foundation was the brain-child of Denessa Smith, the mother of bullying-victim Tempest Smith. In February of 2001, Tempest committed suicide after enduring 6 years of persistent abuse in school.  Over the following two years Denessa was able to transform her grief into building a foundation that would advocate for tolerance – a foundation that might save other children from her daughter’s fate.” Follow-up article.

Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and members of Ásatrúarfélagið.

Ásatrúarfélagið.

Asatru Added to Religion Stylebook: “Back in July, PRI’s The World did a story on the U.S. Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs approving the Thor’s Hammer emblem for veteran’s grave markers and headstones (here’s The Wild Hunt’s reporting on that story). The story didn’t interview any Heathens, was somewhat flippant towards the faith, and included a picture of someone dressed like the comic book/movie version of Thor. This led Dr. Karl E.H. Seigfried of the Norse Mythology Blog to lodge a (entirely justified) complaint campaign, and it ultimately pushed PRI to do a somewhat more respectful follow-up to their original piece. Now, this incident has led to what might be an even bigger win for practitioners of Asatru, inclusion in the Religion Newswriters Association’s official Religion Stylebook. At the Norse Mythology Blog Dr. Seigfried, who wrote the stylebook entires, explains how this came about. The ten terms added to the stylebook include Æsir, Ásatrú, blót, Eddas, and goði, and are live on the stylebook’s site as we speak. Dr. Seigfried worked with Heathens in Iceland, Germany, and the United States to shape the definitions he would use.”

Olivia Robertson

Olivia Robertson

The Passing of Olivia Robertson: “On Friday, the Fellowship of Isis announced the passing of their co-founder, 96-year-old Olivia Robertson. Robertson, along with brother Lawrence Durdin-Robertson, and his wife, Pamela, founded the Fellowship of Isis on the Vernal Equinox of 1976 with a goal of reintroducing Goddess worship into the world. This development came for the trio after working together since the early 1960s on metaphysical and spiritual projects, including the Huntington Castle Centre for Meditation and Study. Over the next 20 years the FOI grew a diverse international membership, and in 1993 Olivia Robertson was on-hand at the Parliament of the World’s Religions representing the Fellowship, and spoke at the opening plenary representing modern Goddess Religion. Part of a delegation of groups that introduced modern Pagan religions to the international interfaith community. In addition, Robertson was an accomplished artist, writer, and liturgist, who deeply shaped the organization she helped found with her creative vision. A legacy that will continue with the organization she helped found. You can find Robertson’s full official biography at the Fellowship of Isis website, here.” 

A procession of Pagans at the last Parliament of the World's Religions.

A procession of Pagans at the last Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Pagans Help Save the Parliament of the World’s Religions: “While final negotiations and discussions with lawyers are still underway, it appears that the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions has successfully raised enough money by their deadline to save the organization from a sudden fiscal crisis. As the Religion News Service reports, modern Pagans played a large role in making that happen. ‘With the help of pagans, Jains and people of a range of other faiths, the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions has raised more than $144,000 in two weeks using a crowdsourcing campaign in a desperate bid to survive a financial crisis […] Two pagan groups alone raised more than $16,000. A Jain board member raised $6,300. […] As of Tuesday (April 16), the council had raised more than $144,000 of the $150,000 it needed, and had received permission from a donor to use additional funds from an operational grant, if necessary, to make the final debt repayment.’ While we didn’t single-handedly save the Parliament, we were instrumental in doing so, and now the world knows it. Notable Pagans from across the world spoke up to mobilize their communities, including Margot Adler, T. Thorn Coyle, Christopher Penczak, and representatives from Covenant of the Goddess, the Pagan Federation, Pagan Federation International, Pagan Pride Italia, and more, added their voices to a chorus of Pagans who realized the importance of this moment.”

Obviously, there are many more stories I could mention: The regulation of psychic services, Doreen Valiente’s commemorative plaque, Teo Bishop’s high-profile leave-taking from our community, and the With Love From Salem documentary, to name just a selection. But I feel these 10 stories will resonate beyond this year, and collectively shape us. Feel free to share what you thought were the biggest Pagan stories of 2013 in the comments. Now then, on to 2014!

[You can read part one of this entry, here.]

 05. Ginger Strivelli, School Bibles, and Buncombe County Schools: The story began at the end of 2011 when North Carolina Pagan Ginger Strivelli challenged her child’s school’s policy regarding the distribution of religious materials. Strivelli felt that the manner in which Gideon Bibles were made available violated the Establishment Clause, and ostracized non-Christian students who didn’t want to use a special break to obtain a Bible. Strivelli, along with local activist and Pagan leader Byron Ballard, and a growing coalition of local residents, made clear that the board needed to remain neutral on matters regarding religion. So began a year of contentious school board meetings, death threats, and mainstream media coverage.

Ginger and Sybilsue Strivelli (Photo courtesy of Fox News).

Ginger and Sybilsue Strivelli (Photo courtesy of Fox News).

For awhile there seemed to be a balance of people who supported and opposed the policy. But then some preachers got up and made direct personal attacks to Ginger. They claimed she was the only one with a problem with the bible distribution. Little do they understand how many pagans in the county that fear coming out and speaking up. And after that meeting, I completely understand!  Then it got even worse when a preacher spoke up that only bibles should be allowed in schools. And that is when the preaching began. People after people felt the need to quote scripture. One guy even read from the bible and stated that if we were real pagans that our ears would burn after listening to the scripture. – Angela Pippinger of The Pagan Mom Blog.

Eventually Buncombe County Schools passed a new religion policy that stressed neutrality, and will allow distribution of religious materials, but only once a year, along with non-religious community groups, and after regular school hours. All of these changes came about because one Pagan mom decided to speak up, and her bravery inspired a community to hold true to the secular and pluralistic principles our country was founded on.

04. Pew Forum’s Landmark Prison Religion Survey (and How That Affects Pagans): In March of this year the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released the findings of a 50-state survey of prison chaplains.  The survey, which was endorsed by the American Correctional Chaplains Association, interviewed 730 prison chaplains, and has a lot of interesting things to say about religion in the American prison system. At first glance, there are no major bombshell revelations to drive the news cycle, leading to initial headlines like “a lot of religion goes on behind bars.” However, if you start digging into the data, especially the section on what chaplains think about the inmate’s religious lives‘, there’s a lot there that should be of concern to modern Pagans, particularly Pagans engaged in prison outreach and chaplaincy work.

Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum, who testified before the US Commission on Civil Rights on prisoner’s religious rights in 2008, was deeply involved in this survey and helped shape some of the survey’s questions, and helped shift “the perspective of the main researcher’s goals in ways that I feel benefited our community and minority faiths in general.”

 

chaplains chp4 5

“The inclusion of Pagan & Earth Based religions as a category in the survey carries several huge benefits for us as a community. First, for many years, correctional systems, courts, and other governmental agencies have been able to deny us our rights, by simply making the argument that we either don’t really exist, or that if we do, we are so insignificant in numbers that there is no need to legislate or accommodate in our favor. Now with the survey, that argument is irrefutably null and void.”Patrick McCollum

The data given to us here by the Pew Forum is a boon. Even taking into account the Christian lens through which most of this data was obtained and filtered through, it gives us needed information is discussing and addressing the needs of Pagan prisoners. It underscores the challenges, and affirms what many already suspected: that the Pagan population in prison is growing, that the institutional chaplaincy is disproportionately Christian and conservative in makeup, that extremism (whatever its true extent) is an ongoing concern, and that we simply don’t have the volunteers or institutional muscle in place to properly address prisoner’s needs. Just as it is on the “outside” our growth continually outstrips the pace in which we can train clergy or build institutions and services. In short, we have a lot of work to do.

03. Chaplaincy for Pagans in Canadian Prisons: The controversial move this Fall by Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to retract a paid position for a Wiccan prison chaplain was merely a harbinger of much bigger things. In October the CBC reported that Toews, who oversees Canada’s penitentiaries, eliminated all paid part-time chaplain services, effectively making government prison chaplaincy a Christian-only affair.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews

Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews

“Inmates of other faiths, such as Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jews, will be expected to turn to Christian prison chaplains for religious counsel and guidance, according to the office of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who is also responsible for Canada’s penitentiaries. […] Toews’ office says that as a result of the review, the part-time non-Christian chaplains will be let go and the remaining full-time chaplains in prisons will now provide interfaith services and counselling to all inmates.”

Toews’ office said in a statement to the CBC that “[Christian] chaplains employed by Corrections Canada must provide services to inmates of all faiths.” This lead one Sikh chaplain to ask the obvious question: “How can a Christian chaplain provide spirituality to the Sikh faith, because they don’t have that expertise.”

So from this point forth, all non-Christian chaplaincy services to federal prisons must either be provided by volunteers, or the prisoners: Wiccan prisoners, Pagan prisoners, Buddhist prisoners, First Nations prisoners, must all turn to the full-time (Christian) chaplains for spiritual guidance and resources. I wasn’t overly surprised when Toews decided to engage in a little discriminatory Witch-kicking, our community has weathered those slings and arrows for years, but this is something far more audacious. Toews and his office are essentially doubling down, saying that a full-time Christian chaplaincy is enough to handle all faiths, no matter what their history or relationship with Christianity might be. It’s stunning. Whether he’ll be allowed to get away with it is, I suppose, up to the Harper administration and Canadian voters.

02. Census Data From Australia and the UK Show Paganism’s Growth:  In 2011 I reported on efforts in Australia and Britain to encourage more accurate census counts of Pagans by asking respondents to use a uniform Pagan-[tradition/faith] format. This year we got to see the fruits, if any, of these efforts. First, Australia’s numbers came in, with over 32,000 modern Pagans (up from around 29,000 in 2006), then, we got to see the number of England and Wales where over 80,000 individuals identified with some form of modern Paganism (depending on how forgiving you want to be with labels). In addition, the base number of people identifying as “Pagan” shot up to nearly 60,000. This is about double the numbers from the last British census.

sctrfigure1 tcm77 290493

“Compared with the 2001 Census the most significant trends were an increase in the population reporting no religion – from 14.8 per cent  of the population in 2001 to 25.1 per cent  in 2011, a drop in the population reporting to be Christian – from 71.7 per cent  in 2001 to 59.3 per cent  in 2011, and an increase in all other main religions. The number of Muslims increased the most from 3.0 per cent  in 2001 to 4.8 per cent  in 2011.”

These figures point to some success for the Pagan Dash campaign, though they were not the far larger estimates many were hoping for. Still, this shows encouraging growth for modern Paganism, particularly in England and Wales. The growth of Pagan and minority faiths, along with the rapid increase of those who claim no particular religion point toward an imminent re-alignment of the status quo when it comes to matters of faith and belief in the Western world. The new census data will provide a lot of new information for Pagan activists, and for Pagan scholars, and may have repercussions we haven’t anticipated yet.

01. The Rise of Post-Christian Elections in the United States: After the 2012 elections here in the United States I posited that this was a post-Christian election, and that the results could be a glimpse into the future of America’s electorate. Now, as information from the election is further dissected and analyzed, it’s becoming increasingly clear that something significant has indeed shifted in the religious outlook of our voting public. The Public Religion Research Institute calls it the “end of a white Christian strategy.”

Romney and Obama Coalitions vs Age Groups

Romney and Obama Coalitions vs Age Groups

“The foundation of Romney’s base consists primarily of white evangelical Protestants, who constitute 40% of his coalition. Obama’s coalition rests on two very different groups: minority Christians—a group that includes black, Asian, Hispanic, and mixed-race Christians—(31%) and the religiously unaffiliated (25%). […] Notably, Obama’s religious coalition resembles the religious composition of younger voters, while Romney’s religious coalition resembles the religious composition of senior voters. For example, 26% of Millennial voters are white Christians, compared to 72% of senior voters.”

The unaffiliated were a big chunk of Obama’s religious support, and a whopping 70% of “nones” and 74% of “others” (which would include us Pagans) voted for the President. For all the analysis focused on race or gender during this election, it’s become clear that it is also disastrous for any candidate to so completely alienate non-Christian voters (it should be noted that Obama also garnered nearly 70% of the Jewish vote as well, despite efforts to undermine that support).  The more pluralistic and religiously diverse American becomes, the harder it will be to ignore non-Christian voices.

Sifting through the results from November can start to see the realignments. Hawaii sends the first Buddhist, Mazie Hirono, to the US Senate, and the first Hindu, Tulsi Gabbard, to the House. Washington state approved gay marriage by referendum, an initiative that I paid particular attention to because it would be decided by the religiously unaffiliated majority there. In that piece from September I said that: “it’s Washington that I’m most interested in because of the trends that point to the “nones” in the Pacific Northwest being more like “us” Pagans in inclination and spiritual orientation. If you want tea leaves to read over what a “Pagan” vote might look like, this might be our chance to witness it in action.” 

I think we’re going to see a lot more elections that look like this one. That doesn’t mean that Democrats automatically win all the time, or that Republicans are always doomed to lose, just that the playing field will never again be like it was in the 1980s or 1990s. The slowly shifting demographics have started to turn a corner, and savvy politicians, no matter what their political orientation, will adapt to these emerging realities. Yes, that means reaching out to racial minorities, and women, and younger voters, but it also means reaching out to the “nones” and the religious “others” instead of banking everything on the evangelical Christian vote (or the Catholic vote for that matter).

Welcome to the beginning of the post-Christian American future.

That wraps up our top ten news stories about or affecting modern Paganism in 2012. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll join us for another year of sifting through the news and views of interest to our communities. See you in 2013!

As we reach the close of 2012, it is time to stop for a moment and take stock of the previous year. When you look at (and for) news stories regarding modern Paganism (and related topics) every day of the year, you can sometimes lose focus on the larger picture. So it can be a helpful thing to look at the broad strokes, the bigger themes, the events and developments that will have lasting impact on the modern Pagan movement. What follows are my picks for the top ten stories from this past year involving or affecting modern Pagans.

10. The John Friend Scandal: Since the beginning of 2012 I’ve been keeping a close eye on the fall of John Friend, founder of the Anusara yoga school, since allegations emerged of sexual, legal, and fiscal improprieties. Of those improprieties was the allegation that Friend ran a Wiccan coven, named the “Blazing Solar Flames,” as a pretext for sexual liaisons with Anusara students.

Anusara Yoga founder John Friend.

Anusara Yoga founder John Friend.

John wanted us to do the ritual in sexy underwear and kiss each other on the mouth, tongue-y kissing,” said ‘Melissa,’ a former member of the coven who asked that her real name not be used. […]  Friend suggested to the other coven members that sexually charged rituals would heighten everyone’s senses and therefore raise more energy, according to Melissa. “It was certainly never the way that I had experienced Wicca,” Melissa told The Daily Beast, but she was initially open to the experience, in part because of her intimate relationship with Friend and because of her confidence in him as a leader and teacher. “A teacher’s voice is so deeply engrained in your brain, and you implicitly trust them because that’s what helps you do great things in your practice,” she said.

Friend would go on to assert that he takes Wicca “really seriously,” and that he has “taken Wiccan oaths over the years where death is actually the consequence of telling the truth.”  This scandal is important for our communities not only because Friend claims Anusara yoga is “a philosophy and practice that is totally aligned with Wicca on every level,” but because this scandal should be a wake-up call for national Wiccan organizations, an opportunity to engage with myths versus the reality of how our traditions work. As other, more noxious cases of abuse done in the name of Paganism emerge, the need for a more proactive approach to these incidents seems clear.

09. Transgender Inclusion In Modern Paganism: For two years running, the issue of gender, and transgender inclusion in designated women-only spaces, has sparked debate, protest, and remarkable shifts within the Pagan community. The events at this year’s PantheaCon, where debate, protest, and controversy emerged around a scheduled “genetic women only” ritual led by Dianic elder Z. Budapest in part led to one Dianic group removing themselves from Budapest’s lineage, and PantheaCon changing its policy regarding limited-access events. However, this issue was not isolated to events at PantheaCon in San Jose, California, as transgender inclusion became a hot topic at Pagan Spirit Gathering in Illinois as well. That instance led to a historic press conference where prominent Dianic High Priestess Ruth Barrett acknowledged the womanhood of  transgendered activist Melissa Murry.

barrett murray

“Both women said the transgender community is trying to find their voice, similar to the feminist movement in the 60′s and 70′s.   Like the feminist movement, they speak of suffering, pain, and violence.  Murry and Barrett also spoke of the value in claiming mysteries and rituals specific to their sacred journey as women.  “Within my Tradition, which is about the female body and the journey of being born female and the journey through the bloods and birth and menopause,” said Barrett.  “That is a different journey for transgendered women who come to womanhood through a different path.”

What we are witnessing, in real-time, is change happening. A realignment and reconsideration of gender both within and outside a Dianic context that seemed almost unthinkable a decade ago. No doubt there will be further debate and analysis related to this issue, but I think the shifts seen in 2012 are a predictor for future changes in how modern Paganism thinks about, and engages with, gender identity.

08. Cherry Hill Seminary and CHS Graduate Achieve Major Milestones: While there are many Pagan learning institutions Cherry Hill Seminary is reaching farther than most, working towards accreditation as a seminary for Pagan clergy. This year two important milestones in their journey were accomplished: the awarding of its first Master of Divinity in Pagan Pastoral Counseling, and graduate, Sandra Lee Harris having her credentials examined and accepted by the Board of Chaplaincy Certification, Inc., the credentials-examining body for the Association of Professional Chaplains. This not only frees Harris to her to complete the process of becoming a board-certified chaplain but, in the words of David Oringderff, Ph.D., Harris’s department chair and adviser at Cherry Hill Seminary, “the precedent set by the BCCI/APC decision, which could strengthen the case for future acceptance of Cherry Hill Seminary degrees by other institutions, the U.S. Department of Defense, for example.”

Sandra L. Harris, M.Div., Pagan Pastoral Counseling

Sandra L. Harris, M.Div., Pagan Pastoral Counseling

“The courses credited toward the first Master of Divinity in Pagan Pastoral Counseling from Cherry Hill Seminary are shown to parallel those of degrees from two accredited seminaries, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary and Tyndale Seminary, when religion-specific requirements for Bible and Christian history studies are replaced by Pagan studies and personal spiritual formation is based on the stated mission values of Cherry Hill Seminary rather than the teachings of Jesus. Further analysis, given similar accommodation, suggests that the Cherry Hill Seminary curriculum in Pagan Pastoral Counseling could satisfy the accreditation requirements of the Association of Theological Schools.” – Sandra L. Harris, M.Div., Pagan Pastoral Counseling

As the Wild Hunt’s Heather Greene noted, “these advancements indicate a shift in society towards genuine respect for alternative religions within the professional world.” Meanwhile, 2013 is shaping up to be a notable year for CHS as well, with their upcoming partnership with The University of South Carolina  for the “Sacred Lands and and Spiritual Landscapes” symposium.

07. Druid liturgy in Paralympics Closing: One unexpected highlight of 2012 was the inclusion of Druid liturgy in the London 2012 Paralympic Games closing ceremony.  Alongside performances by Jay-Z, Rihanna and Coldplay artistic director Kim Gavin, Music Director David Arnold and Designer Misty Buckley showcased a seasonal theme which “took the audience on a journey through Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer.” Part of the seasonal-themed closing ceremony, spoken by Rory Mackenzie, a representative from Help For Heroes, was in fact written by Druids from the British Druid Order (BDO).

Lance Corporal Rory Mackenzie at the Paralympics closing ceremony.

Lance Corporal Rory Mackenzie at the Paralympics closing ceremony.

“We were sworn to secrecy beforehand, but Emma Restall Orr and I [Greywolf] were approached by the organisers of the 2012 Paralympics closing ceremony with a surprising request. They wanted our permission to use parts of the gorsedd ritual we wrote in 1997. So, about 20 minutes into the ceremony, these words went out to 750 million people around the world,”

Philip Shallcrass (aka Greywolf), Chief of the British Druid Order, says that the original ritual was written to bring people from different backgrounds and faiths together, so “its use in the Paralympics closing ceremony seems perfectly in keeping with this original intention.” While the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony featured brief hints of Britain’s pre-Christian past, it featured no explicit contribution from the vital Pagan threads that exist in the United Kingdom, a nation that has played a huge role in the revival of Pagan religions. So it seems fitting that the last closing ceremony in London, for the Paralympic games, would explicitly reference modern Pagan contributions to British culture.

06. A Major Setback For The Maetreum of Cybele:  Earlier this yeear I reported on how Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, in an ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill, New York, lost their exemption battle before the New York State Supreme Court. Catskill’s lawyer intimated to a local paper that he “does not expect much protest from pro-pagan groups now that a judge has carefully analyzed the evidence.” That lawyer may have spoken too quickly, as the Maetreum seems fighting mad, not cowed, though Pagan attorney Dana D. Eilers (author of “Pagans and the Law: Understand Your Rights”doesn’t seem convinced that the Maetreum would be able to turn this decision around on appeal.

The Maetreum of Cybele's building.

The Maetreum of Cybele’s building.

“We are now at risk of losing our property to back taxes under a corrupt local system that does not allow for payment plans, installment payments or anything other than immediate payment in full. We are a poor order and spent all our money fighting the Town of Catskill in court. Currently four women live at the Maetreum who would be homeless otherwise. We need to take the battle to Federal court at this point and we need help in doing so. We need to raise the back taxes just to hold on to our property and continue our work.” – The Maetreum of Cybele

The Maetreum is about to launch an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to save their building, and hopefully further pursue their legal case against the town of Catskill. We will keep you posted as this story continues to develop in 2013. I personally don’t think this fight is over as the Maetreum feels that the judge analyzed the evidence through a lens that delegitimized practices he didn’t understand. Quote: “Charity is not charity, prayer, meditation and spiritual activities are not religious, duties of clergy clearly spelled out are not spelled out, activities every week and formal ones every two weeks are “irregular”, some mythical standard of number of regular congregants was not met.  We are a “legitimate” religion but actually exist to wrangle a tax exemption (not legitimate)  I am personally a liar with no actual evidence provided to justify saying that.”

Tomorrow I will post the top five Pagan stories for 2012. In the meantime, I invite you to check out the top religion stories from some different perspectives. The Religion Newswriters Association top 10 religion stories of 2012, HuffPo Religion’s top 10 religion stories of 2012, and 13 religion stories that went missing in 2012 from  Religion Dispatches.

[You can read part one of this entry, here.]

05. Dominionism! The Reponse! Christians Behaving Badly! I don’t revel in writing about extremism and anti-Pagan fervor within the politically and culturally dominant Christian religion(s), much preferring to instead highlight achievements and challenges within our interconnected communities. Still, even the most temperate of commentator would have to agree that this was the year when some ugly elements within Christianity inched ever closer to the mainstream, and, for a time, received some much-needed scrutiny from the mainstream press. There were three main and intertwining narratives, the Christian religious phenomenon known as Dominionism, the continuing emergence of the New Apostolic Reformation, and the embrace of these elements by mainstream politicians.

“What [Pastor] Thomas [Muthee] was probably doing, and he and I are friends also, what he was probably doing was speculating that there would be some people who practiced witchcraft and other forms of the occult who would try and take Sarah Palin down through certain rituals or curses or other techniques that witches have and try to destroy her through those things. And I think Thomas was praying a shield of protection around Sarah so that she would not be affected by them.” - C. Peter Wagner, one of key architects and Apostles of the New Apostolic Reformation movement, on NPR’s Fresh Air.

Fred Clark at Slacktivist pointed out that Dominionism has been a serious concern within conservative Christian circles for some time now, but many Christian commentators chose to frame questions about it as conspiracy theory  or anti-Christian paranoia by leftist/liberal elements. Meanwhile, for many Pagans, the New Apostolic Reformation’s spiritual warfare techniques started hitting too close to home, spurring a counter-campaign to preserve religious liberty and diversity. A serious discussion of these issues that goes beyond denial and alarmism is clearly needed, especially since we are at a point where serious presidential candidate have clear and definable ties to figures within these movements. As I’ve pointed out before, paying lip-service to extreme elements may seem politically expedient, but it can have serious repercussions once a candidate has taken power. I fear the “Religious Right” is becoming something very different from what people understand, and I hope that these controversies in 2011 were but passing storms and not a harbinger of what is to come.

04. Patrick McCollum, The Ninth Circuit, and the Future of Pagan Chaplaincy: At the end of 2010 I said that the struggles of Pagan activist and chaplain Patrick McCollum “represented and defined the public face of Paganism” and that there’s “every indication the 2011 will see even more from this tireless advocate for Pagan rights.” 2011 did indeed see much more from McCollum, as his legal challenge to the State of California’s “five faiths” policy saw a serious setback when the 9th Circuit Court upheld a lower court decision stating he doesn’t have standing to challenge California’s discriminatory “five faiths” policy. This policy limits the hiring of paid chaplains to Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Native American adherents and is part of what McCollum has called an “endemic” level of religious discrimination against minority faiths in our prison system. Ultimately, McCollum decided to not appeal this ruling, and is instead working to shepherd new cases through the court system.

Patrick McCollum on the cover of Witches & Pagans.

Patrick McCollum on the cover of Witches & Pagans.

“I’m currently in a place where if an inmate brought a case, my case could go forward […] I saw this coming down the pike, and so I have helped inmates bring forward cases that meet the criteria to make it so my case is viable and valid […] I’ve managed to keep those cases under the radar and the first of those cases his the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last week. […] If the court rules that those inmates who are on that case do have a right to a chaplain then I can walk right back into the court and forget the ruling made by the 9th Circuit or anybody else.”

These battles are vital, as the basic question of equal treatment for Pagans and other minority religions lies at its center. Access to chaplains, to religious guidance and instruction, should be a fundamental right and the human cost when that right is denied can be greater that some would imagine. The rights of prisoners are a canary in the coalmine of our society, what we imagine is acceptable to deny them eventually become acceptable to deny others. Precedents are won and lost behind bars, and McCollum has worked tirelessly to ensure that minority religions have access to chaplaincy. I have no doubt that 2012 will see even more reverberations from this story, and from the larger battle over access to chaplains.

03. Candidate Gary Johnson and the Pagan Media: On October 16th a live Google+ video interview/”hangout” with GOP Presidential candidate Gov. Gary Johnson and members of the Pagan media was held. Pagan media organizations participating in the Q&A with the former New Mexico Governor included Cara Schulz of PNC-Minnesota, Star Foster of Patheos.com, Devin Hunter of ModernWitch Podcast, David Salisbury of PNC-Washinton DC, Crystal Blanton of PNC-Bay Area, and myself. In addition,Ramesh Rao of the Hindu American Foundation also took part. It was, as far as I can tell, the first time any serious presidential candidate agreed to speak with Pagan media representatives, and Johnson’s willingness to reach out to us ended up making headlines in the political-minded press (and snarked about at WonketteNew York Magazine, and Gawker).

The former New Mexico governor spoke with members of the Pagan Newswire Collective, ModernWitch Podcast and Patheos.com, among others. He said it was important to reach out to voters that fall outside the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths, and slammed his own party for being too beholden to the Christian right. “I think the world looks down on Republicans for their socially conservative views, which includes religion in government,” Johnson said. “I think that should not play a role in any of this. When Republicans talk about values — you know what? I bet you and I have the same values.”

In an editorial at The Washington Post I tried to contextualize the importance of this event, noting that alienating religious minorities is not a good long-term strategy for any political party, and that modern Pagans have real, serious, concerns that should be addressed by our political system. Since that press conference, Johnson has indicated that he’ll try to run as a Libertarian in 2012, noting that obstacles his candidacy has faced within the current Republican Party. Johnson’s chances to win the presidency of the United States are slim, but his willingness to reach out to Pagans, whatever the motivations were, opens a door to our faiths being taken seriously within the context of American politics.

02. Occupy Paganism: Time Magazine named “The Protester” as its Person of the Year, including in that archetype the growing and ever-evolving Occupy movement that started with Occupy Wall Street in New York. The movement, centered on issues of economic justice, has gripped the news as Occupy camps were (sometimes violently) removed by police, and Occupiers “mic checked” various events and political figures. Several modern Pagans have involved themselves with the Occupy movement, including noted figures like Starhawk, who noted with amazement how the organizing ethos she’s long preached suddenly sprung forward organically to effect massive changes in a matter of months. Former COG First Officer Peter Dybing stood ready to be arrested with Occupiers in Florida, while T. Thorn Coyle noted why so many Pagans seemed to take to Occupy so readily.

Peter Dybing at Occupy Fort Lauderdale

Peter Dybing at Occupy Fort Lauderdale

“Not all Pagans or Magick Workers support the Occupy movement. I would not expect them to. However, I am unsurprised at the large number of us who do. We are used to linking the spiritual with the material, honoring the sacred in the baking bread, the programmed pixels, the words we speak, the trees, the earth, the sky. Some of us find comfort in humanity and some from our Gods. For me, the Occupy movement includes all of this. Also, Occupy is about the spirit of individual people striving to connect with one another, to feed each other, to fight for each other, and to lift each other up.”

Here at The Wild Hunt I’ve tried to document Pagan involvement with the Occupy movement, highlighting Pagan chaplains at Occupy Wall Street, launching a group blog to document Pagan and Heathen voices, and even interjecting with a rare moment of pure editorializing in favor of the movement’s goals. As things progress I think we’ll see more Pagan voices emerge from within the Occupy movement, using the organizational and spiritual technologies taught them by their traditions to effect change. I think this is a unique moment for politics in America, and for modern Pagans who involve themselves with it. I think history is being made, and when it is written, Pagan voices will be a part of that narrative.

01. West Memphis Three Go Free: On August 19th, 2011, the West Memphis 3 (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley Jr.) were released from prison on an Alford plea. The West Memphis 3 case is perhaps the most high-profile trial known in which the 1980s Satanic moral panic played a significant role, using Damien Echols interest in the occult and Wicca as proof of his murderous interests. The case was decided with no physical evidence, and a coerced confession from the mentally challenged Misskelley. Jessie Misskelley’s former defense attorney Dan Stidham, in an interview with John Morehead, paints a picture of the Satanic hysteria that surrounded the trial.

“…you really have to put this case into historical perspective. In 1993, the Satanic Bandwagon Folks like Dr. Griffis were mainstream and largely supported by both the media and established religion. We now know better, just like we now know that there are such things as “coerced confessions.” In 1993, virtually everybody believed that the phenomena of Satanic Ritualistic Homicide was very real, and perhaps even more regrettably, that no one, not even a mentally handicapped person, or a child, would confess to a crime that they did not commit. Thankfully, due in large part to pioneers with real credentials like Dr. Gisli Gudjohnson, Dr. Richard Ofshe, and Dr. Richard Leo, we now understand the dynamics of false confessions. By the way, not many people remember that Dr. Ofshe won a Pulitzer Prize for his work studying religious “cults.” He had a dual expertise.”

It’s easy to forget how pervasive anti-Satanic propaganda was back then, with many journalists and talk-show hosts (even Oprah) diving right into the hysteria. The result was thousands of lives ruined, directly or indirectly, by this phenomenon until it finally lost steam and faced a backlash from investigators and skeptical Christians. As a society, we are still dealing with the fallout of “Satanic Ritual Abuse” panic, and sadly, some judges and prosecutors are continuing to engage in the same tactics that convicted the WM3. The freeing of the West Memphis Three presents a vindication of those who have long fought against individuals being prosecuted simply for their outsider beliefs or mannerisms, and a warning that these moral panics can happen in a supposedly rational and free society.

That wraps up my top ten news stories about or affecting modern Paganism in 2011. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll join me for another year of sifting through the news and views of interest to our communities. See you in 2012!

As we reach the close of 2011, it is time to stop for a moment and take stock of the previous year. When you look at (and for) news stories regarding modern Paganism (and related topics) every day of the year, you can sometimes lose focus on the larger picture. So it can be a helpful thing to look at the broad strokes, the bigger themes, the events and developments that will have lasting impact on the modern Pagan movement. What follows are my picks for the top ten stories from this past year involving or affecting modern Pagans.

10. New Christian Missionary Code of Conduct: In June of this year a coalition that claims to represent around 90% of the world’s Christians released joint recommendations for the conduct of Christian missionaries. This document, while toothless in regards to enforcement, it does represent a core shift in fighting “arrogance, condescension and disparagement” among Christian missionaries toward non-Christian faiths and building a new ethos of mutual respect and cooperation between Christians and non-Christians.

“Christians are called to reject all forms of violence, even psychological or social, including the abuse of power in their witness. They also reject violence, unjust discrimination or repression by any religious or secular authority, including the violation or destruction of places of worship, sacred symbols or texts. […]  Any comment or critical approach should be made in a spirit of mutual respect, making sure not to bear false witness concerning other religions. […]  Christians should avoid misrepresenting the beliefs and practices of people of different religions.

In addition, the document endorses providing “sufficient time for adequate reflection and preparation” in regards to conversions.  Frowning on quickie conversions and urging Christians to “refrain from offering all forms of allurements.” All of which is encouraging on its face, though the document also has a political purpose, to help missionaries lobby against anti-conversion laws in places like India. Still, despite the document’s flaws, it does represent a vital shift as revelations of coercive conversion tactics in Haiti, and serious accusations that missionaries stirred up anti-Vodou violence, not to mention an emerging theory within evangelical circles that Christian missions may have helped trigger the witch-hunts in Africa are making more and more Christians questions how the “Great Commission” is enacted. The reverberations of these events and Christian response to it will have long-reaching effects on modern Pagans, indigenous religious practitioners, and ultimately all non-Christians.

09. Pagan Fundraising on the Internet Goes Big: Within our interconnected communities there’s often been the notion that we lack the commitment or cohesion to raise significant funds for causes or projects that matter. That a “poverty consciousness” reigns when it comes to anything outside our immediate wants or desires. This criticism lost a lot of weight in 2011 as a growing number of Pagan projects and fund-drives managed to raise impressive figures for a community as demographically small and philosophically diverse as ours. This year we saw Peter Dybing lead an initiative that raised $30,000 dollars for Japan earthquake assistance, while Starhawk, along with producers Paradox Pollack and Philip ‘Mouse’ Wood, raised over $75,000 forplanned movie adaptation of Starhawk’s novel “The Fifth Sacred Thing”.

In addition, a fundraising drive to produce a memorial documentary project in honor Merlin Stone (author of the seminal book “When God Was A Woman”) raised over $10,000. These may not seem like huge numbers to the larger, more institutionalized, religions in the West, but these efforts, and several smaller ones also held this year, are somewhat groundbreaking for us.  It proves that Pagans will support projects they believe in, and that Internet services like Kickstarter have provided an essential tool in tapping that support. As modern Pagans build their own unique infrastructure (more on that next) I predict we’ll continue to see this crowd-funded model evolve into something that can really build (and do) great things.

08. The Growth (and Growing Pains) of Modern Pagan Infrastructure: In addition to fundraising, this has been a year of Community Centers, Temples, and Libraries in the Pagan news. As modern Pagan communities grow as do questions of what, if any, infrastructure we want. Do we want a congregational model? What about temples? This year, more so than I’ve seen for some time, we’ve publicly wrestled with the answers to these questions. This year the Minneapolis-St. Paul community (aka “Paganistan”) saw their Sacred Paths Center go through a number of fiscal problems, though it seems to have weathered its storms, meanwhile The Open Hearth Foundation in Washington DC prepares to launch its own community center . In Delaware, ground was broken for the ambitious New Alexandrian Library project, one that has already gotten some impressive donations to its collection.

“After working through unexpected delays, the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel (ASW) has obtained the building permit to begin construction of the New Alexandrian Library (NAL) and the contractor is preparing to lay the foundation. “We are very excited to finally be able to break ground,” said Jim Dickinson, the NAL Project Manager, “It is ‘a dream whose time has come’!”“This project is about preserving our past and building our future. It is a dream becoming manifest that will inspire scholarship and a deepening of magickal culture. It is proof that our community is maturing,” said Ivo Dominguez, Jr., founding member of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel and one of the driving forces behind the NAL.”

While there has been forward movement, there have also been setbacks and challenges. Temple of the River in Minnesota closed down, a Pagan temple in the Ukraine was vandalized, and in upper New York the  continues its long and drawn-out tax battle with the Town of Catskill, one that will hopefully be decided in 2012. Still, despite the challenges it seems clear that Pagan infrastructure is a growing issue, and that more groups are looking to plant permanent roots in their communities.

07. The Debate Over Gender in Modern Paganism: One of the most sustained and intense discussions within the modern Pagan community this year was over issues of gender, essentialism, and transgender inclusion. Sparked by a breakdown in communication and resulting transgender exclusion at a 2011 PantheaCon ritual, the conversation soon ballooned to all corners of the modern Pagan community. CAYA’s Amazon Priestess Tribe’s Rite of Lilith ended up acting as a catalyst for a long-overdue conversation about the role of gender and transgender individuals within modern Paganism, one that led to a groundbreaking conference in September centered on the question of gender within our communities.

joi wolfwomyn and Vicki Noble. Photo by Greg Harder.
joi wolfwomyn and Vicki Noble. Photo by Greg Harder.

“In her introductory remarks, joi wolfwomyn asked folks to treat eachother with respect and really listen to the different perspectives brought out in the day and that energy of respect really carried forward into the entire day of programming and events. Vicki Noble’s keynote integrated both her personal experience as a feminist separatist as well as her acknowledgement of the multitude of genders that exist and our need to respect the diversity of gender. Her statement on separatism was that it can be through having separate spaces that members of marginalized groups can become stronger and return to the larger community with the confidence and commitment to make real and positive change.”

We are at a crossroads now with this discussion, and despite a few sour notes, most of the exchanges have been reasoned, open, empathetic, passionate, and willing to create a dialog that is inclusive and productive. I have few illusions that all problems will be “solved,” but I do think what we are witnessing here is historic, and will change us in ways we can’t envision now. The collective maturity and willingness we’ve displayed so far in these discussions is a credit to our family of faiths, and when future historians look back at this time they will say “this is when transgendered Pagans began to receive the full embrace and respect of their coreligionists.”

06. James Arthur Ray Convicted and Sent to Prison: At the end of 2010 I listed the story of New Age guru and “Secret” peddler James Arthur Ray’s disastrous and deadly sweat lodge ceremony  as one of the most important of the year, noting that “the longterm ramifications of this event will be for Ray, Native Americans, the New Age market, and the modern Pagans who cross-pollinate with these affected communities remains to be seen.” Now, at the end of 2011 we’ve seen the trial, conviction for negligent homicide, and sentencing of Ray. In the end, Ray will only serve two years in prison, though he’s appealing, and has settled the civil lawsuits with the victim’s families for more than 3 million dollars. Shortly after the conviction, I rounded up reactions from Native Americans, the families of the victims, and the Pagan community, many seemed to agree that Ray’s seemingly boundless ego, narcissism, and god-complex led to a pattern of unsafe events.

“I’m aware that this conclusion may seem controversial. Many pagans like to believe that there is no such thing as a universal moral truth, and many recoil at the use of the word ‘should’. James Ray’s sweatlodge puts that kind of relativism to a life-and-death test. As a final remark, my friends, may I say that you do not need to undergo a heat endurance test to the death in order to know that you are strong in spirit.” – Brendan Myers

Ray’s trial and conviction was certainly big news this year, but what, ultimately, does it say to modern Pagans? I think it calls into focus issues of cultural appropriation, of acquiring spiritual technologies outsider your context without proper oversight or training, and is a stark warning about the corrupting influence of power unchecked. James Arthur Ray was part of the “New Age” movement, but many elements he incorporated can be easily found among modern Pagans, and this should be a lasting wake-up call to make sure we don’t fall into the excesses and pitfalls of Ray and his ilk.

Tomorrow I will post the top five Pagan stories for 2011. In the meantime, I invite you to check out the top religion stories from some different perspectives. Here are the BBC’s picks, the Religion Newswriters Association’s picks, Mother Jones’ top ignored religion stories, Religion Dispatches top religion stories that weren’t, top 11 of 2011 from HuffPo Religion, Time’s top religion picksand the Washington Post’s On Faith picks.

[You can read part one of this entry, here.]

05. The Druid Network Receives Charitable Status in UK: Perhaps the biggest Pagan-related story coming out of the UK this year was the Charity Commission’s decision to approve The Druid Network‘s application as a religious charity. In Britain, there’s a marked difference between a charity and a nonprofit, and The Druid Network was the first Pagan organization to take advantage of the the Charities Act of 2006, which lowered the hurdles towards becoming a religious charity. This not only caused a wave of press in the UK, but in America as well. Guest author Alison Shaffer did a remarkable job summing the whole issue up back in October.

“So why all the fuss? Because the rights and freedoms granted to religious practitioners of Druidry and Paganism in the UK are, as in the US, not necessarily guarantees that they will also have access to all of the same benefits available to more mainstream faiths — benefits such as nonprofit status, state-recognized holidays, prison and military chaplaincy, clergy who are legally empowered to perform marriages and burials, and so on. In short, although British law provides freedom from discrimination for practitioners of all religions, the freedom to participate fully and equally in civil society is something that rests on a foundation of legal precedent. For many religious minorities, securing the latter means buckling down to a long process of challenging numerous individual instances of oversight and exclusion, in order to push past the tipping point from legal tolerance into social acceptance and support.”

This was an important moment for Druidry in Britain, and for modern Paganism as a whole. Despite the occasional press exaggerations that the UK had recognized Druidry for the first time in “thousands of years, “ this moment does mark a new level of respect and understanding towards our family faiths.

04. Military Pagans and The Air Force Academy Circle: 2010 was the year the Air Force Academy tried to clean up its public image when it came to religious tolerance. Long accused of being a focal point for evangelical Christian takeover of the military, and still struggling to create an environment friendly to all faiths, much was made in the press about their support for the installation of a Pagan worship area, though perhaps even more press was generated at the subsequent vandalism of said site.

“The Air Force Academy, stung several years ago by accusations of Christian bias, has built a new outdoor worship area for pagans and other practitioners of Earth-based religions. But its opening, heralded as a sign of a more tolerant religious climate at the academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., was marred by the discovery two weeks ago of a large wooden cross placed there. ”We’ve been making great progress at the Air Force Academy. This is clearly a setback,” said Mikey Weinstein, a 1977 graduate of the academy. He is founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and has often tangled with the academy over such issues.”

This concession to the religious lives of Pagan cadets also spurred some religious and political figures into saying some rather stupid things. What was largely missed through all the media glare was that this circle wasn’t some media relations band-aid, but a response to a genuine need among Pagan cadets, one that has permeated all aspects of life there. Sadly, a lot of coverage treated the whole story as something of a joke, instead of acknowledging the important steps forward being taken. The Air Force Academy circle wasn’t the only military-oriented Pagan story of 2010, but it was certainly the biggest, and one that was highly symbolic of our overall struggles for equal treatment.

03. Christine O’Donnell’s Dabble-Gate: I tried to dismiss it, but few could withstand the hurricane force of Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell (a local Tea Party favorite), who completely dominated the election news cycle this year thanks to comments made over ten years ago that she had “dabbled” with “witchcraft”. Faster than you could twinkle your nose, media outlets from all corners started interviewing “real” Witches about the controversy, while political pundits scored cheap laughs. Then, just when everyone thought the news cycle had died out, O’Donnell’s campaign released the following campaign ad.

Committing one of the classic blunders in politics (right up there with starting a land war in Asia), O’Donnell sparked a new landslide of negative news coverage, and a host of Pagan-created response videos. Her image damaged beyond repair, she lost handily to the Democratic candidate. While the abundance of mean-spirited mockery had some in our community questioning why “dabbling” in a minority religion is such a deal-breaker for political office, O’Donnell’s largely unexplored connections to conservative Christianity and how they influence her politics made few Pagans regret her loss.

02. Vodou & Haiti: Under any other circumstances, I would have welcomed with joy the emergence of our cousins in Vodou into the media spotlight, but it was not to be. Instead, 2010 has been a year of death, horror, suffering, and media smears, all triggered by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Port-au-PrinceHaiti’s capital. The quake killed nearly a quarter of a million people, and over a million are still homeless.  Within hours of the tragedy triumphalist smears concerning Haiti’s history from a noted Christian pot-stirrer emerged, then there was a veritable onslaught of pundits, many of whom had never set foot in Haiti, opining on how Vodou was the main detriment to its forward progress and recovery.

“The kind of religion one practices makes a huge difference in how the community lives — for better or for worse. I suppose it’s at least arguable that the Haitians would be better off at the Church of Christopher Hitchens rather than as followers of voodoo.Rod Dreher, Beliefnet

But amidst the wave of stunningly wrong-headed criticism,  there were also several pro-Vodou voices,within and without Haiti, that came to the fore. Most notably Max Beauvoir, the appointed “supreme master” of a coalition of Haitian houngans, who ended up being the de facto voice for Haitian Vodou to the Western press in the months after the quake. While I counselled reporters to remain aware of the decentralized nature of Haitian Vodou,  the much-publicized attack on Vodouisants by evangelical Christians in Haitiand its aftermath, created little room for nuance in those hectic first weeks (not to mention tensions over insensitive and controversial missionary activities). Sadly, the centrality of Vodou in Haitian society was often ignored, though there were the occasional nods in that direction.

That suffering was bad enough, but now Haiti, still in political turmoil and further damaged by a rampant cholera outbreak, is seeing angry mobs turning against Vodou practitioners, killing over 40 so far. Sadly the religious press has either ignored or downplayed Vodou during these events, focusing instead on (Christian) charitable giving to Haiti, and an accusation of trafficking. From all this tragedy we can only hope that a new birth, a renewed flowering, is to come. That Vodou, and the Haitian people will overcome the massive obstacles in their way.

01. Patrick McCollum’s Fights and Triumphs: Patrick McCollum has made my top ten list before, but 2010 was truly the year when his efforts started to gain wider notice and recognition. McCollum has been working as a Pagan chaplain and activist for well over twenty years. He was one of the founding members of the Lady Liberty League, and has been involved in numerous legal struggles involving modern Pagans. In recent years he has received attention for his appearance before the US Commission on Civil Rights in Washington, DC, to speak at a briefing focused on prisoners’ religious rights (full transcript of the proceedings), and for his meeting with Obama Administration officials concerning interfaith relations and discrimination against minority faiths in America. On Imbolc of this year, McCollum was installed to the Executive Board of Directors of a United Nations NGO, Children Of The Earth. McCollum currently serves as an unpaid statewide correctional chaplain for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in all 33 CDCR correctional institutions.


Rev. Patrick McCollum

His current fight, which has been in litigation for over five years, and is currently before the 9th Circuit, centers on the State of California’s “five faiths” policy. This policy limits the hiring of paid chaplains to Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Native American adherents. The case itself has yet to be heard, as legal counsel for the CDCR has been arguing that McCollum doesn’t have the standing to bring the case (an assertion that is rejected by McCollumAmericans Unitedthe ADL, and other groups). This battle is about overcoming what McCollum has called an “endemic” level of religious discrimination against minority faiths in our prison system, and if the courts swing our way, 2011 could finally see a full court trial on this issue.

2010 was also a year that has seen many triumphs for McCollum. He was honored by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) with the Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Advancement of Religious Pluralism at their 7th annual Capitol Hill Receptionfeted at the Lady Liberty League 25th Anniversary reception, participated in the 2010 International Day of Peace at the United Nations in New York, asked for feedback on Pagan practices by the Washington Department of Corrections, and attended the first World Forum of Spiritual Culture in Astana, Kazakhstan. He has, in short, become a globe-trotting emissary for modern Pagan faiths. If one figure represented and defined the public face of Paganism in 2010 it was McCollum, and there is every indication the 2011 will see even more from this tireless advocate for Pagan rights.

That wraps up my top ten news stories about or affecting modern Paganism in 2010. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll join me for another year of sifting through the news and views of interest to our communities. See you in 2011!

As we reach the close of 2010, it is time to stop for a moment and take stock of the previous year. When you look at (and for) news stories regarding modern Paganism (and related topics) every day of the year, you can sometimes lose focus on the larger picture. So it can be a helpful thing to look at the broad strokes, the bigger themes, the events and developments that will have lasting impact on the modern Pagan movement. What follows are my picks for the top ten stories from this past year involving or affecting modern Pagans.

10. The Crackdown on Minority Religions in Russia: A woefully underreported story in the mainstream media, but one that could have vast ramifications for modern Pagans, is the slow-moving oppression of minority faiths in Russia. As the government, in seemingly increasing collusion with the Russian Orthodox Church, use laws against extremism and “cults” to intimidate and oppress competing faiths, the future of indigenous and neopagan faiths in Russia seems endangered.

In response to an appeal by the local state prosecutor, Yoshkar-Ola Municipal Court found Vitaly Tanakov guilty of religious and ethnic hatred in 2006, sentencing him to 120 hours’ forced labour. In 2009, Mari El Supreme Court ruled that his leaflet – “A Priest Speaks” – contained religious and other extremism. It is now banned throughout Russia.

Peoples influenced by the Bible and Koran “have lost harmony between the individual and the people,” argues Tanakov, in what is actually one of only a few references to other faiths in his leaflet. “Morality has gone to seed, there is no pity, charity, mutual aid; everyone and everything are infected by falsehood.” By contrast, he boasts, the Mari traditional faith will be “in demand by the whole world for many millennia.”

These laws were originally written to address “doomsday cults” in Russia, but are increasingly being used on largely benign faiths, like Jehovah’s Witnesses and the the Mari people. These developments should concern anyone who values freedom of religion, and especially those concerned with the growth and preservation of Paganism across the globe. It should also act as a warning to those who would start writing and supporting laws that would oversee the free expression of faith.

09. Psychic Services & The Law: I’ve been reporting on run-ins between local governments and those who provide various psychic/fortune telling services for a long time, but this year the topic seemed to garner wider press attention. Both Time Magazine and the BBC looked at a growing trend of stricter regulations against psychics being enforced by local governments, and in response to this attention I interviewed professional psychics and tarot readers like Christian Day, Mary K. Greer and Rachel Pollack.

“I don’t believe in specific laws and regulations for fortune tellers that go beyond the standard business laws of any community. It has been found that laws prohibiting fraud cover most cases of abuse perfectly adequately and far better than regulations that discriminate unfairly against this particular profession, especially when they assume criminal behavior where none has been shown by the individual. It has been proved over and over again that discriminatory regulations are created by special interest groups and that they are unfair and almost always unconstitutional.”Mary K. Greer

Spurred by a variety of impulses, some religious, some not, towns and cities created subcultural “red light districts”, stood by total bans, and argued over whether psychic services could be classified as “spiritual counseling”, while in Canada, obscure laws against “witchcraft” were used to pursue fraud cases. We also saw a big win as the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that fortunetelling and other psychic services are protected speech, setting a precedent that could affect laws across the country. Expect this issue to continue to make news, and involve members of our community in 2011.

08. The James Arthur Ray Sweat Lodge Death Controversy: While the tragic events that took three lives happened at the end of 2009, 2010 saw the arrest and ongoing drama unfold in the case of New Age guru James Arthur Ray, who is accused of negligent homicide after a sweat lodge ceremony went horribly wrong.

This event has had repercussion through many different communities, some Native American activists and commentators are concerned their beliefs are going to be put on trial to exonerate Ray, and in one instance have even considered regulating Native practices to prevent such occurrences from repeating. In the New Age hub of Sedona, business is down, and some are blaming the “negative energy” of the sweat lodge deaths, though few think practices will dramatically alter in the long term. Meanwhile, Ray and his lawyers continue to try to suppress damaging evidence as the trial looms ever closer. What the longterm ramifications of this event will be for Ray, Native Americans, the New Age market, and the modern Pagans who cross-pollinate with these affected communities remains to be seen.

07. WM3 and the ghosts of Satanic Panic: While the horrors of the mid-1980s moral panic over “Satanic” cults, a phenomenon that imprisoned dozens and ruined the lives of hundreds more, has most devolved into “did that really happen” gallows humor, 2010 reminded us that there’s a lot of unfinished business from that era. The most high-profile instance is the case of the West Memphis Three (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley Jr.), long considered by many to be victims of panic-fueled miscarriage of justice, the three men recently won the right to new evidentiary hearings, providing them their best chance yet of overturning their convictions.

“The court also pointed out Thursday that Circuit Judge David Burnett erred repeatedly in the case, including dismissing requests to consider DNA and other exculpatory evidence without a hearing. Burnett has been the focus of activists’ campaigns because of his pro-prosecution stances. He will not hear the new case because he was recently elected to the state legislature. Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has also fought against a new hearing.”

This case has long drawn the attention of modern Pagans since prosecutors used Echols’ interest in the occult and Wicca to help convince a jury, with no physical evidence and a coerced confession from the mentally challenged Misskelley, that they were to blame for the murder of three boys. As a society, we are still dealing with the fallout of “Satanic Ritual Abuse” panic, and many of those who participated enjoy high-profile careers to this day.We need to not only right the wrongs of yesterday, but remain vigilant that such a panic doesn’t emerge again.

06. The Passing of Isaac Bonewits: 2010 was a heavy year for deaths within the Pagan community, but the passage of seminal Pagan leader Isaac Bonewits in August shook our communities, and brought forward an unique communal outpouring of grief and tribute rarely seen.


Isaac Bonewits, photo by Ava Francesca, from the ADF website.

A true Pagan polymath, Bonewits seemed to drink deeply of modern Paganism in all its myriad forms.He’s been an initiate into Santeria, religious Witchcraft (both orthodox and heterodox), various magic(k)al traditions, and fraternal Druidism. A man of letters, he wrote many celebrated books, andmany more influential essays. Many of the phrases and terminology we now use on a regular basis had their genesis with Isaac Bonewits. His Advanced Bonewits’ Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (ABCDEF)has been used by Federal law enforcement and foreign governments to evaluate religious minorities, and he’s been a visionary in predicting the growing pains our movement would encounter.

Perhaps his greatest gift and legacy to the Pagan movement will be the founding of Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF), a Druid fellowship that from the outset anticipated the ramifications of our growing numbers, and the strove to meet the challenges that would bring. […] His role in founding the ADF alone has earned him a place in history.

Bonewits was a giant among us, and his passing has left us without one of our most intelligent and forward-looking leaders just as many of his visions for the future were coming to fruition. We can only hope that his legacy and example will endure.

Tomorrow I will post the top five Pagan stories for 2010. In the meantime, I invite you to check out the top religion stories from some different perspectives. Here are the Religion Newswriters Association’s picks, Terry Mattingly’s (of Get Religion fame) picks, the top spiritual trends according to Charisma Magazine, the top picks from Christianity Today, and Time Magazine’s top religion story picks.

My latest response at the Washington Post’s On Faith site is now up.

Here’s this week’s panel question:

“As voted by the Religion Newswriters Association’s members, among the year’s most consequential religion newsmakers were Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Pope Benedict XVI, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, and the U.S. bishops. How would you have ranked them? Has their influence been harmful or constructive? What issue or person do you expect to have the biggest impact in the year to come?”

Here’s an excerpt from my response:

“Many of the noted figures making the biggest waves in the world of religion journalism in 2010 have a troubled, sometimes hostile, relationship to religious minorities in general, and modern Paganism in particular. Their prominence and influence are a constant reminder that our freedoms are sustained by secular ideals of a separation between church and state, a concept under constant attack by those who would prefer a “Christian America,” or at least one that gave special dispensation to their majorities. This tension is often characterized as a mere difference of opinion, but this is a fundamental disconnect that allows outlandish statements and associations to be ignored by mainstream media outlets.”

I hope you’ll head over to the site and read my full response, and the other panelist responses, and share your thoughts.

As we start to head into December, religion reporters are starting to craft their lists of the top news stories for this past year. Of Sacred and Secular’s Joshunda Sanders has posted a top ten list already, and Kevin Eckstrom of the Religion News Service found 2010 to be a year when older stories were “resurrected”.

“The Roman Catholic Church wasn’t the only institution battling a sense of deja vu, as some of the most controversial religion stories from the past 20 years returned to the headlines. A 1994-style fight over health care reform not only pitted Republicans against Democrats, but also Catholic bishops against Catholic nuns. Lingering questions about President Obama’s Christian faith morphed into a belief among one in five Americans that he’s actually a Muslim. Nearly 10 years after 9/11, Islamophobia returned with a vengeance as a Florida pastor threatened to torch a pile of Qurans, and Tennessee officials debated whether Islam is actually a religion. This time, the resurrected stories were more pointed, the debates more polarizing. Old stories found new life online, and voices that once would have been dismissed as extreme were amplified by the Internet, Facebook and Twitter.”

Eckstrom quotes religion and media scholar Diane Winston that “new media has had the effect of keeping certain news stories alive, bringing them back from the dead and propelling them into the news.” Looking at my own Pagan-centric picks for top stories of 2009, I can already see some continuity with the list I’m putting together for this year, and I think few will deny that new media had a big amplifying and extending effect on several religious stories this past year (take Christine O’Donnell, please).

While most religion reporters will be focusing on the Pope, the Park 51 building, or atheist Christopher Hitchen’s battle with cancer, I’d like to get your input and feedback on what you thought the biggest religion stories were from a Pagan perspective. What events do you feel shaped us this year? What stories do you think will end up having repercussions for years to come? Your feedback can help me put me own list together, and maybe I’ll highlight some of your recommendations at the end of December.

[You can read part one of this entry, here.]

05. Jose Merced, Santeria, and Animal Sacrifice: The battles over animal sacrifice, and the legal rights of adherents to Santeria, were in my top ten last year, and things have only intensified since then. The biggest story was the resolution of a case involving a Santero, Jose Merced, who was restricted from practicing his religion in Euless, Texas, due to the town’s animal slaughter laws. Merced, who lost his initial challenge to the law, was backed in his appeal by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and ultimately prevailed in his case.

“If this decision is ultimately allowed to stand, Merced v. City of Euless could be the case that takes the precedent initially established in Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah nationwide, clearing the way for legal animal sacrifice in religious ceremonies.”

As sweet as this victory, and the precedents it sets, has been for adherents to Santeria in America, the faith is still a long way away from acceptance or mainstream understanding. One had only to look at the variety of random dead-animal cases blamed on Santeros and Santeras (or other African Diasporic Faiths) as proof that they have a long way to go.

“We are left to guess what “evidence” led the authorities to guess it was a ritualistic matter, and what, exactly, makes them point the finger at “Santeria” or “Palo Mayombe”. While people of “African, Central American, Haitian, Cuban or Caribbean decent” lay low, will we eventually find out it was some disturbed teen? Why only people of color? Is it because these police know that white people never do crazy things and give them a ritualistic veneer? Again, this is a recipe for misinformation, stereotyping, and ultimately, discrimination.”

Perhaps now that we have a new Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, who has publicly stated that distinctions between “traditional” and “non-traditional” religions” are “intolerable”, and has actually ruled favorably on cases involving adherents to Santeria, we can start to see a slow turn-around in the misconceptions and slanders that pass for wisdom among police and animal control officers. But as we enter the new year with yet another lurid Santeria dead-animal case on our hands, that turn-around seems far away and slow in coming.

04. Pagans at the Parliament of the World’s Religions: If there was one event that could point to how far modern Pagans have come in terms of international visibility and relevance in the last twenty years, it would have to be the role we play in the Parliament of the World’s Religions. From a curiosity (and scandal to some) in 1993, to having three Pagans serving on the Parliament’s executive council in 2009. Simply put, our participation and movement toward leadership roles within the global interfaith community in the last fifteen years is extraordinary. We are emerging as a significant world-wide religious movement at a time where our voice and perspective is increasingly relevant and needed.

This Parliament also saw Pagan organizations really reaching out to share the work, discussions, and connections there were being made in Melbourne. With several collaborative efforts being made to give a picture of what Pagan participation in this event was like. Even though there were some mis-communications and controversies in the process, it also made many people feel invested in these events for the first time, and no doubt paved the way for even greater things to come in the future. Modern Paganism is a global phenomenon now, and we are starting to make our voice heard globally.

03. The International Epidemic of Witch Hunts: Thousands of innocent men, women, and children are currently being killed, displaced, and abused because someone, somewhere, believes they practice “sorcery” or “witchcraft”. This state of affairs has grown so large that UN officials are  saying that this is an international problem that is destroying the lives of millions. Far from being a localized phenomenon in “primitive” or isolated villages, witch hunts and witch killings are now global in nature and spreading. Some have stated that this isn’t our problem because the victims aren’t modern Pagans, or that by expressing concern over this trend, we are somehow conflating ourselves with these poor souls, but I think this attitude fails to look at the larger picture. That, as I said yesterday, Paganism is now global, and we have thriving communities in the “over there” places like India and South Africa that are dealing directly with this madness. That we are being naive to think such lunacy could never spread to the “First World”.

“The anger and hardship that cries out for a scapegoat is right here in our backyard. Right now “socialism” or “the government” may be the popular/populist nightmare,  but that can change. A global epidemic of witch-hunts is our issue, not because we share some theological bond with a “witch” killed in Nigeria, or imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, but because we don’t live in an enlightened vacuum, free from the troubles of the “third world” … those of us who are “safe” need to realize that what happens to “witches” in India and Papua New Guinea is no longer a string of  isolated incidents that will always stay “over there”. A “global” problem means it could indeed happen here, and perhaps sooner than any of us would want to admit.”

That fact that churches in America, Australia, and the UK send funds to churches in Africa that engage in witch-hunting only further proves how interconnected this problem is to our homes. Though, to be fair, some countries need no money or encouragement from the West in executing supposed heretics and witches. Luckily some countries, like Nepal, and India, are doing something to reverse this trend, but we need an international initiative of education, aid, and reform if we are to ever see the end of this ongoing tragedy. In the meantime, for those who want to help the witch-children in Africa, two good organizations to send money to are Stepping Stones Nigeria and CRARN (Child’s Right and Rehabilitation Network). In India you can support the People’s Union for Civil Liberties.

02. Patrick McCollum’s Chaplaincy Case, and his Meeting With the Obama Administration: In 2008, Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum made this list for his historic testimony concerning the treatment of Pagan prisoners before the US Commission on Civil Rights. His work continues, and this year two events have made McCollum especially newsworthy and important. First, despite some recent setbacks, his ongoing battle to overturn the California prison system’s “five faiths policy”, which limits the hiring of paid chaplains to Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Native American adherents, has gained a coalition of  new allies.

“Though a judge recently ruled against McCollum in February (twice), saying he had no standing to challenge the policy , his federal-court appeal is gaining support from groups like the Anti-Defamation League (PDF) and Americans United (PDF) … Other groups filing amicus briefs in support of McCollum’s appeal were The Interfaith Alliance, the Hindu American Foundation, and Pagan organizations like Cherry Hill Seminary.”

This is a heartening development in the fight to see Pagan inmates afforded the same rights and treatment as other prisoners, one that may finally lead to this case being fully heard in court.

Secondly, McCollum, while at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, managed to meet with Obama Administration officials concerning how to improve interfaith relations, and limit discrimination.

“According to Rev. McCollum, the meeting was about how the Obama Administration can advance Interfaith relations in the United States. After McCollum’s discussion, officials from the White House sought him out, to have him meet with top officials of the administration to discuss how to limit discrimination and promote Interfaith education in the United States as well as internationally. Upon his return to the states, Patrick McCollum may be able to meet with members with the Justice department as well as the Offices of Faith Based Initiatives to discuss the many outstanding situations that are currently within the American court system.”

That McCollum’s strong voice for the equal treatment of Pagans, whether in prison, or out in the world, was heard in the halls of power here in America is an amazing step forward for all modern Pagans and other adherents of minority faiths. A sign that our issues and needs are being taken seriously, and that we are taking our place at the table in larger discussions concerning the role of faith in our society.

01. Dan Halloran Elected: This one was almost too easy. On November 3rd, 2009, Republican candidate Dan Halloran was elected as the next New York City Councilman for District 19. Why is that so special? He also happens to be an adherent of Theodism, and a member of New York’s Pagan community.


Dan Halloran

“While Dan Halloran isn’t the first openly Pagan candidate running for political office, he may be the first to actually have a shot at winning. Halloran, who is running as an “independent” Republican against Democrat Kevin Kim for a seat on the New York City Council, was recently outed as a prominent Theodsman by the Queens Tribune.”

Despite a campaign that was fraught with mud-slinging, rumors, bad journalism, and accusations of sabotage, Halloran emerged victorious, and proved that an out Pagan can win political office, even in the face of adversity.

“Halloran’s win [has] broken down barriers that will greatly benefit future Pagan adherents looking to get involved in the political process. It has proven that while no race in the near future will be easy for an “out” Pagan, in the right circumstances we can win.”

As if to further prove that point, in addition to Halloran’s historic win in New York, we also learned this year that Jessica Orsini, Alderwoman, 3rd Ward, City of Centralia, Missouri, is a Hellenic polytheist reconstructionist, and that the city of Asheville is happy to elect a post-theist Unitarian-Universalist to their city council. It drives home a message that the “broom closet”, if you want any real part in shaping our culture, should be a thing of the past. That if we stand up, even under bad circumstances, and just be who we are, we can, and will, succeed. It won’t be easy, and we won’t win every time, but if we are to embrace our movement’s future and move it forward, we have to be honest and proud of our identities.

In the words of Harvey Milk:

“You must come out. Come out… to your parents… I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives… come out to your friends… if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors… to your fellow workers… to the people who work where you eat and shop… come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions.”

Here comes the future folks, let’s get ready for it.

That wraps up my top ten news stories about or affecting modern Paganism in 2009. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll join me for another year of sifting through the news and views of interest to our communities. See you in 2010!