Updates on Ongoing Stories

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 2, 2007 — 1 Comment

Some quick updates on stories covered by this blog.

The Veteran Pentacle Quest: The suit against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is going forward and will be heard this summer despite more stonewalling efforts from the VA.

“The VA argued in a motion filed Jan. 19 with the U.S. District Court in Madison that the lawsuit should be put on hold until after the department finalized its new rules related to accepting new grave marker symbols. That process could take up to 12 months but the VA would make a decision on the Wiccan request within a month after the process ended, the government’s motion said. The Wiccans’ attorney objected, arguing that nothing commits the VA to finalize its rules within that time frame, or take up the Wiccan request at all.”

Luckily the judge was having none of it, and has set the trial for June 29. The VA has issued no statements regarding their move to delay the trial, and have not returned requests for comment. To catch up on the history of this case, check out Circle Sanctuary’s page devoted to the issue.

The Grand Rapids “Freedom To Harass Us” Case: The Grand Rapids Pagan Pride Coordinators have issued a public statement on the the suit filed by The Street Preachers’ Fellowship against the city of Grand Rapids. On the advice of their lawyer, they are keeping mum, and asking the Pagan community to not bother city officials in Grand Rapids.

“If we want to continue to host a Pagan Pride in Grand Rapids, we need to remain calm & wait until those items are needed. If this blows up, the city may change the way that they allow parks to run. A point to make here is this, the papers have not been filled with the courts yet & who knows, when a judge sees this, s/he may dismiss it on the spot. We are in contact with our attorney & we have been advised to not speak to anyone about this, so please, support us with the letters & do not, I repeat PLEASE DO NOT just start sending in letters to the press, city attorney or anyone else that I failed to mention.”

So it seems we won’t be getting any official word on the behavior of the Christians on that day. But a commenter going by the name of “Jenn” did post some details of the event, but without official confirmation I can’t speak to its veracity.

“…in this case they physically and verbily intimidated people there. Witnesses say a girl was circled and forced to tears. They were not simply coming around, handing out bibles and kindly asking for a moment of their time to discuss religion. They were there to start s**t.”

We’ll have to wait and see if the Christian group is able to spin this as a simple “free speech” case.

Tyra’s Witchcraft Adventure: Since the original post on the Tyra Banks “Witchcraft” episode, guests on the show are starting to come forward to publicly express their displeasure with how the show was handled. “White Witch” and model Wrenna Monet has posted her experiences on her MySpace blog.

“Doing the Tyra Banks Show I thought it would bring a positive light on my religion and how it is viewed….NOT! Knowing she was a Christian, I didn’t take it into consideration that she would be just as judgmental as most people that do not understand the ways we follow, which is a peaceful way of living. Tyra provided a perfect example of how we’re viewed and was completely biased to the whole thing which I found disrespectful!”

My sympathies go out to all involved, perhaps Tyra will revisit the issue at some point and allow her former guests a chance to clarify their views without the born-again Christian chaser. The show’s blog has gotten nearly 400 comments (mostly negative) concerning the Witchcraft episode, it remains to be seen if Tyra or a representative from the show will issue any kind of statement regarding their treatment of modern Pagans.

In a final note, it seems Beliefnet has decided that Pagans don’t get into Heaven. Blog Heaven that is. Chas Clifton’s Pagan blog has been a part of Beliefnet’s religion blog aggregator “Blog Heaven” since its inception. Now it has mysteriously disappeared.

“No one from BeliefNet informed me that my blog was given the boot; I just happened to notice. When I asked what was going on, someone named Tim Hayne, editorial project manager, said that it was unintentional and tried to make it look like it was my fault for changing something at this end…Ten days have gone by, but nothing has changed. You won’t find Letter From Hardscrabble Creek in Blog Heaven….But the URL of my site feed has not changed. So I have to wonder if someone at the supposedly interfaith BeliefNet site just cannot stomach an outspokenly Pagan blog. It’s their site and they can run it the way that they want. But why can’t they be honest?”

Chas Clifton’s blog was the only Pagan entry. The aggregator is now almost completely dominated by monotheist traditions (not even a Buddhist blog!). I would urge all my readers to write to Beliefnet (politely) and ask for the return of Chas Clifton’s blog (and even better to include more diversity in their aggregator). There are several vibrant and informative blogs coming from Pagans and other minority religions, it shouldn’t cost Beliefnet anything to be more inclusive on a simple aggregator.

Jason Pitzl-Waters