The always-excellent legal blog “Religion Clause” has pointed out two recent legal cases of interest to modern Pagans. The first is a prisoner case involving an Asatru inmate:
“In Keen v. Noble, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69629 (ED CA, Sept. 20, 2007), a California federal district court refused to dismiss a federal prisoner’s complaint that his free exercise rights were violated when prison authorities refused to provide him with runestones for his Asatru religious practices. However the court agreed with a Magistrate’s recommendation to dismiss on qualified immunity grounds plaintiff’s complaint that he was denied a hof. The court also held that RFRA does not authorize the award of monetary damages.”
So it looks like Runes as a religious tool are allowed within prison (with qualifications for safety), opening a door for similar religious items for modern Pagans and Heathens. The second case, while not involving Paganism, does seem to settle a growing issue being pushed by some Christians.
“Rivera-Alicea v. Gonzalez-Galoffin, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69905 (D PR, Sept. 20, 2007), involves claims by a secretary in Puerto Rico’s Department of Justice that she was retaliated against for complaining that “pagan” office Halloween decorations offended her Pentecostal Christian religious beliefs. In rejecting plaintiff’s Establishment Clause claim, the Puerto Rico federal district court held: Halloween decorations, like valentines, Easter bunnies, and egg hunts are all secular displays and activities that neither convey religious messages nor constitute religious symbols. Halloween lost its religious and superstitious overtones long ago. It has become instead a commercial holiday enjoyed by communities in its many forms of entertainment.”
Secular Halloween decorations, despite the protestations of some conservative Christians, aren’t an endorsement of Pagan religion. Rulings like this may also protect Halloween decorations from the complaints of Pagans who find traditional Halloween decorations offensive.
Finally, for my academic-oriented readers, there is an open call for papers for a conference on the subject of religion in comic books and graphic novels. The conference, sponsored by the Luce Program in scripture and literary arts at Boston University, specifically points out that they are looking for works that explore Pagan forms of religiosity within comic books.
“We are particularly interested in the following works and topics, though others will be considered: … Pagan Missionaries: the works of Moore, Gaiman, and Morrison as mouthpieces for New Religious Movements.
So if you are an academic, and have been looking for a place to present that paper on Alan Moore’s “Promethea”, now is your chance.