Hate Crime?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 14, 2007 — 7 Comments

Is displaying a gallows-hung witch in Massachusetts a religious hate crime? That is the accusation by Kelly Lynch towards a home-owner in Chicopee. According to Lynch, the display is a personal offense to religious Witchcraft and not an innocent Halloween display.

The Halloween display in question.

“To many, it’s an innocent Halloween decoration, but for Kelly Lynch it’s offensive. “We don’t harm anyone, we worship god, we are not evil, and we don’t cast spells, ” says Lynch. Lynch is a witch. She has been studying witchcraft since she was a child, and says it’s her way of life. “We are just like Christians, Muslims, we have our own religion, ” adds Lynch. That’s why when she saw the life-like witch hanging in someones front yard she went straight to the home owner’s door. “He told me to lighten up, it was a Halloween decoration, I know it’s his constitutional right, but I want it down. To make that your only decoration…it’s kind of odd, ” stresses Lynch.”

While building a full-size gallows to hang a fake witch in a State that hung 19 men and women on the charge of witchcraft is certainly in bad taste, I’m not sure it is a “hate crime” in the manner Lynch suggests in her interviews with the media.

“But Lynch says it’s no laughing matter. She says it’s a hate crime against her religion “Look at Louisiana, it’s the same thing, what if a black family burned crosses, or nooses it would be the same thing, ” says Lynch.”

I know that for many Wiccans the Salem witch trials have become a hugely symbolic and emotional touchstone, but comparing a Halloween display that was likely erected with no intended malice towards those who identify as Witches with the very real history of lynchings, racism, and discrimination faced by African Americans can only be described as naive at best.

One could fairly make the argument that the display is insensitive, garish, and offensive. You could organize your friends and protest if you like, but Chicopee isn’t Jena, and a hung fairy-tale witch isn’t the “same thing” as hanging a noose on a black teacher’s door or a burning cross on a black family’s lawn. To say it is diminishes the struggles of racial minorities in our country, and takes attention away from the real issues our religious communities do face.

Jason Pitzl-Waters