There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans and Heathens out there, sometimes more than our team can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.
ST. LANDRY PARIS, La. — After releasing a video as part of the department’s Crime Stoppers video series, Captain Clay Higgens found himself at the center of major news story. His Feb. 17 video went viral attracting 15 million hits and national attention, including the ACLU of Louisiana. That very evening, the organization contacted local media directly, citing concerns over Higgens’ “combative” statements, which it felt suggested “violations of fundamental rights of all.” Then, only twelve days after the video’s initial release, Cpt. Higgens tendered his resignation.
Released on Feb. 17, Higgens’ video calls out the individual names of alleged local gang members. However, it isn’t the concept of a crime stopper public service announcement that ruffled feathers and created a public relations nightmare for the sheriff’s department. It’s the content and tone of the video, and the “suggestions” made within Cpt. Higgens’ speech. One of the many cited “violations” is Higgens calling the gang members “animals” and “heathens,” asking for the public to root them out to stop “evil.”
In its statement, the ACLU said, “While we support legal law enforcement and certainly are as concerned as anyone about violence in our neighborhoods, law enforcement officers must be aware of the implications of their public statements.” And then, the ACLU went on to note specific concerns, which included Higgens’ use word Heathen. The response included this statement:
[Higgens] refers to those he seeks to arrest as “heathens.” “Heathen” is a religious term, and unless Mr. Higgins has specific information about the religious beliefs of those individuals, it is both inappropriate and incorrect. And even if it’s true that these individuals, or some of them, are religiously “heathen,” that is of no consequence to their status as criminal suspects. Unless Mr. Higgins believes that all law-abiding people share his personal religious faith – and if he does believe that, he should not be an officer of the law – to call someone a “heathen” and equate that to “criminal” is simply insulting, wrong, and potentially a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
Responding to the ACLU, Higgens told the local media that he was on a “mission from God” and challenged the organization to a public debate. That never happened. In a press conference held Feb. 29 and in a corresponding statement, St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said that, while he agreed with the overall message of the video, he had repeatedly asked Higgens to “tone down” his words and “told him to stop saying divisive, disrespectful or demeaning things.” However, Higgens’ tone never changed. Higgens willingly resigned on Feb. 29.
You can watch the original video and Sheriff’s press conference on NBC News.
In other news….
- Last week, we reported on the call for religious literacy and the recent debates on achieving that through the public school system. In January, Harvard Divinity School University and Wellesley College announced the launch a new free online class that tackles this very subject. “The courses are being offered via an online learning platform called edX, which Harvard University launched with Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012.” Each course will cover a different topic and run for 4 weeks.The first course began on March 1. At this point, the only religions listed as being covered are Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism.
- In Jharkhand, India, a local official is reportedly pushing to end witchcraft persecutions in his state. As noted by local media, Secretary Rajiv Gauba has been backing programs to curb this deeply-rooted problem. Gauba has “organised an awareness campaign to drive away ill founded beliefs on witchcraft” and “instructed officials to organise health check-up camps in affected areas and put such areas under intense supervision.” India is one of the countries that leads the world in witchcraft-related violence.
- Broadly has published a video about the Mosuo People, who live in the foothills of the Himalayas at Lugu Lake.This region is called the “Land Where Women Rule” and the culture is referred to “China’s Last Matriarchy.” In Mosuo society, the Grandmother holds the most powerful position. It is a world where “women can have as many boyfriends as they want […] and inheritance passes from mother to daughter.” Reporter Milène Larsson spent a week in the region, learning more about the Mosuo’s vibrant culture and unique social structure.
- Moving north into Russia, “Sociologists at Moscow’s Finance University” performed a survey to highlight the religious climates of various cities in their country. The survey included Paganism or Neo-Paganism. And, according to that report, the most Pagan or “neo-Pagan” cities are “Komsomolsk-na-Amure, Stavropol, Belgorod, Magnitogorsk, Sterlitamak, Lipetsk, Kostroma, Novorossiisk, Taganrog, and Tula.” The full report is available online in Russian only.
- There was a unicorn on the loose in California last week.
- The Ukiah Daily Journal spoke with local artist Pete Ethan Castro, who has “come home” to share his talents. The article reads, “Native American painter Pete Ethan Castro is a Ukiah-born Wailaki descendant who will be the featured artist at the Corner Gallery.” Castro shared his varied professional experiences as well as his personal spiritual and artistic journey, which once included being a land caretaker for Starhawk. Castro’s art can be seen at the Corner Gallery in Ukiah, California through March.
- Lastly, for something completely different, this hand-drawn animation video has been making festival rounds and earning much applause. The Life of Death was created by Dutch artist Marsha Onderstijn with music by Ramon de Wilde. It celebrates “the day Death fell in love with Life.”