Pagan Community Notes: Matt Schofield, Johnson Amendment, Prayer in Delaware, and more

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13769360_1749775348624456_7386258176044656438_nMILFORD, Utah — The ADF community woke up to shocking news as word spread that member Matt Schofield (1989 – 2017) had committed suicide Mar. 4. Schofield was veteran of the Marine Corps, and reportedly suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Recently his beloved therapy dog, Bear, had gone gone missing, which was reportedly a devastating loss for Schofield. Friends have said that the grief must have been too much to handle.

Born Nov. 27, 1989, Schofield was originally from Milford, Utah. His family moved to Salt Lake City, where Schofield attended Olympus High School, graduating in 2008. He then attended Snow College for one year before joining the Marine Corps. In 2013, Schofield took a job with Marine Corps recruiting, and then eventually moved back to his hometown of Milford. In recent years, he was working as a chef and taking courses through the Academy of Art University, based in San Francisco.

Schofield was a solitary Druid practitioner and was not well-known throughout the national ADF scene. However, he kept online friendship with other Druids, and followed the community happenings. Despite any connection he had made spiritual or otherwise, it did not completely alleviate his suffering. A close friend posted on his memorial page, “Matt fought hard to stay here in this life as long as he could. He had a brave heart and courage to fight as long and as hard as he did. I love him, and will always love him for the spectacular human that he was and his spirit will always continue to be.”

ADF members and others are now sharing phone numbers for support hotlines and organizations that specifically deal with suicide, PTSD, and veteran care. Quoting information from Schofield’s friend Lindsey Smith, Rev. Sean W. Harbaugh, Public Relations Director of ADF posted this statement: “PTSD is real and needs the same amount of attention physical wounds do. If you or someone you love is fighting with PTSD please call the Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.”

Harbaugh also added, “While most ADF priests are not licensed counselors, part of our training is to have a list of resources available to refer you in times of crisis. You’re never alone. Reach out.”  What is remembered, lives.

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united-states-of-america-flag-1462903168JkEUNITED STATES — A statement has been released by members of Our Freedom: A Pagan Civil Rights Coalition on the proposed removal of the Johnson Amendment, the tax code that prevents non-profit organizations from engaging in certain political activities. The statement reads, “On Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, at the National Prayer Breakfast, newly-elected President Donald J. Trump stated that he would ‘totally destroy’ the Johnson Amendment. . . . The leaders herein undersigned oppose any effort to rescind, reverse, and/or repeal the Johnson Amendment. Since 1954 it has been a bulwark in the tax code where it has reinforced both the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”

The coalition is made up of a group of “leaders and liaisons of national Pagan organizations and publications in America, as well as other key individuals who have a strong national presence.” The group was formed in 1993 and has been a working coalition since that point. A list of its past projects is posted online.

Leaders of the coalition felt compelled to speak out on this particular issue because, “as a Constitutionally protected group of minority religions, we are particularly concerned with issues of church and state.”

As a side note, the statement was co-authored by Witch and attorney Dana Eilers, who died shortly after its publication. However, Eilers did live long enough to sign her own name, which the coalition left on the document as memorial to a woman who spent her entire Pagan career fighting for religious freedom.

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Delaware-wilmington-sealWILMINGTON, Del. — Pagan artist Abby Willowroot’s words were used to open a Mar. 2 Wilmington City Council meeting. According to reports, the prayer was given to Council President Hanifa Shabazz “by a minister friend.” The prayer, which was then read before the council, begins, “In humility, gratitude and great joy, we open our hearts, our eyes, our ears, our minds, as we meet to serve our city …” The entire prayer as read is published on the local news site Delaware Online, and it appears to be crafted form a number of nondenominational public meeting prayers written by Willowroot.

Willowroot, who has not yet responded for comment, is an artist and a priestess living in California. She is the founder of the Goddess 2000 project and the Spiral Goddess Grove. She has been an active member of the U.S. Pagan community since the 1960s, and her art work graced the cover of very first issue of Sage Woman published in 1986. In recent years, Willowroot has been vending at Pantheacon, where she offers both her handcrafted wands and jewelry.

The reaction to the reading of her prayer was mixed. President Shabazz, who is Muslim, had advocated for a moment of silence in place of the council’s regular Christian-based prayer. However, the community was unhappy with that choice. Willowroot’s prayer, which she published online for noncommercial use, seemed to be a good middle ground, offering a spiritual blessing without supporting any one particular religion. One city council member, who happens to be a Christian pastor, was not crazy about the idea of using a Pagan prayer, as for her it is not nondenominational. Michelle Harlee said that the source still matters, because it indicates “the spirit behind the prayer.” However, she added that she is willing to go with whatever the community wants.

Rev. Selena Fox, who has delivered invocations before government meetings herself and has been a longtime advocate of inclusive prayer, said, “I appreciate the universalism of the prayer and am glad that it is being used and that others know about this. If there is to be prayer at public meetings with those of many religions, spiritualities, and philosophies present, it is good to have something that has a universal dimension.”

The prayer will reportedly be used to open meeting for the next four years.

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Coming up this week: we will be looking at hate crimes in Canada, the Johnson Amendment and how it affects Pagan organizations, and whether or not someone can file copyright claims to a holiday. 

In Other News

  • Tuatha Dea had a surprise on its recent trip to Florida. While playing at a house concert in central Florida Feb. 26, the police were called for noise violations. The concert had to be shut down. However, members of the band were upbeat, saying that the audience and most of the neighbors were supportive. Attendees reported back that a fun time was had by all. Tuatha Dea is continuing on with their regular schedule.
  • Priestess Maya Sparks was part of a local initiative to stop a cell tower from being built in her area, reportedly near a lake and library. Sparks announced on Facebook that the protest was triumphant. The city’s planning commission voted no to the project. In her post, Sparks added, “We beat the corporation and protected the property values and health of people as well as the precious ecology of a lake surviving in an urban development zone. We can make a big difference in local government!”
  • Harmony Tribe, based in Minnesota, is running a crowdfunding campaign to help them rebuild. On the campaign site, the board says, “Our infrastructure and capital equipment is old and failing. We have continued our commitment to our people, placing subsidizing admission cost for those in need of a spiritual community ahead of replacing our decaying structures.” Now the organization is asking for community help. They need $4,800 to restore their infrastructure and continue to develop their programming. Harmony Tribe is the sponsor and host of the annual Sacred Harvest Festival.
  • Bryan Boring Van Unen, known as Bran Cerddorion, launched an Indiegogo campaign to support his new album project.The album will be called King of Dreams. Cerrdorion said, “I’ve been playing Pagan music for awhile, releasing my first album, Four Branches, in 2015, and my second album, The Hour Before the Dawn, the following year. My music springs from inspiration and thoughts of Nature, Peace, Stories, and Dreams.” The campaign has one month left.
  • In Wild Hunt news, this month we will be launching a brand new monthly column focused solely on music. Wild Hunt journalist Nathan Hall will be developing and producing this work in order to keep up with a very active Pagan music scene. He’ll be sharing the latest news and discussing issues faced by that community of artists. Look for the TWH music column later in the month.
  • Lastly, March 8 marks International Woman’s Day. Events are planned throughout the world, including one at Circle Sanctuary. Rev. Selena Fox will be presenting a Goddess Magic workshop at Circle’s temple near Barneveld, Wisconsin. Fox said, “I also will be doing a special Nature Folk podcast on Tuesday night, March 7.”