Pagan responses to zero-tolerance immigration policies

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TWH — The current White House policy of zero tolerance for immigrants and asylum seekers has resulted in forced separation of families, and now a modified policy is resulting in the indefinite incarceration of families. Many people, including Pagans, have publicly opposed these positions.

Pagans at Asheville NC protest [S. Bustamonte]

The Wild Hunt has collected statements by Pagan groups and individuals, which show how Pagan values and virtues can inform current political discussion. Pagans, however, are not a monolithic group, and cannot even agree on a definition of Paganism. These statements are neither representative of all Pagans, nor are they meant to be. By press time, no Pagan groups or individuals that support this policy had responded to direct requests for comment.

Statements of groups emphasizing Pagan family values

The Order of the Red Grail has issued a statement quoting the Emma Lazarus poem, “The New Colossus.” It went on to describe the current policy as neglectful and abusive. Their statement linked this policy to previous U.S. policies of family destruction. The slave trade, both internal and external, separated families for a profit. Native American children were sent away from their families to boarding schools. These schools were supposed to teach Native American children “American” ways. During World War II, the U.S. government held entire Japanese-American families against their will in internment camps for the duration of that war.

The statement expressed a sense of national shame. “We are embarrassed and ashamed of the tyrannical, bigoted racists that praise and wish to emulate dictators. We search for ways to heal the Wasteland and assist the disenfranchised, in service to the Great Mother, under whom we are all children.”

The Northern California Local Council of the Covenant of the Goddess issued a statement expressing opposition to detention centers, and supporting both family reunification and speedy judicial immigration processing. Their statement upheld “the sacred bonds of kinship.” Their statement also referenced the Statue of Liberty as Lady Liberty, and the Emma Lazarus poem.

The New Colossus
by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

(Inscribed on a bronze plaque inside the pedestal of The Statue of Liberty)

Another local Council of CoG, the Everglades Moon Council, has issued a statement which included, “We reject any assertion that the forced separation of otherwise healthy families is ever appropriate. We condemn all such actions as being abusive to children and adults.”  Similarly, Southern California Local Council issued its own statement: “We have made the grave mistake of demonizing and incarcerating entire groups of people in the past to our profound regret and disgrace. We must not let this situation continue.”

Asheville protest [S. Bustamonte]

The Troth’s statement condemns “the separation of families and the incarceration of children. We call upon Congress and the White House to end this inhumane policy, to stop using these children to score political points, and to work together to develop sensible immigration laws.”

Statements of groups emphasizing Pagan virtues

Hellenion has issued a statement emphasizeingthe virtues of hospitality and justice, as well as the hearth values of Hestia. Members called on Hestia Polyolbos (of the many blessings), Zeus Herkeios (of the courtyard), Zeus Xenios (of hospitality to atrangers), Demeter, Megala Meter (Great Mother), and Persephone Praxidike (exacter of justice).

The Creative Flame issued a statement emphasizing the virtue of justice. They stressed that “justice embodies fair judgement and swift right action and let us each embody the essence of justice.”

At least one Pagan group has issued a statement on this issue for their members only. That statement has a lot in common with the public statements of other Pagan groups.

Remarks from individual Pagans

Liv Blackfox stressed the virtues of equality, empathy, and decency, observing a lack of these in the current administration. “Basic decency should be a given. Trump’s immigration stance, as well as many of his other policies, utterly lack empathy and decency. His stance is not that of a man who we should consider a positive example of humanity. We, humanity, should strive to lift each other up, to evolve morally and spiritually.” Blackfox continued, “My path teaches enlightenment, not regression into cruelty.”

Thorn Coyle has worked with the Portland, Oregon protest camp against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This camp blocked access to the I.C.E. building in Portland. Pagans built altars as part of the camp. The presence of the camp forced the Portland I.C.E. building to temporarily close. On June 28, agents of Department of Homeland Security cleared the camp, and reopened the building.

Coyle bases her opposition to this policy on the Pagan virtue of “welcoming the stranger.” She found inspiration in the Odyssey and the Havamal, among other sacred Pagan texts. Coyle feels people have an obligation to welcome the stranger, to “invite them in. To feed them and listen to their stories.”

She continued, “Ripping families apart is a long-held tool of domination and oppression. We, the people, can insist on a different way. We can envision systems, not of oppression, but of mutual aid and respect, grounded in the reality of interconnection and the wild and beautiful diversity of holy nature itself.” These beliefs and values drove her to be “at the I.C.E. building in Portland on an almost daily basis these past two weeks.” Rather than rail against injustice, Coyle described what she wanted society to become. “I support community. I want to live in a diverse society, because diversity is natural and healthy. I want to live in a compassionate society, because to do otherwise is to poison one another, over and over again.”

Mykel Mogg spoke as an individual member of Bay Area Reclaiming, but not for the organization. He emphasized respect for all beings. “We know that criminalization, incarceration, and deportation go against our belief that all living beings are worthy of respect. Our signs, songs, chants, and sidewalk chalk have carried our spells and prayers to abolish I.C.E., to decriminalize migration, to reject complacency, and to invoke liberation for all people.”

Many of these statements referenced the Statue of Liberty and its associated poem. In some ways, the Statue of Liberty has become a folk Goddess, Lady Liberty. Inside the pedestal of that statue, a bronze plaque displays the famous Emma Lazurus poem, “The New Colossus.”  For some, that poem is considered Lady Liberty’s blessing.

[Wikimedia Commons.]

Paganism in its many forms has developed an ethical system based on its values and virtues, rather than the recorded arbitrary rules of one god. These Pagan ethical systems can inform political debate. The statements above reflect that development.

As of recent reports, the Portland protest has now become viral, to use an internet term,and is spreading throughout the country to other cities. We’ll report back on as the story develops.