Pagan Community Notes: Suspected embezzlement reported by Maine Pagans, Wiccan prisoner loses federal appeal, and more!

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PORTLAND, Maine – Last week, two groups, the Maine Pagan Community and The Order of Maine Druidry, published a public post on social media informing the Pagan and affiliated communities of financial discrepancies uncovered in an audit of EarthTides Pagan Network (ETPN).

An Open Letter to the Pagan and Greater Communities

As elders and leaders in the Pagan community, we are obligated to look to the welfare of our community, new seekers and long-term members, of all our varied traditions. We also have a responsibility to the State and our non-Pagan neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens. With this responsibility in mind, we are obligated to report a serious crime and breach of trust.

A recent audit of EarthTides Pagan Network’s finances revealed the unauthorized withdrawal of thousands of dollars. As an NPO (Not for Profit Organization) we have a duty to report suspected activity. Therefore, the suspected embezzlement by the former Treasurer of EPN, Lorelei Jones, was reported to the Department of the Attorney General for investigation.

A collective of community leaders has reviewed the facts surrounding this situation, including statements Lorelei herself has made, and cannot in any manner endorse her as a public representative of the Maine Pagan Community. It is our belief Lorelei should not be leading public ritual, giving sermons, presenting workshops, doing readings, or otherwise promoting herself as a person that others will seek for teaching or guidance. We do not believe her behavior is representative of the Pagan community in any way.

Our goal isn’t punishment or shame. It is truth and reconciliation.

First and foremost in our minds is the protection of our community and all those who come to us seeking a living, earth-based spiritual path. That is why we have put our names to this letter. If anyone would like to speak with us, or a Pagan clergy-person, we are here for you. Please reach out to us.

Yours in service,

Ginger Roberts-Scott
James Lindenschmidt
Janine Marie Gorham
Joie Grandbois
Joy Eosswith Auciello
Julia A. Gustafson
Kerry Robinson
Kevin E. Emmons
Michele A. Littlefield
Nikki Starcat Shields
Paul S. Ridlon
Shannon R. Rooney
William Andrew Perkins

ETPN is a long-standing Pagan organization serving Maine area Pagans and adjacent communities, and providing support and connections for Pagans and other Earth religion groups since 1989.

TWH has reached out to ETPN for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication. We continue to follow this story, and report developments.

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Justice- Pixabay

LANSING, Michigan – The Detroit Free Press reported last week that Macomb Correctional Facility prisoner, Mario Sentelle Cavin, 40, a practicing Wiccan lost his appeal before the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Detroit to celebrate Esbat (lunar) observation rituals communally with other participants.

The Michigan Department of Corrections (MDC) argued before the court that many Wiccans choose to celebrate Esbats in a solitary fashion, so their policy against allowing Cavin to celebrate the lunar observances communally did not violate his civil rights.

The MDC does allow Cavin to participate in observances and celebrations of the eight solar high days or Sabbats in the prison chapel where the use of candles and incense are permitted. On the Esbats, Cavin also has permission to perform his observances in his cell but is not allowed to use candles or incense.

While the court’s decision was in favor of MDC’s policy to not allow Cavin to celebrate Esbats communally, it also said Cavin may have a case under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and sent the case back to U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman in Detroit for further deliberations.

The three judge panel acknowledged that certain rituals tools were not permissible for Cavin’s use in his cell.  The court added that if his cellmate objected or was “unfriendly” to the practice of his religion, it presented an obstacle for his observances. The court went on to give several examples its written opinion:

Consider a prior case. A prison prevented Native American inmates from purchasing “corn pemmican and buffalo meat” for a powwow. Id. The denial, we held, constituted a substantial burden on the inmate’s religious exercise, even though the inmates could access other traditional foods. Id. at 565–66. The same is true here. Barring group worship and preventing access to supplies burdens Cavin’s religious exercise. This burden becomes no less substantial because some—maybe many—Wiccans  celebrate Esbats alone. What matters is that Cavin sincerely believes he should celebrate Esbats communally.

The Supreme Court made this point in a case involving the right of a Muslim prisoner to grow a beard. The prisoner testified that “not all Muslims believe that men must grow beards.” Holt, 135 S. Ct. at 862. After noting that the inmate’s belief wasn’t “idiosyncratic,” the court concluded that other believers’ practices didn’t matter. Id. at 862–63. Why? Because “the protection of RLUIPA, no less than the guarantee of the Free Exercise Clause, is not limited to beliefs which are shared by all of the members of a religious sect.” Id.(quotation omitted).

The court’s decision allows Cavin to continue to his lawsuit in district court.

Cavin is serving a 35 – 60 year sentence for second-degree murder in connection with a homicide committed in 2000 in Lake County, Michigan.

 

In other news:

  • Last Thursday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a cross on public land in the state of Maryland memorializing World War I soldiers could remain in place. The final decision was 7 to 2, but complicated by the case being split in four separate sections with not all of the justices being in agreement on each section. Justice Samuel A. Alito, who wrote the majority decision, said that the cross had basically become secular due its association with WWI memorials of the time.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing the dissenting opinion disagreed, noting that it’s clear what the purpose and meaning of the cross was from the start — it was religious. 
  • On Summer Solstice, Horns Magazine, a publication that features homoerotic content with a focus on the occult released its first edition since 2017. The summer edition is available digitally on its website, as well as past editions.
  • The Amazon Prime TV series, Good Omens, adapted from the Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s 1990 fantasy novel has drawn complaints from some Christians. Return to Order campaign, an offshoot of the US Foundation for a Christian Civilisation offered an online petition that 20,000 people had signed. Among the complaints listed in the petition are that Christians feel the show mocks their beliefs, normalizes devils and Satanists, and portrays the voice of God being that of a woman. Unfortunately for the Return to Order campaign, their original petition mistakenly attributed the series as being on Netflix. They have since corrected the petition to include Amazon as the originator and producer of the show.
  • Brazilian Federal Deputy David Miranda who has been married for 14 years to journalist Glenn Greenwald of “The Intercept” website said in an interview with Universa, that he is part of a group that studies Wicca. Universa asked, “Wicca is a pagan religion, worshiping a god represented by the Sun and animals, and a goddess, represented by the Moon and Earth, correct?” And Miranda answered, “Yes. I am part of a group that ministers rituals and studies the concepts of Wicca. That’s where I learned tarot, runes and numerology. Now, as a federal deputy, it is more difficult to participate.” 
  • Earlier this year, TWH reported on Brandon Trent East, and Dalton Woodward who both were found to have ties to white supremacists and are members of the Heathen Ravensblood Kindred. East, who worked at the Haralson County Jail in Georgia,  resigned his position at the jail reportedly after being told to resign or be fired. Both East and Woodward serve in the National guard, East in Alabama, and Woodward in Georgia. Both men are allegedly being investigated by National Guard to their ties to white supremacy.
  • The German town of Ostritz, which is located near the border with Poland passed a ban on beer in advance of a neo-Nazi festival “Shield and sword” scheduled for last Saturday. The court in Dresden defended its decision on the ban by stating, “the event has an obviously martial and aggressive character”, and there was a risk that alcohol could make violence more likely. Not only did police seize over 4,400 liters of beer, but residents fearing attendees of the event would try to buy beer at the local markets purchased all the remaining beer available.

 

Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

Deck: Unicorn Tarot by Suzanne Star, illustrated by Liz Hilton, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Card: Seven (7) of Swords

 

Be mindful this week of your belongings and your surroundings. The potential for being deceived or having an item lost or stolen is higher than average. By the same token, if you have had something lost or stolen recently, you may see the item returned.

 

Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone