ALLEGANY, N.Y. – On May 28, Pauline Hoffmann, Ph.D filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in the Western District of New York alleging religious and gender discrimination charges against Saint Bonaventure University.
Hoffmann alleges that she was passed over for the position of provost, and forced to resign as dean of the Jandoli School of Communication due to her religious practice as a Wiccan. The university assigned both provost and dean positions to male professors.
In several news reports, Hoffman stated that the issues with the university began after she agreed to give an interview to the student television station to discuss Wicca in October 2011. She states that she advised her boss of her intent to talk about Wicca and her practice of the religion prior to doing the interview.
It was shortly after that then-Provost Michael Fischer asked Hoffmann to sign a document, “vowing to uphold Catholic values,” according to the complaint.
Hoffman allegedly responded by asking, “If I were Jewish would I have to sign this?”
Fischer reportedly replied, according to the complaint, “If you were Jewish, then I guess not.”
In a separate incident, Fischer allegedly told Hoffman that she “might not want to be so overt about being a witch” if she wanted “to move up.”
Other examples cited of possible discrimination include the then-president of St. Bonaventure, Sister Margaret Carney telling Hoffman, “[I] took a big chance hiring you as a Wiccan.” Later, a colleague allegedly told her that “Sister Margaret really has it in for you.”
Prior to filing her lawsuit against the university, Hoffmann had also filed a complaint in February with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). She opted to proceed with legal action after exhausting the options offered by the EEOC. The Commission provided Hoffmann with what is known as a “Right to Sue” letter.
Hoffmann, who has been a practicing Wiccan for about 20 years, is seeking in her lawsuit compensation for loss of income, medical bills from therapy, and damages for pain and suffering. She also wishes to be reinstated in her position as dean.
The university has offered no comment beyond the chief communications officer, Tom Missel stating, “Since this is both a personnel and legal matter, it’s not our policy or appropriate for the university to comment on the case.”
The attorneys Lindy Korn and Richard J. Perry representing Hoffmann and specializing in discrimination cases said the number of cases they have taken on have doubled. According to the statistics published by the N.Y. Division of Human Rights there has been an increase of 7% in the number of complaints filed in 2017-2018, over 6300, and 84% of those complaints were employment complaints.
Between 2010 and 2017 over a million cases of discrimination complaints were filed with the EEOC. Of those cases, 82% of complainants received no compensation. Over all, religious discrimination complaints have been on the rise since late 2001 after the September 11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center Twin Towers. The majority of discrimination cases have involved those who are Muslim.
TWH will continue to follow this story, and report any new developments.
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TWH – Authors Tony Kail and Jack Montgomery announced on Facebook the formation of a new publishing company. John the Conqueror Publishing is an independent press dedicated to the preservation of the culture, folklore and history of American folk traditions.
The first book scheduled for release from the newly minted press is “The Art of Conjure: Curios and Curiosities of Southern Hoodoo Culture.” The release is set for July 20, 2019 during the Mystic South Conference in Atlanta Georgia.
“The Art of Conjure: Curios and Curiosities of Southern Hoodoo Culture” features never-before seen full-color photographs of Hoodoo curios manufactured in the Mid-South. The book focuses on the history and images of early curio manufacturers and the role that they played in Southern Hoodoo culture. It contains vintage advertisements of oils, powders and herbs from legendary companies like Curio Products, Keystone Laboratories and Lucky Heart Cosmetics are featured, including color photographs of catalogs, ads, and curio labels.
In response to the many positive comments Tony Kail posted, “Thank you everyone for your kind comments and enthusiasm. We are humbled and appreciative. It is our goal to continue to honor those who have untold stories and to illustrate the influence that these traditions had and continue to have on the survival and spirit of humanity.”
Kail and Montgomery have presented a variety of workshops and lectures on Hoodoo traditions in the south, as well being the curators of the traveling West Tennessee Museum of Southern Hoodoo.
They describe the museum as “a traveling exhibition of ethnographic and historical artifacts preserving and presenting the cultural history of hoodoo and folk practices in the Memphis and Mississippi Delta region. The collection chronicles the arrival of Africans to the Mid-South and the survival of African religious and folk cultures amidst slavery and segregation.”
And that it is “dedicated to telling the story of hoodoo as a survival of African traditional cultures. The sharing of this story is to preserve, share and make sure these traditional ways are known to a new generation. The ‘lost’ history of the culture and heritage of hoodoo in the Mid-South is a story that must be told.”
They describe the purpose of the museum as being “to collect oral histories, photographs, folklore, memorabilia, and to preserve artifacts related to the history and story of the hoodoo culture in Memphis and throughout the Mississippi Delta.” And to “dispel myths related to African diaspora culture and to bring attention to the important role that hoodoo culture played in the lives of practitioners in the Southern United States.”
In other news:
- Venezuelan-born journalist David Placer released a new book, “El dictador y sus demonios: La secta de Nicolás Maduro que secuestró a Venezuela” (The Dictator and His Demons: The Maduro Sect that Kidnapped Venezuela) that discusses the use of Witchcraft by those in power. Placer claims that Nicolas Maduro was influenced by late Indian spiritual guru Sathya Sai Baba and that nearly all recent presidents of Venezuela have been adherents of witchcraft. Placer says that every Venezuelan president since 1958, with the exception of Rafael Caldera, has used black magic, and employed the use of brujos to tell the future, warn them of conspiracies and other dangers, and crush their rivals and enemies. Placer who currently lives in Madrid, Spain is in the U.S. promoting his book and giving lectures.
- Dameon Dean Cantrell, 38, was arrested just north of Tampa, Florida in Pasco county after entering a Walmart store and pouring salt on the floor. He allegedly told authorities that it was to rid the place of evil spirits. Cantrell is homeless and was found by police lying under some trees in a wooded area near the store.
- Police in Bryan, Texas are searching for a woman who claimed to be bruja and has allegedly scammed members of the community out of thousands of dollars. According to investigators, the woman read cards and performed “healings” as a way to gain client’s trust, and then would perform a trick where she would double the money by transforming one dollar into two. She allegedly told one victim and his family to collect as much money as they could and she would pray over it and make it multiply. He took her over $30,000 to “double.” When he returned to collect his money, the building she had been operating out of was vacant and calls to the number for her went unanswered.
- A house in St Osyth, England that allegedly is one of the most notorious and haunted places in Britain is on the market again. The house called “The Cage” is said to have been a 16th Century prison to those accused of being witches and awaiting trial. Vanessa Mitchell, the current owner of the house bought it in 2004, and has tried two previous times since 2008 to sell the property. She claimed that she was attacked by malevolent spirits in 2008 and could no longer live in the house. She moved into another residence in the nearby village. The property is popular with paranormal investigators and has been featured on a number of shows. It has also been the subject of a docu-drama and a book. The asking price for the property this time is £260,000 (~US$329,888).
- Online registration for Thor’s Oak Kindred team in the Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race against Hate closes tomorrow. The 5/10k Run Walk sponsored by the YWCA, memorializes the events of June 16, 1999 when Ricky Byrdsong, a Northwestern basketball coach was murdered in Evanston, Illinois by a white supremacist while walking in his neighborhood with his young children. On the same day, the shooter wounded six Orthodox Jews. Over the subsequent weekend, he killed a Korean-American graduate student and wounded an African-American minister before taking his own life.
- Last week Urglaawe Heathen denomination held its Observance of the Desecrated Shrines. The ritual listed as pan-Pagan and open to all people who wished “to honor of those deities whose shrines were destroyed, damaged, and disrespected through the actions of missionaries and zealots. The lore of many of these deities was lost in the persecution of those who held to the old ways, and there may be many more deities who are now completely unknown to us.”
Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte
Deck: The Spiral Tarot by Kay Stevensson, published by U.S. Games Systems, Inc.
Card: Four (4) of Swords
The week ahead may call for taking a step back in order to evaluate proposed decisions or changes. Allow for adequate recovery time from challenges to health or other situations that have proven difficult. Decisions made in haste or pushing ahead too quickly are likely to produce undesirable results.
Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone