Pagan Community Notes: Canadian university removes Wiccan holidays from calendar, a trio of religious freedom conflicts, and more!

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Crest of the University of Victoria

VICTORIA, British Columbia, Canada – Martlet reported last week that the University of Victoria had removed the eight Wiccan high days from its calendar of religious observances.

The inclusion of various religious observances is important as it allows for students to request time off from classes to observe and celebrate a religiously significant holiday of their faith. In the two previous school years, the calendar included the Wiccan holidays along with the observances for the faiths of Bahá’í, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.

The university defended its decision by citing the fact that there was no Wiccan chaplain represented with Multifaith services, and that the chaplains who do serve in the Multifaith services, work with the University to determine which observances should be included.

A statement by Multifaith services United chaplain, Henri Lock seems to reflect his knowledge of a lack of Wiccan practitioners and community, “I don’t know if there is actually a [Wiccan] community that is functioning right now in Victoria, there probably is, but I’m just not aware of it and they haven’t approached me or Multifaith Services to have a chaplain be appointed.”

Lock went on to say that there had not been a Wiccan chaplain for at least 10 years, though he recalled there was one when he joined Multifaith services in 1992.

The Executive Director of the Office of Equity and Human Rights (EQHR), Cassbreea Dewis’ statement seems to indicate that the lack of  restrictions on secular activities for Wiccans observing their religious holidays also contributed to the decision to remove the dates from the calendar:

The calendar is a guide and reminder of some of the faith observances where adherents are expected to refrain from secular activities like classes or work obligations and a reminder to our community members that they must accommodate in these instances … For instance, through consultation, we learned that with Wiccan observances, there is no governing body nor religious observances requiring adherents to refrain from work or classes.

Chaplain Lock did make clear that there was space available to be booked in the meditation room of the University’s chapel for members of the university that wished to practice their faith. However, the use of the space also requires a chaplain to sponsor the activities. Since there is not currently a Wiccan chaplain, it falls to one of the other chaplains of another faith to accommodate any Wiccans seeking support in their practices or observances.

Dewis also noted that the university has policies in place for accommodating various religious practices and that EQHR is reviewing their practices concerning the calendar. She encouraged those with specific requests or concerns to contact her office directly.

 

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Notre Dame University Seal

William Barr, the United States Attorney General addressed the University of Notre Dame Law School and emphasized support for “traditional” values and declared secularists responsible for “organized destruction” with their “unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.”

While Notre Dame is a Catholic institution, it was highly irregular for a government official and the leader of the US Department of Justice to condemn a demographic in such fashion.

Retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff for Secretary of State, Colin Powell, appeared on MSNBC’s AM Joy with Joy Reid on Sunday morning, roundly condemned Barr’s speech and went on to discuss how proselytizing in the military is problematic and undermines the division of church and state. Wilkerson also mentioned the variety of faiths represented among those enlisted in the military, and specifically named Wiccans. [Wilkerson’s remarks begin at the 5:20 mark in the footage]

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An Indiana Porter County Board of Commissioner’s meeting became heated when the Northern Indiana Atheists (NIA) based in South Bend, Indiana request for a space at an annual event, Holly Days, was continued until the next month and the President of the Commission, Jeff Good told NIA president, Troy Moss to, “Go back to Michiana,” after the vote.

The space requested by the NIA had been occupied by a live nativity scene that will be absent this year. The NIA had originally submitted their request for consideration on August 8 to be included in the August 13 agenda but were told it was submitted too late for inclusion. Yet, the same group who sponsors the live nativity scene, Valparaiso Events, submitted their request on August 12, and it was accepted for the agenda of the meeting on August 13.

The NIA’s request was added to the September agenda but was not considered because no one from NIA was in attendance nor were they advised they needed to attend. In contrast, Valparaiso Events were granted without anyone from their organization being present at the meeting.

Moss said he believes Valparaiso Events was being given preferential treatment, and while Commissioner Jim Biggs disagreed, he went on to say later, “I’m not going to sit up here and promote for you to be there at the same time as someone else to cause trouble,” Biggs said, his voice rising. “No one up here is denying you a date but we will dictate which day that is.” This was in response to Moss’ stressing that NIA wanted the dates they had requested.

TWH will continue to follow this story.

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The Satanic Temple (TST) discovered that internet access to their website was being blocked by Lightspeed Systems, which provides internet filtering services for over 6500 school districts in the U.S., and operates in 35 countries.

In February, TST received emails from several students in two separate school districts, one in Southwest Indiana and another in Ohio, complaining they were unable to view TST’s website on public school computers.

Both the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent letters on behalf of TST to the school districts informing them that restricting access to TST’s website was a form of religious discrimination. Both school districts responded that they had not blocked TST website, but used the internet filtering service, Lightspeed Systems.

Someone at Lightspeed had marked TST’s website content as being “mature” which restricted access. Malcolm Jarry, who serves in TST’s executive ministry said, “There is no mature content on our website, not even an R-rated word.” Nor does the site have any explicit images that would earn such a classification. While both schools were able to unblock web access to TST, Lightspeed estimates it serves as many as 15 million students.

TST has sent letters to Lightspeed Systems requesting they unblock TST and issue an apology. So far there has been no response from Lightspeed Systems. TST covered the matter in their latest newsletter in hopes of bringing awareness of the issue to other students since they have no way of knowing which districts Lightspeed is contracted to.

Not being clients of Lightspeed, they could only file suit against individual school districts as complaints are lodged, but then the school districts would be responsible for filing suit against Lightspeed.

This story is similar to the Veteran’s Administration article we covered last month, where third-party Fortiguard filtering placed restrictions on content and internet access to sites like WitchVox (The Witches’ Voice).

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Cherry Hill Seminary awarded a Master of Divinity, honoris causa (honorary) to Aline O’Brien, also known as M. Macha NightMare, to recognize her many years of service and leadership. The announcement was made at the South Carolina Upstate Pagan Pride Day in the Greenville area after a ritual which was led by O’Brien. As a token of appreciation for her many years of dedication, the Seminary gifted O’Brien with a red silk stole embroidered with the Seminary logo which is reserved for graduates.

In other news:

  • The Witch Depot in Kenner, Louisiana which is just a few miles northwest of New Orleans, has suffered major damage due to a fire. The fire appears to have started sometime in the early morning hours today. The strip mall where the store was located also contained a pet grooming business which was also affected. Firefighter’s rescued two animals, a cat and a parrot from Angel’s Pet Grooming. There are no reported injuries, and the cause of the fire is under investigation.  A GoFundMe has been started to help the store recover and reopen.
  • The Bucks County Courier Times covered the South Jersey Pagan Pride event, interviewing Robert Schreiwer of Heathens Against Hate‘s about what Heathens are doing to reclaim and prevent their sacred symbols from being co-opted by white supremacists. The article also featured a creation by Corrine and Raymond Johnson, of Ewing, New Jersey, the rune Othala made from wood and painted in rainbow colors. They said they created the rainbow rune to reflect inclusiveness. “We have friends who are afraid to wear the rune symbols now because they don’t want people to think they stand for hate,” said Corrine Johnson.
  • The world’s largest ouija board made its debut in Salem Commons Park in Massachusetts on Saturday. The board weighs around 9.000 pounds, and covers 3,168 square feet.  It is comprised of separate sections to construct the massive board, which is composed of 99 sheets plywood that have been covered with over 20 quarts of black paint and 20 gallons of wood stain. The giant planchet which weighs 400 pounds, and is 15 1/2 feet long, is masterfully designed so that one person can actually move it across the massive board.
  • Two new archaeological discoveries in Luxor, Egypt were revealed last Thursday, in the Valley of the Monkeys which is considered an industrial or manufacturing section of the West Valley.  The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities said that Egyptologists have discovered 30 workshops in an area that is “composed of houses for storage and the cleaning of the funerary furniture with many potteries dated to Dynasty 18.” In addition to the area including a water storage tank, excavators also found a scarab ring, hundreds of beads and golden objects, like the wings of Horus, which were used as inlays and to decorate coffins. In the East Valley, also know as the Valley of Kings, the team uncovered yet another tomb, though this one held tools used to construct the ancient tombs.

 

Tarot of the week by Star Bustamonte

 

Deck: Ghosts & Spirits Tarot by Lisa Hunt, published By U.S. Games Systems, Inc.

Card: The Moon, Major arcana 18

This week presents opportunities to trust our intuition, and rely on it to help navigate both internal pathways of our own psyches, as well as those in the mundane world.

 

Decks generously provided by Asheville Raven & Crone.