Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started! Counting Pagans in the UK: In one month, the 2011 British census will begin.
Top Story: Richard Batholomew points us to an investigative news program on Channel 4 in the UK that exposes an underground of naming and exorcising child “witches” in African evangelical churches. Reporter Juliana Oladipo, who went undercover as a “troubled teen” for the story, shares her frightening experiences amongst Britain’s witch-hunters. “Throughout the undercover filming process, I was confused and physically harassed by large male pastors. I was screamed at and accused of being possessed by an evil demon. As far as these pastors were concerned, I was 15 years old and had been locking my bedroom door at night … The people that these unholy African priests are targeting are on the whole ostracised by society.
I’m going to stray a bit from my normal routine, and propose an actual initiative for our community to undertake. Considering recent cases within our community concerning the sexual abuse of children, and the larger context of news-making abuse cases within non-Pagan faith intuitions, I feel that a voluntary statement of ethics put forward and enforced by Pagan leaders, groups, event organizers, media outlets, and organizations could go a long way towards fostering an atmosphere that would support victims, discourage would-be abusers, and potentially avert some cases of abuse. I understand that any undertaking that attempts to gain the support of any sizable percentage of the larger Pagan community can be fraught with drama, dissent, and backlash, but I feel this is something worth the effort, and the process will have The Wild Hunt’s support at every stage. Every stage of this process, so long as I am a part of it, will be opt-in and voluntary. No group, individual, or legal entity will be strong-armed into participating, or demonized if they feel they can’t sign on to the finished product.
Back in December I reported on the arrest of Daniel Doherty, who was charged with raping and molesting a Washington woman from the ages of 11 to 19, telling her it was “pleasing the goddess” to endure his sexual assaults. “The woman claimed that Doherty raped and molested her from the ages of about 11 to 19. She said the sexual assaults were frequent, usually one or more times a week. “He convinced her that she should keep their relationship a secret, and that the sexual acts were part of a Druid religion where they were pleasing the Goddess, Epona,” Price wrote. The woman claimed Doherty sexually assaulted her every Equinox and Solstice in “celebration,” the report states.
Top Story: While traditional media outlets continue to cut back on their coverage of religion, there’s been a slow expansion on the Internet. Beliefnet, one of the first Internet religion-news hubs, continues to reign supreme in terms of size and traffic, but it’s starting to see some competition from sites like Patheos and the Newsweek/Washington Post-supported On Faith. Now, another new-media contender is entering the God(s)-beat, as the left-leaning Huffington Post launches a religion section. Site founder Arianna Huffington explains:
“Like all our sections, HuffPost Religion will bring you the latest news — in this case about all things religion-related — served up in the HuffPost style. It will also be home to an open and fearless dialogue about all the ways religion affects both our personal and our public lives.