What Religious Exemptions Look Like in Practice

With the recent legalizing of same-sex marriages in the state of New York there also came a lot of talk about religious exemptions. These additions to the bill’s language were seen as critical to passage, and they exempt clergy and all religious institutions from having to accommodate same-sex couples looking to get married. During this process of negotiation some wanted even greater exemptions, which would include private businesses owned by individuals who had a religious objection to same-sex marriage. Thankfully, those expanded exemptions did not make it into the final language, and the legal status quo remained in place. Jennifer Pizer, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles and an expert on sexual orientation and discrimination, says that’s par for the course in America: You can’t let religious beliefs affect commercial decisions. “People are free to hold these views – they’re not just free to hold those views, they’re protected.” But, she said, “the current legal system does not permit people engaged in business to discriminate based on the proprietors’ own religious views.” Pizer said the New York debate over exemptions hearkens back to a time when religious views were used to justify racial segregation and opposition to equal-pay-for-equal-work legislation.

Unleash the Hounds! (Link Roundup)

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but apparently Osama bin Laden was killed. PNC-Minnesota has reactions from the local Pagan community. Zaratha “will not apologize for rejoicing in Osama bin Laden’s death, ” Lori Dake thanks the troops, Star Foster is conflicted, and Erynn Rowan Laurie wonders if that means the troops get to come home now. The town of Bel Air in Maryland has overturned its total ban on fortune telling.

On Faith: Carole A. Smith and Pagans in the Workplace

I have a special editorial up at the Washington Post’s On Faith section about the religiously-motivated firing of Pagans, and the case of Carole A. Smith, who was seemingly fired from the TSA for her adherence to Wicca. What happened to Carole A. Smith is, sadly, all too common a story for many pagans. Smith, a TSA agent in Albany, NY, endured bizarre claims, indifferent superiors, workplace harassment, and finally, termination. Like many pagans, she wasn’t officially fired for being a pagan, but was subject to a “death from a thousand cuts,” where every minor slip-up is obsessively cataloged until a legally acceptable threshold for dismissal is reached. This was starkly conveyed when msnbc.com revealed an email exchange between two of Smith’s supervisors: the first read, “Hammer Time,” with the response, “Not yet – not enough.” Because Smith works at the TSA, a government agency, her story is now making headlines, and her chances of proper legal recourse are increased because of it.

Unleash the Hounds! (Link Roundup)

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up. Are feminists less religious? Feminist sociologist Kristin Aune, looking at data from a survey of British feminists she co-conducted for the book “Reclaiming the F Word: The New Feminist Movement” notes that “feminists are much less likely to be religious, but a little more likely to be interested in alternative or non-institutional kinds of spirituality.” She jokes that perhaps Pat Robertson was right, and feminism does “lead women to reject traditional religion.”

Commission Finds Widespread Distrust of Pagans in Australia

The Australian Human Rights Commission is publishing a new report today on attitudes towards religion, and the results don’t seem to be very favorable for religious minorities in that country. “Distrust of Muslims and hostility towards homosexuals and pagans remain widespread in Australia, a new Australian Human Rights Commission report to be published today says. […] genuine religious differences have not become any easier to manage. Pagans (nature-based religions, such as Wicca) in particular claim to face prejudice and discrimination.” The Pagan Awareness Network in Australia has issued a press release on the matter, noting the many challenges that adherents to modern Pagan faiths still face.