Local media in Ohio are reporting on the arrest of Daniel Hess and live-in girlfriend Lacey Day for the sexual assault of a 15-year-old family member. NBC affiliate WTAP noted that Hess and Day admitted to the sexual acts, and that according to police deputies the victim seemed to be there willingly. Hess allegedly told police that the sexual acts were part of the Wiccan faith. “We’ve been conducting the investigation for about the last two weeks. It came to our attention through another public service agency within the county,” said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks. Upon his arrest, Hess maintained the assault was a result of his religious beliefs, according to the sheriff. “The guy sort of alluded to the fact the reason he did it was his belief in Wicca,” Mincks explained.
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! Creating a Coalition: Peter Dybing, National First Officer, Covenant of the Goddess, who recently led a successful effort to raise 30,000 dollars for Doctors Without Borders, proposes the formation of a “Pagan Relief Services Coalition” that would respond to the needs of Pagans in times of disaster.
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.
Yesterday the noted Pagan author, activist, and teacher T. Thorn Coyle, in a three part series on her blog, tackles the issue of teachers and leaders with “feet of clay”. Specifically, she discusses the controversy-loving Frosts (that would be Gavin and Yvonne Frost of The Church and School of Wicca), their ongoing defence of largely indefensible sexual politics, and processing a recent panel she ran where she allowed them to participate. “I am struggling with the Frosts. Struggling because it would be too easy to do as others have which is to demonize them or relegate them to the “sweet old couple.” They are something far more varied than either of these.
Does religion harm or heal? Believers and skeptics have long argued over the benefits and drawbacks regarding a belief in unseen forces and powers for ages. Confusing the issue further are those times when faith commingles with mental illness and breeds murderers and monsters. Pagan religions and other minority faiths are hardly immune from these tragedies. One year ago Lawrence Douglas Harris, who had been involved in modern Paganism (and later Satanism), killed his two young step-daughters in what he called a spell that “had gone bad”.