Quick Notes: James Ray, Summum, and a Haitian Pastor

James Arthur Ray is Free (for now): Just a few quick news notes for you this Sunday, starting with the news that New Age motivational speaker James Arthur Ray, charged with manslaughter in the deaths of three people at a sweat lodge ceremony he led, has been released on bail. “James Arthur Ray walked out of a Camp Verde jail at 11:10 a.m. [2/26], according to Yavapai County Jail Sgt. Dee Huntley. Ray gained his freedom after Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Warren Darrow lowered Ray’s bond Thursday from $5 million to $525,000. Ray has pleaded not guilty to three counts of manslaughter stemming from a sweat lodge ceremony he led near Sedona in October.” Ray’s bond was lowered after his lawyers argued that he’s broke, and couldn’t afford to pay $5 million dollars. While he’s free until his trial, Ray had to surrender his passport, and is barred from performing any ceremonies that could potentially harm someone.

What the Summum Decision Means

Yesterday the Supreme Court handed down a decision regarding the case of Pleasant Grove City, UT v. Summum, The competing issues at hand were if a government body has the right to unrestricted free speech (including religious speech), and the idea that public land equals a public forum (with the government as caretakers, not gatekeepers). An argument that emerged when the New Age/UFO religion Summum wanted a monument to their Seven Principles placed in the same park as a Ten Commandments display. The unanimous opinion of the court was that in this particular instance the local government’s free speech claims trumped Summum’s free speech claims.
“The case centered on Pleasant Grove City, Utah, which displays a Ten Commandments monument in a public park. A religious group called Summum sought the right to erect its “Seven Aphorisms” in the park as well. When city officials declined, Summum sued, arguing that its free-speech rights had been violated.

(Pagan) News of Note

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.Author and ceremonial magician Donald Michael Kraig sings the praises of Silver Raven Wolf for the Llewellyn Journal.”I was very impressed with what she was doing. Silver and I wrote to each other several times. It was clear to me that she knew more than most people about Paganism, writing, publishing, and marketing. It was inevitable that I would ask her the following question: “So when are you going to write a book?” She was too busy and had never written anything in such a long format, she replied, but I have to admit that I recognized a writer and knew that just as my question and encouragement was inevitable, there would be an inevitable result.”Kraig, while heartily endorsing RavenWolf’s new book, also discusses how he met her through the (seemingly) now-defunct Wiccan/Pagan Press Alliance. Perhaps, in the age of blogs, e-zines, and podcasts, a new and revitalized press alliance is needed?Side-Line Magazine interviews Olaf Parusel, the mastermind behind the classic darkwave band sToa, about his band’s new album “Silmand”, stoic philosophy, and working with famed “faerie” musician Louisa John-Krol.”Louisa and [I] know each other from the old times on [the] Hyperium-Label.

The Supremes and Summum

Longtime readers of this blog will remember that I have been harping on the case Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, argued before the Supreme Court yesterday, as being an important test case on the issue of government-sponsored religious displays, and the rights of minority religions regarding full inclusion.”The outcome of this case is going to be a big deal for religious minorities. Remember the battles over Pagan inclusion in government-sponsored religious displays in Green Bay and Ohio? A SCOTUS decision here could all but force local government bodies to enact a fully-open policy concerning religious displays on government-controlled property. In other words, the local city council or mayor couldn’t pick and choose which religious displays are worthy to be placed with a Nativity Scene or Ten Commandments monument. It would be all or nothing.”Since oral arguments in the case yesterday, the issues of governmental “free speech”, the full inclusion of minority faiths in the public square, and the separation of Church and State are getting quite a bit of attention from the mainstream press.

Religious Monuments Case Coming Up

The Washington Times reminds us that the Supreme Court’s upcoming docket (they resume hearing cases in October) will feature a case that could have far-reaching implications for minority religions.”Religious doctrine is on the docket with Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, in which the Supreme Court is asked whether the city of Pleasant Grove, Utah, can display the Ten Commandments on a monument in a city park as a matter of free speech. The small Summum sect argues that if the city displays the Ten Commandments, it also should display their belief’s Seven Aphorisms. City officials refused, which sent the dispute to the Supreme Court. “The betting money is that Pleasant Grove will come out ahead in this,” said Tom Goldstein, a partner in the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld.”I discussed Pleasant Grove City v. Summum in some depth back in April. The court’s ruling could ultimately decide if local government can control which (religious) monuments are erected, or if public parks should be treated more as an “open forum”.”The outcome of this case is going to be a big deal for religious minorities. Remember the battles over Pagan inclusion in government-sponsored religious displays in Green Bay and Ohio?