On the last day of February and the first day of March, the corpse of evangelical Christian minister Billy Graham was presented for public viewing in the rotunda of the United States Capitol Building. Graham was only the fourth private citizen whose body was honored in a ritual normally reserved for presidents, elected officials, and military officers. The only other exceptions to the rule have been civil rights icon Rosa Parks and two Capitol Police officers who died in the line of duty, Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson. Graham is the first religious leader to be awarded this honor by the government of the United States of America. The first clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Laying out a preacher’s dead body in the central building of the nation’s legislative branch does not establish his form of Christianity as an official federal religion, of course, but it is a bold break with 166 years of tradition at the Capitol, and it clearly gives an official stamp of approval to a man who made his living selling one branch of one faith.
UNITED STATES — As November looms ever closer, Americans continue to grapple with the many issues and the rheteroic surrounding the 2016 Presidential election process. The national conventions for the Democratic and Republican parties are now over, and candidates officially declared. At the same time, the smaller Libertarian and Green parties have also declared candidates. To date, this race has been one of the most contentious, and only promises to continue in that vein. One of the most critical issues for Pagans, Heathens and polytheists is a candidate’s position on religious freedom and the protections granted by the First Amendment.
There are a lot of people out there who have misguided, distorted, or willfully wrong attitudes about modern Pagan religions, and this can become a problem when those individuals start running for elected offices that will affect the lives of Pagans living in the state or district under their potential influence. Such is the case with E.W. Jackson, a Christian minister and Republican nominee for Lt. Governor of Virginia. As Mother Jones reports, Jackson opined about Witches, Buddhists, and other non-Christian “spiritual” people in his 2008 book “Ten Commandments To An Extraordinary Life.” “There are those who engage in witchcraft, fortune telling, Tarot Card, tea leaf and palm reading and other “spiritual” practices. These practices are wrong and dangerous.
Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann today announced that she would not be seeking re-election to her seat in 2014. While partisans on both sides of the left-right divide can speculate on why she has chosen to do this, I think it’s important to take a quick look at the legacy left by her somewhat unorthodox and highly effective mixture of (politically and socially) conservative Christian populism. Specifically, I think it’s important to showcase how religious minorities (including modern Pagans) were made increasingly anxious by the affiliations she celebrated and stances she took. “We’re in a state of crisis where our nation is literally ripping apart at the seams right now, and lawlessness is occurring from one ocean to the other. And we’re seeing the fulfillment of the Book of Judges here in our own time, where every man doing that which is right in his own eyes—in other words, anarchy.”
Last night, aside from a few hold-outs, a prevailing consensus formed about the election that won President Barack Obama a second term, and kept the Senate in Democratic control despite unfavorable odds: America’s demographics have shifted. “The white establishment is now the minority,” Bill O’Reilly, one of the network’s most famous personalities, said earlier this evening. “The demographics are changing: It’s not a traditional America anymore.” Minutes later, former Gov. Mike Huckabee would slam his own party for failing to reach out to non-white voters. “I think Republicans have done a pathetic job of reaching out to people of color,” Huckabee said during an appearance on Fox. “That’s something we’ve got to work on. It’s a group of people that frankly should be with us based on the real policy of conservatism.”
But the erosion of “traditional” America wasn’t simply about fewer white voters, it was also about women, and younger voters, who defied the ever-popular notion that they are politically apathetic.