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The "Burning Times Award" given to Governor Mike Johanns of Nebraska

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burntime.gif (5152 bytes)1 The award:

Occasionally, a North American political figure makes a statement or performs an act that is profoundly religiously intolerant or which violates the federal constitution in a major way. We now recognize such events by issuing a Burning Times award. More details about the award. This award was given to the Governor of Nebraska, Mike Johanns on 1999-MAY-8 in recognition of being the North American political figure whose behavior most closely exemplifies the spirit of the Witch burning times of the 15th to 18th centuries.

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Governor Mike Johanns:

On 1999-MAY-6, newly elected Governor Mike Johanns of Nebraska, a Republican, 6 is reported to have signed a proclamation for the "March for Jesus Day" to be held on 1999-MAY-22. 2 The proclamation reads in part: "March for Jesus Day was established as a time for us to join together as people of many faiths so that we may pay homage to our divine authority."

This proclamation, like many others in the same month for the National Day of Prayer, is clearly unconstitutional. Both violate the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment to the U.S Constitution - the clause that mandates the separation of church and state. Carole Shields, president of People for the American Way Foundation noted: "This action, far from promoting religious faith and freedom, would undermine it by creating a second-class status for all faiths other than Christianity in Nebraska." Actually, Shields is wrong. Muslims also revere Jesus as a great prophet. They would presumably be welcome to participate in the march....but then, perhaps not.

Both the Lincoln Journal-Star 2 and the Omaha World-Herald 4 reported that Governor Johanns said that he would sign similar proclamations for some other religions: "I wouldn't hesitate to sign a proclamation for the Jewish faith, Hinduism, whatever....so long as it doesn't require me to sign something I personally don't agree with."

Reporter Fred Napp then asked a hypothetical question: "How about [a proclamation supporting] Wicca?" Johanns is reported as saying: "What's that"?  The Omaha World-Herald wrote that "When he learned that Wicca was an earth-based pagan religion that comes from the old English word for witch, Johanns said there would be no Wiccan proclamation." "Nope," he allegedly said. "Something that I personally disagree with, I'm not going to sign it."

An unidentified writer for the Lincoln Journal-Star commented that "gays and lesbians have previously criticized Johanns for not signing proclamations for gay pride events." 2

Rev. Wren Walker of the Witches' Voice issued a press release on MAY-7 urging Governor Johanns to rescind the March for Jesus Day proclamation and to apologize for his anti-Witch remarks. 5 The press release asked the governor to "remember that Nebraska- as well as the entire nation- is a land of diverse religious beliefs, all of which are considered equal under the law."

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Governor Johanns' Award:

We feel that Governor Johanns' statements and actions are sufficiently bigoted to warrant receipt of our first Burning Times Award. Our decision is based on his:

bulletViolation of the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which mandates the principle of church-state separation, and prohibits either the promotion or the inhibition of religion by any governmental body or official; and
bulletCreation of a two-tiered system of religions in Nebraska; and
bulletInability to separate his political responsibility to represent all citizens in his state from his own personal religious beliefs; and
bulletRelegation of Wiccans to second-class citizenship in his state; and
bulletRelegation of gays and lesbians to second-class citizenship in his state.

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Further developments in the Nebraska case:

bulletBack to the Bible Day: Governor Johanns proclaimed 1999-JUN-19 as "Back to the Bible Day." in honor of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Back to the Bible group. This is a Fundamentalist Christian organization located in Nebraska. Meanwhile, Jason Blodgett-McDeavitt, high priest of the Order of the Red Grail, has asked the governor to sign a proclamation for Earth Religion Awareness Day to be observed on 1999-JUN-21. This would recognize the summer solstice, a festival which is celebrated by many Neopagan, and Native groups. Governor Johanns has refused to sign such a proclamation. When asked why, his spokesperson said: "On the issue of signing the proclamation, [Governor] Johanns has said that he doesn't believe in that."

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References:

  1. The image was taken from the website "The Killings of Witches: A Chronicle of the Burning Times" at: http://www.illusions.com/burning/ 
  2. "Johanns signs proclamation for 'March for Jesus Day'," Lincoln Journal-Star, Lincoln, NE, 1999-MAY-6. Accessible online at: http://www.journalstar.com/archives/050699/neb/sto3
  3. People for the American Way Foundation has a home page at: http://www.pfaw.org/
  4. Nancy Hicks, "Johanns to boost faith but not Pagan religion," Omaha World-Herald, Omaha NE, 1999-MAY-6.
  5. News release, 1999-MAY-7, The Witches' Voice, Clearwater, FL. their website is at: http://www.witchvox.com
  6. Governor Mike Johanns may be reached via:
    Mail: Office of the Governor, P.O. Box 94848, Lincoln, NE 68509-4848
    Telephone: (402) 471-2244
    Fax: (402) 471-6031 (This is not a generally available number, and the governor's office feels uncomfortable about the number being published. We include it here because we feel that our readers should have maximum access to the Governor).
    E-mail: mjohanns@notes.state.ne.us
  7. "Wicca followers: Johanns ignorant of earth religions," Lincoln Journal-Star, 1999-MAY-8 

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