The "Burning Times Award"
given to Governor
Mike Johanns of Nebraska
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.
Governor Mike Johanns:
On 1999-MAY-6, newly elected Governor Mike Johanns of Nebraska, a Republican, 6is
reported to have signed a proclamation for the "March for Jesus Day" to
be held on 1999-MAY-22. 2The 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-Star2 and the Omaha
World-Herald4reported 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. 5The 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."
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
Violation 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
Creation of a two-tiered system of religions in Nebraska; and
Inability to separate his political responsibility to represent all citizens in his
state from his own personal religious beliefs; and
Relegation of Wiccans to second-class citizenship in his state; and
Relegation of gays and lesbians to second-class citizenship in his state.
Further developments in the Nebraska case:
Back 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
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."
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:[email protected]
"Wicca followers: Johanns ignorant of earth religions,"
Lincoln Journal-Star, 1999-MAY-8