Oppression in North
between and within religions
An example of oppression against followers of a
In the 1980s and early 1990s, Pagan magazines frequently reported instances
of attacks on followers of Wicca,
Druidism, Asatru, and other
Neopagan traditions. They took many forms: threats, physical assaults,
shootings, etc. At the extreme was one attempted mass stoning and an actual murder by lynching.
Other oppression took the form of employment and accommodation discrimination.
In those days, there were few areas in North America where Neopagans could safely reveal their religious faith
Many of these attacks were motivated by the belief that Neopagans were
actually Satanists who worshipped Satan and engaged in Satanic
ritual Abuse (SRA) and other
criminal activities. Attacks have subsided significantly since that time. Most North Americans now
realize that Neopagan religious traditions do not worship or even recognize the
existence of Satan. He is an all-evil quasi-deity is mainly
Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism. The public also realizes that Satanic Ritual Abuse was
either extremely rare or nonexistent.
Many phenomena seem to have contributed to a lessening in oppression. Some are:
- The total number of Wiccans is doubling about every 30 months. Thus,
more people are acquainted with at least one Wiccan. Stereotypes against all
religious minorities are harder to maintain if you befriend a person of that
- Many Wiccans and other Neopagans have come out of the broom closet and
gone public with their beliefs and practices.
- Many covens have sponsored rituals that are open to the public.
- Most large bookstores now heavily stock books on Neopagan religions.
- A number of television programs have had a Witchcraft theme. Even though
most featured a heavily distorted view of Neopaganism, they influenced the public to
take a more positive view towards these religions.
- Wicca has grown precipitously among teenagers.
Currently, the main types of oppression of Neopagans appear to take
the following forms:
- Minor vandalism of, and graffiti painted on, New-age, Pagan and
- Denying high school students the right to wear pentagrams (five pointed
stars) as jewelry, either because they are interpreted as symbols of
violence, or of gang activity.
- Denying Wiccans the right to participate in delivering prayers and invocations at municipal council
meetings, while selecting clergy from other religions to do so.
An example of oppression of followers from another denomination
of the same religion:
The number of marriages in which the couple follows different denominations of
the same religion are steadily increasing throughout North America. Clergy
are often required to enforce special rules
concerning baptisms, marriages and funerals when one participant is from
another denomination. A study by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
showed that many such engaged couples feel:
"...confused and victimized by their
church's rules. This was especially true with regard to Roman Catholic and
Orthodox couples.....they felt as if they had been thrust into a 'religious war'
that created many stressful moments and caused them to question their religious
commitment." They "...perceived
themselves with two distasteful choices:
- Lie so that they could wed in their
- Wed outside of their church traditions." 1
Couples in the study:
"...reasoned that some rules were largely the result
of certain historical, cultural and political circumstances that had little or
no relevance today. They maintained that these rules might have met pastoral
needs at one time or another, but were now in need of revision. As such, they
chose to ignore them to protect and promote marital and family well-being. While
most were not entirely comfortable with this approach, they indicated that they
often had no other choice, since following conflicting inter-church rules served
to damage marital and family well-being." 1
Some of the rules involve demands and restrictions on the spouse from the
other faith group:
- Requiring them to promise to bring up any future children in their
- Restricting participation in communion.
- Restricting the choice of godparents.
- Restricting the choice of sponsors during the marriage ceremony.
- Forbidding the presence of clergy from other denominations during baptisms, weddings and
funerals, unless passively seated in the congregation.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Religious rules," Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
Department of Marriage and Family, (2003). at:
- "Hostility to Christians Becoming Endemic," Family Research
Council, Culture Facts, 2004-JAN-9, Volume 6, Issue 1.
Copyright © 2004 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2008-OCT-04
Author: B.A. Robinson