2008: Part 1: Conflict over Tarot cards in
Organizers of the Miss Toronto Tourism pageant for 2008 invited
Stephanie Conover, 23, (Miss
Canada Plus 2007) to be one of their judges.In an unusual show of religious
bigotry, they later decided that she was unfit to serve as a judge because of
her personal interests and hobbies. Director of the Miss Toronto Tourism pageant notes that hers is a
private organization, receives no government funds, and thus can discriminate on
any grounds that they wish. Public reaction to their decision was intensely
Ms Conover is the first known beauty queen who is openly Neopagan .
Stephanie Conover was crowned Miss Canada Plus 2007. The Miss Canada Plus Pageant (MCCP) celebrates "women with real curves" and is held annually in Toronto ON for "plus
sized" women. It is believed to be the first and only pageant of its kind, and is
"to inspire plus-size women to recognize their external and internal
beauty, by encouraging wellness and empowerment through a sense of recognition,
inclusion and acceptance in the world of fashion and beauty." 1
Ms. Conover agreed to a request from the Miss Toronto Tourism pageant
to be a judge on 2008-FEB-02. On JAN-21, they asked her for her biography. She
"I told them everything I do, how I'm an entertainer and a singer and a
dancer. I talked about my charity work and I said I also have hobbies,
including songwriting, knitting, painting, yoga, Reiki and tarot cards."
Her hobbies include:
Yoga, that was:
"... developed in ancient India to unify body and mind with
universal spirit, thereby encouraging physical and mental well-being. Most
commonly, it involves a series of stretching postures (called asanas), breathing
exercises, and meditative practices." 3
Many practitioners believe that it increases bodily
flexibility, improves their muscle tone, and reduces the effects of stress. 4
Reiki: According to The International Center
for Reiki Training:
"Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by 'laying on hands' and is based on the idea that an unseen 'life force energy' flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one's 'life force energy' is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress. ... If it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy." 4
Tarot cards are a set of 78 playing cards that contain pictures and
symbols. They are used by fortunetellers and others in an attempt to predict the future.
Karen Murray, the pageant director of Miss Toronto Tourism is reported as saying:
"We just got her bio a week ago and we don't agree with it. We want
someone down to earth, not someone into the dark side or the
Ironically, Ms. Conover is a follower of Wicca,
the largest of many Earth-centered Neopagan
religions. So, she is probably more "down to earth" in the sense of being closer to nature than are most Canadians. Ms.
Murray was apparently unaware of Conover's religious affiliation at the time.
According to the Toronto Star, on JAN-24, Murray and another official wrote
to the Miss Canada Plus group stating:
"We need a judge who has an upright reputation and we would be proud to
introduce to the audience ... Our board of directors has eliminated her as a
judge as tarot card reading and reiki are the occult and is [sic] not acceptable
by God, Jews,
Muslims or Christians.
Tarot card reading is witchcraft and is used by
witches, spiritists and mediums to consult the dark world."
The letter continued with a couple of quotations from the Bible including:
Leviticus 19:31 "Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek
after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God. (King James
The letter concluded:
"We hope that Stephanie Conover will turn from these belief systems and
will repent from her practice of them."
Many evangelicals and other conservative Protestants believe that Tarot card
players are occultists
who contact demons who are under the control of Satan. The web site GotQuestions.org states:
"The word 'familiar' is from the Latin familiaris, meaning a 'household
servant,' and is intended to express the idea that sorcerers had spirits as
their servants ready to obey their commands. Those attempting to contact the
dead, even to this day, usually have some sort of spirit guide who
communicates with them. These are familiar spirits."
"Leviticus 19:31, 20:6, 20:27 and Deuteronomy 18:9-14 refer to 'mediums and
familiar spirits' and forbids being involved in them, as a they are an
abomination to the Lord. The medium was one who acted as a 'go-between' to
supposedly contact or communicate with the dead, but in reality they were
contacting demons who convinced the mediums that they were 'familiar' and
could be trusted and believed. The practices associated with mediums and
familiar spirits were banned in Israel, and the punishment for practicing
such things was death."
"To this day, familiar spirits (demons) are under the control of their
master, Satan. They influence people to spread
lies and deceit in order to thwart the kingdom of God." 5
Polling data from the U.S. shows a wide gap among Christians concerning
the existence of Satan:
75% of Roman Catholics reject Satan as a living being';
55% of Protestants do as well. 6
the general public, those who regard Satan as a mythical being outnumber those
who believe he is a living entity by about a 2:1 ratio.
Even more Americans
are believed reject the concept of demonic beings who assist Satan.
Essentially all mental health
professionals reject their existence and consider them to be a leftover from a pre-scientific era.
These values are believed to be even higher in
Canada because of the larger percentage of Roman Catholics, secularists,
Agnostics, Atheists, etc. in the country.
Ms. Conover's reaction to the rejection:
Ms. Conover said that she was stunned by the letter. The Toronto Star newspaper reported:
" 'I was fuming. They said tarot cards are the occult and that I use them
to commune with dark forces,' which she insisted is not the case. 'They're
completely benign. I use them for healing, to give guidance. You can buy
tarot cards at Chapters [Canada's largest bookstore] or the CNE' [Canadian National Exhibition]."
"She also said reiki is a well-known Japanese healing system that allows
people to transfer positive energy to a sick person. 'It definitely goes
against convention, sure, but anything that helps avoid use of prescription
drugs is a bonus, I think'."
"Conover said she practices Wicca, which to
some means she's a witch. But she said [that] the Miss Toronto Tourism people
didn't know that and that they based their rejection of her on tarot cards
and reiki." 2