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CHRISTIAN & WICCAN CONFLICTS

History of recent clashes

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Some examples of recent Christian attacks on Wiccans:

bulletBy politicians:
bulletSenator Jesse Helms (R-NC) sponsored S.AMDT.705 on 1985-SEP-26. This was an amendment to H.R. 3036, an appropriations bill to fund various federal government agencies. The amendment was passed by a House vote. It would have prevented "funds appropriated under the Act [from being] used to grant, maintain, or allow tax exemptions to any cult, organization, or other group that has any interest in, the promoting of satanism or witchcraft." It is unknown to which of the 17 or so different activities called "witchcraft" that the amendment would apply. The amendment died in committee. It obviously would not have survived a constitutional challenge in the courts. This bill is not a recent event. However, it is included here because of its importance. It galvanized Wiccan concern for their religious rights at the time, and motivated some to organize anti-defamation groups.
bullet Governor Mike Johanns of Nebraska signed an official proclamation supporting  the 1999 "March for Jesus Day." When asked whether he would sign as similar declaration for a Wiccan day of celebration, he allegedly answered: "Nope. Something that I personally disagree with...I'm not going to sign it." He later carried out his word when he refused to proclaim the summer solstice, a festival which is celebrated by many Neopagan, and Native American groups. More details.
bullet Representative Bob Bar (R-GA) demanded in 1999 that the right of Wiccans to celebrate their religion on U.S. Army bases be terminated. Soldiers at Ft. Hood, TX, had previously negotiated the right to conduct their rituals on base. More details.
bulletGovernor G.W Bush of Texas, referred to the above case involving Wiccan soldiers. He allegedly said in a TV interview on 1999-JUN-24: "The military should rethink their position. That's not a religion." 1
bulletBy mobs:
bulletUnknown U.S. location: Writer Carol Matthews wrote: "in one instance of which the author is personally aware, a neo-pagan was lynched by a group of fundamentalists who deemed him a threat to the community." 2
bulletJonesboro AR: In the early 1990's there was an attempted multiple murder by stoning. This happened during a march which involved many local Wiccans. The demonstration had been organized to promote religious tolerance and freedom in the area. One or more local ministers had preached that in Bible times, the people knew how to handle individuals of other religions - they stoned them to death. A prominent conservative Christian teleminister had arranged to bus fellow Christians to the march site. They emerged from the bus -- many carrying rocks. Numerous injuries and deaths would probably have resulted, if it were not for the prompt, combined action of over 5 local police forces. They formed a protective circle around the marchers.
bulletBy municipal governments:
bulletDallas, TX: Bryan Lankford, a Wiccan and the first officer of the Texas Council of the Covenant of the Goddess, had been invited to give the opening invocation at the Dallas TX City Council meeting on 2000-SEP-27. Someone leaked the information to a local Christian radio station who asked their listeners to call the city and threaten to protest if a Wiccan was allowed to speak. The invitation was cancelled and a Christian minister was substituted. Bryan did deliver his invocation on that day -- from the steps outside of city hall. A local Christian TV station called for actions against the Wiccans. Their listeners were asked to do "whatever they had to, to stop the invocation." It was said that the "Satanists are taking over the city." Bryan was finally allowed to give the invocation on OCT-3. More details.
bulletBy public school boards:
bulletScattered minor conflicts have occurred in many public school districts. They seem to have reached a peak during 1999. The main sticking point appears to be the clothing worn by Wiccan students, particularly jewelry. This usually involves upright pentagrams (five-pointed stars with one point upwards) and pentacles (pentagrams enclosed in a circle). Often, this jewelry is banned because school officials confuse it with gang symbols. One school banned them because they were seen to symbolize violence. Ironically, the school allowed Roman Catholic students to wear a crucifix, which portray a naked being tortured to death on a cross. It was not judged to be a violent symbol. Yet, school authorities viewed a five pointed star, seen by the dozens on every U.S. flag, to be a symbol of violent behavior.
bulletBy conservative Christian groups:
bulletThe Free Congress Association: In 1999, Wiccans received the same religious rights as followers of other religions at Ft. Hood -- they were permitted to conduct their rituals on base. The Free Congress Association (FCA) initiated and coordinated an anti-Wiccan boycott. 13 Fundamentalist Christian groups initially joined. This included the Christian Coalition, the American Family Association (AFA), and at least four other Christian groups that specialize in the field of religious freedom.  Paul M. Weyrich, president of the FCA issued a joint statement on behalf of the coalition. It said in part: "Until the Army withdraws all official support and approval from Witchcraft, no Christian should enlist or re-enlist in the Army, and Christian parents should not allow their children to join the Army." Many of the organizations, including the AFA, the Christian Coalition, and the Home School Legal Defense Association, later withdrew their support for the boycott. 3
bullet Family Research Council: Lt. Col. Robert L Maginnis (U.S. Army, Ret.) wrote an essay "Brewing up trouble: Wicca and the U.S. Military" in 1999-JUN. He argued that the existence of Wiccans in the U.S. Armed Forces was having an adverse affect on military readiness. This conclusion was based on the following assertions: 
bulletA slippery slope argument: that if Wiccans are allowed then "any fringe religion will now have to be granted special benefits" by the DOD. He does not list what those "special benefits" are. [We are unaware of Wiccans having been given any special consideration in the Army.]
bulletWillingness to murder: Wiccans are less willing than Christians to kill others on command. [While it is true that Wiccans are generally peaceful, spiritual individuals, there is no evidence that the subset of Wiccans who have enlisted in the Army are any less willing that the average Christian to kill people on command.]
bulletReligious intolerance: "Today’s military is overwhelmingly Christian. The Bible labels witchcraft as an abomination. Accommodating witches who engage in behaviors that are antithetical to the 'law of nature and nature’s God' will cause unit friction, undermine morale, and impair recruitment and retention." [The Army introduced racial integration even though some whites objected to working along side of African-Americans; this is no different. We can hardly expect that Army to make allowances for various group's bigotry.]  More details
bulletOther conflicts: Wiccan periodicals and anti-defamation mailing lists frequently contain stories of Wiccans losing their job, accommodation, child custody and child access because of their religion. There have been many shootings, fire-bombings, instances of arson directed against Wiccans. Starting in 1999-FALL, we have attempt to record as many of these events as possible

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References:

  1. Governor G.W. Bush (R-TX). Interviewed on ABC's Good Morning America, 1999-JUN-24 by Peggy Wehmeyer.
  2. Carol Matthews, "Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft," in Timothy Miller, Ed., "America's Alternative Religions," SUNY Press, (1995). Page 343.
  3. R. L. Maginnis, "Brewing up trouble: Wicca and the U.S. Military," Family Research Council at: http://www.frc.org/papers/milred/ Printed copies of the essay can be requested from the Family Research Council at (800) 225-4008. This is a toll-free number accessible from the U.S. and Canada.

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Site navigation: Home page > World religions > Wicca > Christian/Wicca conflict > here

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Copyright © 2000 & 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-OCT-13
Latest update: 2002-SEP-3
Author: B.A. Robinson

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