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WICCAN NEWS IN THE MEDIA

YEAR 2000

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bullet2000-JAN-5: MN: Pagan billboards: A group of billboards have been installed in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area by the local Northern Dawn local Covenant of the Goddess council. The signs promote religious freedom and the Goddess. Each has a caption such as: "The Goddess is alive and magic is afoot" "Embrace the Goddess" or "The Goddess is within." All have the slogan "Freedom of religion means all religions."  See: http://hawkdancing.com/gdssigns.html
bullet2000-FEB-29: MI: Teacher suspended: Ring Lardner Middle school science teacher Cheril Malinowski was suspended for three days after loaning a Wiccan book to one of her students. The student was doing a report on herbal healing. The book in question is Scott Cunningham's "Wicca: A guide for the solitary practitioner" -- a very popular Wiccan book. 1 Loaning any religious book to a student is probably a violation of the principle of separation of church and state, because the loan implies school support for a specific religion. Loaning of a Bible, Wiccan book or Qur'an would be equally unconstitutional, unless it is part of a comparative religion course. The school board suspended the teacher for three days. The student involved loaned the book to second student. The parents of the latter student, the Wozniaks, have stolen the book and have refused to return it. There are allegations that supporters of the teacher have issued threats against the Wozniak daughter and others. The Wozniaks claim that the book contains information on "Satanic rituals, pentagrams, daggers for sacrifice and how to build an altar." 2 [Author's note: The book, in reality, contains Wiccan religious information, no Satanic information, information on pentagrams and on the construction of a Wiccan sacred altar. It describes an athame which is a double-sided knife used in rituals and never used to cut anything other than air. Wiccans have been known to sacrifice a peach or an apple, but never animals or humans.]
bullet2000-APR-25: USA: CBS Program about Witches: CBS broadcasted an episode of their program JAG (Judge Advocate General) called "The Witches of Gulfport". CBS describes the program as follows: "Mac goes undercover to help Harm investigate charges of sexual misconduct against Chief Petty Officer Merker who is the leader of the Wiccans, a local witches coven with many Navy members. The female seaman who brought the charges claims she was seduced when she fell under the man's spell, but Merker claims the sex was consensual. The Wiccan's attorney is sharp and claims his client is the unfortunate victim. However, Mac learns that another young woman suffered the same fate. He convinces her to testify and Merker is found guilty." The episode contained a reasonably accurate portrayal of a Wiccan circle -- perhaps a first for a dramatic show on TV.
bullet2000-JUN-20: USA: Wiccan lawyer: The Alternative Religions Educational Network (AREN) announced that their "resident Attorney, Bonnie-Ann Brill Keagy, has been admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States of America. To the best of our knowledge Ms. Keagy is the first Witch to be admitted to practice in front of this Court. Ms. Keagy has a wealth of experience in cases involving Pagan Rights as well as standard law practice, focusing primarily in criminal defense and Family Law...Ms. Keagy has authored articles for Llewellyn Publishing under her pen name of Creide Stewart, and has been active in Civil, Religious Rights and Politics for many years. She is the mother of three children ranging in age from 10 to 16." 3
bullet2000-JUL-1: UK: Pagan-Christian meeting: Suzanne Evans, a Christian and former British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) religious affairs correspondent, organized an inter-faith conference in 2000-JUN. About 79 Druids, Wiccans and Christian clergy attended the meeting in Amesbury, Wiltshire, UK. It is believed to be the first formal meeting since the church stopped executing Witches centuries ago. Ms. Evans admitted: "I started out from the position of many Christians thinking that paganism was something dreadful, something akin to Satanism. But I found that most of my preconceptions had been entirely wrong: paganism and Satanism are about as far removed as you can possibly get. It seemed like a logical thing to organize a conference where the two sides explore their misunderstandings and to make the point that the two faiths can actually get along." There are an estimated 150,000 Neo pagans in the UK of whom about 20,000 are practising Druids. Most of the latter trace their faith group back to Victorian era when interest in the indigenous Celtic religion was revived.  There are currently more than 30 separate Druid orders in the UK today. Emma Restall Orr, 35, joint chief of the British Druid Order, said that pagans "tend to have a very primary school attitude towards Christianity: Christianity is God sitting on a cloud throwing thunderbolts and being judgmental...People in Christianity are still totally misinformed about paganism and Druidry and consider it to be something Satanic, which couldn't be further from the truth. Satanism is perverted Christianity." The meeting ended with short acts of worship led by Druids and Christians. 4
bullet2000-OCT-3: TX: Wiccan invocation at Dallas city council meeting: 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; they asked their listeners to call city hall 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. It was well covered by local media. Newspapers, radio and television all carried the event. This resulted in a far greater audience than Bryan would have reached if he had simply been allowed to give his invocation. 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 finally gave the invocation at the OCT-3 council meeting. He said, in part:

"Mother Goddess, Father God: we thank you for life and the world we share. We ask that you bless this council and the mayor with the wisdom to lead this city into our tomorrow's, that it may flourish in harmony and prosperity. We pray for Honesty, Love, Compassion, and Faith, that our spirits be transformed into golden spirits, shining with the light of the Divine. We ask this of deity in whatever form each of us perceives it. So may it be."

Someone tried to silence Bryan by shouting, but was squelched by the mayor. Three individuals then were allowed to speak against the invocation. The mayor then said that he was very moved by the invocation and hoped to see Bryan back in the future.

bullet2000-OCT-13: LA: Anti-fortune telling law challenged: According to Deseret News in Salt Lake City UT, Monte Plaisance, with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court. He is attempting to overturn a 1928 ordinance in Terrebonne Parish, LA, that prohibits fortune telling and palm reading. He claims that it prevents him from following his religion of Witchcraft. The ACLU is arguing that if the parish bans fortune telling, then it should also ban weather predictions, fortune cookies, commodities predictions and doctors' prognoses. According to ABC News, a resident of Houma laid a complaint against a Wiccan coven under the ordinance. A city detective interrupted a Wiccan ritual, took photographs, and announced that if his superiors decided that the group was involved in fortune telling, he would be back to arrest them.  Joe Cook, ACLU representative in LA said: "Things that are outside the mainstream bother people. They want to suppress speech that doesn’t agree with their idea of they way things should be. If we don’t protect the Wiccan free speech right, then the Baptist and Catholic free speech rights are at risk." 5
bullet2000-OCT-26: VA: Pastors unite against Wiccans: A group of over 30 Christian pastors and laymen met in Smithfield, VA, to prepare a "strategic plan" to counter pagan gatherings in the area. Wiccans, Druids, and other Pagans conducted a "Fall Gathering of the Tribes" in Isle of Wight County in 2000-SEP. Future gatherings are expected in 2001-SPRING and FALL. Pastor Anthony Van Dyke "If we fail to plan...the enemy will take over our community." In an apparent reference to Satan, "The Rev. William McCarty described the pagan movement as evil and said the issue goes beyond religious freedom because there is a higher authority at work...One pastor said he didn't want to dignify Satan or his minions by addressing them - 'We understand he's already a defeated foe,' he said - but instead focused on how the Christian community could become stronger. 'We're talking about pushing back the darkness by becoming more light,' [Rev. Gary] Ham [from Newport News] said...The battle against the pagan community would not be a confrontational battle, they said. Christian soldiers and prayer warriors needed to launch a spiritual offensive to protect their community, Van Dyke said." 6 [Editor's note: The Christians in Isle of Wight County probably have little to fear from the Pagans. Most estimates of the total number of Pagans in the U.S. place them at less than 1% of the total population.]
bullet2000-OCT-28: OK: Student suspended for allegedly casting spell. According to Reuters: In Broken Arrow, OK, high school officials at Uniin Intermediate High School accused a 15 year-old Roman Catholic female student of casting a magic spell on a ceramics teacher which caused him to become sick. They suspended Brandi Blackbear for 15 days. The ACLU has launched a lawsuit, alleging that the school, in addition to the cursing charge, had seized her notebooks and prevented her from drawing or wearing Wiccan symbols. Joann Bell, executive director of the Oklahoma ACLU, said: "These outlandish accusations have made Brandi Blackbear's life at school unbearable. I for one would like to see the so-called evidence this school has that a 15-year-old girl made a grown man sick by casting a magic spell." Brandi's father, Timothy Blackbear, commented: "It’s hard for me to believe that in the year 2000 I am walking into court to defend my daughter against charges of witchcraft brought by her own school." According to the lawsuit, assistant principal Charlie Bushyhead and a school counselor, Sandy Franklin, culminated an interview with the student by "accusing Plaintiff, Brandi Blackbear, of casting spells causing (a teacher at the school) ... to be sick and to be hospitalized." The lawsuit stated that because of the "unknown cause" of the teacher’s illness, Bushyhead advised the 15-year-old girl "that she was an immediate threat to the school and summarily suspended her for what he arbitrarily determined to be a disruption of the education process." 7 The teacher apparently suffered from appendicitis. Brandi had a perfect attendance record and presented no discipline problems prior to these incidences. But now, according to the ACLU complaint, she has "suffered continuous ridicule and humiliation," and "become an outcast among her fellow students." Her academic work has suffered. 8 [Editor's note: At first, we thought that this was a hoax. Bushyhead accuses Blackbear? These are unusual names. Student believed to create spell that sent teacher to hospital? Imagine a physician recording on a teacher's chart "Illness caused by Witch's spell." This sort of stuff was routine in Salem MA back three hundred years ago. But I would have hoped that we had learned something since then.]
bullet2000-OCT-30: TX: Desecration of Wiccan ritual site:  According to a personal Email, the Wiccans at the Fort Hood Open Circle at the Fort Hood army base near Kileen TX decided to build a Haunted Forest for Samhain. Samhain is an ancient Celtic festival day that is celebrated by modern-day Wiccans and other Neopagans. It is the basis of Halloween. On OCT-29, they found that someone had disturbed their props. On OCT-30 they found that someone had smashed their altar to pieces. The "quarters" which mark the North, South, East and West directions had been stolen. All of their Haunted Forest were destroyed and thrown into the dumpster. The altar was made out of a 4' x 4' x 1' solid piece of stone. They have since set up a temporary circle. The motivation for this vandalism is unknown. It might be related to statements by Representative Barr (R-GA) and Governor Bush (R-TX) that Wiccans should not be allowed the same religious privileges as the followers of other faiths on army bases. 9 It might be related to a local Baptist minister who allegedly said that the army should napalm Wiccans. Feelings run high against Wiccans among the Christians in and around Kileen.
bullet2000-OCT-31: LA: Pastors unite to pray away Wiccans: According to ABC News: "Houma residents fear Wiccans are bringing dangerous, anti-Christian spirits into the community and are resurrecting an old parish ban on fortunetelling." René Monette is the pastor the Living Word Church, one of 100 in Houma, LA The city is in Terrebonne Parish, and has a population of 30,495. He is leading an anti-Wiccan group of 30 Protestant churches in the community. They meet each month to pray for salvation for the Witches. Pastor Monette said: "The Wiccan church is against everything we stand for as a Christian nation and as a Christian faith. And we wanna [sic] stand up and say no in our community. We wanna say no, absolutely not!...We don’t want that atmosphere here in Houma they may, can, have it in the French quarter, that’s fine. But we don’t want it here." In an apparent reference to a belief that the presence of Wiccans will lure evil spirits to his town, he concluded:  "We feel like a lot of baggage is going to come with all that stuff."
bullet2000-NOV-10: MA: Pagans on campus: According to the Boston Globe, more than 100 Pagan groups have formed on campuses on nearly every state and at schools from Australia to the UK. They quoted unidentified scholars as saying that there are as many as one million Pagans in the U.S. They reported that some parents have threatened their children that they would cutoff finances unless they left Paganism.
bullet2000-NOV-14: Canada: The world's least meaningful poll on Witches: Canoe, known as "Canada's Internet Network" conducted an Internet poll on the existence of Witches. The question is "Do you believe in witches?". The results were (as of NOV-14) 52% No, 45% Yes and 3% Don't know. These results are based on 633 responses. 10
bullet2000-NOV-28: North America: McAfee software bars Pagan websites: The McAfee "Office" software contains a Guard Dog program which filters  dangerous, pornographic, criminal and other Internet web sites. It contains a data base of words which it uses to compare against the text and Meta tags of web sites. It prevents viewing of web sites containing any of the following words: Atlantis, magick, New Age, Neo-pagan, pentagram, Wicca, etc. It appears to discriminate against Neopagan web sites.
bullet2000-DEC-3: North America: Ann Landers answers letter from Wiccan: Ann Landers writes a syndicated advice column that is seen daily in hundreds of newspapers throughout North America. On DEC-3, she answered "Jennifer in New York," a Wiccan who feels that she is being harassed in the workplace. Jennifer first explains about Wicca: "we do not worship Satan...We do not sacrifice living things...Our first tenant is 'Harm none.' " She complains about a co-worker, "Miss R," who appears to be a conservative Christian. "R" noticed her pentagram and said that it is a Satanic symbol. "R" since "has made it her mission to 'save' me and convert me to her religion." "R" leaves religious tracts on Jennifer's desk and tapes Bible verses to her computer monitor. Once "R" came up behind Jennifer and baptized her with bottled water. Jennifer complained to management and "R" has been warned. She hesitates to make a second complaint since "R" would probably be fired. Ann Landers explains that "R's" actions are because "she believes that she is doing the Lord's work and nothing will deter her." Ann suggests that Jennifer either try to "avoid this woman like the plague," or make a second complaint, or look for another job. Ann does not suggest a fourth alternative: for Jennifer to warn "R" to cease and desist or she will make a second complaint to management. 11
bullet2000-DEC-9: Ohio: Interfaith Council welcomes Pagan observer: The Akron Area Interfaith Council was created in 1981 "for Christians to reach out to those of other faiths and coordinate an ecumenical response to social, moral, ethical and cultural issues affecting the community. The mission has grown to include promoting the freedom of religion, equality and tolerance." They currently have 15 Christians, 7 Jews and one each from the Baha'i, Muslim and Unitarian Universalist communities. They had a mind-expanding experience recently, when Crow Welch, a Pagan Priestess from the Church of the Spiral Oak asked to join their group as an observer. Rev. Nancy Arnold, council president and pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Akron said: "At first, some members expressed a concern based on religious grounds, but the discussion ended with us deciding to invite her to attend to get to know more about her group...'' Ms. Welch had to explain to the group that her community does not worship Satan. Jon Dainty, the Council's executive director, said he believes that Witch Welch has a place at the table: "As edgy and itchy as sometimes her presence makes me and others, I think we need to have as many opinions at the table as possible. After all, we are an interfaith group, and because she doesn't espouse any of the beliefs that are already at the table, that shouldn't exclude her from membership.'' 12

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References:

  1. Scott Cunningham: "Wicca: A guide for the solitary practitioner," Llewellyn Publ., (1990). This book is very highly rated by reviewers. It is Amazon.com's #300th most popular books! That may not sound very impressive. However, Amazon sells millions of titles. You can safely read reviews of or order this book from Amazon.com
  2. Debra Haight, "Book on Witchcraft leads to suspension of Niles teacher," Herald Palladium, St Joseph-Benton MI, 2000-MAR-1. Online at:  http://www.heraldpalladium.com/display/inn_news/news2
  3. "Pagan Community now has their own Attorney admitted to practice in front of the Supreme Court," Alternative Religions Educational Network (AREN) news release, 2000-JUN-20.
  4. Simon de Bruxelles, "Faiths alight on a burning desire to talk," The London Times, London UK, 2000-JUL-1.
  5. "Right to practice Witchcraft: Louisiana town trying to silence Witches," ABCNEWS.com at: http://abcnews.go.com/onair/worldnewstonight
  6. Jim Manner, "Pastors discuss Pagan strategy," The Smithfield Times, at: http://www.smithfieldtimes.com/TIMEST~1.HTM#anchor68352 
  7. "Not so practical magic: High school expels student for casting a sickening spell," Reuters, 2000-OCT-28, at: http://www.abcnews.go.com/sections/
  8. "In the doghouse: Assistant principal Charlie Bushyhead and officials of the Union Public School Independent District #9 (Tulsa OK),"  at: http://befearless.oxygen.com/features/in_thedog1102.html
  9. "Rolling cyber-debate on religious freedom," Web White & Blue 2000, 2000-OCT-15, at http://www.webwhiteblue.org/debate/ 
  10. Mark Prattr, "Exploring the Witch Trials," 2000-OCT-30, at: http://www.canoe.ca/CNEWSFeatures0010/30_witch-ap.html 
  11. Ann Landers, "Courtesy a two-way street," Toronto Star, etc., 2000-DEC-3.
  12. Colette M. Jenkins, "Not just a question of faith, but interfaith," Beacon Journal, Akron OH, 2000-DEC-9. 

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Copyright © 2000 to 2001 incl., by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally published: 2000-JAN-5
Latest update: 2001-NOV-2
Author: B.A. Robinson

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