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YEAR 2001

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Wiccan news for 2001:

bullet2001-JAN-4: USA: Family News in Focus (FNIF) article on Wicca: FNIF is a web site of Focus on the Family, arguably the most influential Fundamentalist Christian organization in the U.S. One of their correspondents, Mark Cowan, wrote an article on the "Growth of Paganism". He described:
bullet"Chris" and at least 100 others drumming-in the Winter Solstice.
bulletA "former spiritualist [sic] and now Christian evangelist Ben Alexander" commenting that Wiccans are mainly attracted to Wicca because "Witchcraft is autonomous and you can do your own thing..."
bulletPaul Carden, of the Center for Apologetics Research, another Fundamentalist Christian group, said that "the Wiccan and Druid and...[other] neopagan [sic] next door," are going to come out of the closet, and that conservative Christians are going to have to understand them in order to evangelize them.

There was no mention of sacrificing infants, worshiping the Devil or following Satanism. Cowan wrote the report straight-up. Unfortunately, he was inconsistent in his capitalization. He wrote "Wicca," "Christian," and "Wiccan" properly with the first letter in caps. But he also wrote "Witches," "Witch," "Witch-advocacy group," "Paganism," "Neopagan" and "Spiritualist" with lower case -- a rather disrespectful act. 

bullet2001-JAN-14: World: Description of Pagan traditions: The Witches' Voice has created a new section in their web site titled "Pagan Traditions." They invite followers of all Pagan traditions to write an essay on their spiritual path and submit it for inclusion. Included already are the Appalachian Granny Magic Tradition, Ár nDraiocht Féin, Ásatrú, Golden Dawn, and Reclaiming Tradition. See: http://www.witchvox.com/xtrads.html
bullet2001-FEB-7 (approx): Ohio: Pagan demonstration cancels local bylaw: Moraine, OH, is a suburb of Dayton. They have an 1960's ordinance that was aimed against Roma, and itinerant fortune tellers with questionable business practices who were visiting the area at that time. When Amanda Hamilton recently asked for a business permit for her metaphysical shop "Anything under the moon" she indicated that she would be conducting tarot card readings. The city law director drew up a modified ordinance that removed the obviously unconstitutional parts of the original bylaw, but kept the ban on fortune telling for a fee. With only two days advance warning, Ms Hamilton alerted local Neopagans. She said: "Not only would this have affected my business, but I'm a practitioner of Wiccan religion, and using divination and communication with spirits is an integral part of my spirituality." The meeting at which the proposed ordinance was to be debated was well attended by the public. A standing-room-only crowd of 150 people -- mostly Neopagans opposed to the ordinance -- were there. 1

Councilman Ronald Payne said that the witches were polite: "It was very calm, a good discussion. The people got to say what they wanted to." After hearing objections that the ordinance was an unconstitutional restraint on religious freedom, council tabled it.

bullet2001-FEB-9: USA: Political awareness campaign: The Pagan Unity Campaign has started the "I am" project, a political awareness campaign. Pagans are asked to send commercial post cards to their local, state and federal political leaders during the week of the Summer Solstice, 2001-JUN-18 to 23. They should be handwritten, start with something like: "I am a Pagan student," and end with: "I am free. We are united." Their press release is at: http://www.paganunitycampaign.org/iam/iamrelease.html A description of the project is at: http://www.paganunitycampaign.org/iam/ 
bullet2001-FEB-11: Ohio: Interfaith Council overcomes religious intolerance: 
The Akron Area Interfaith Council had to relocate their annual award dinner from Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, at the last minute. Rev. Jerry Hall, the pastor at Annunciation refused to allow the Council to have their dinner at Annunciation if a musical group from the Church of Spiral Oak (a Pagan group) was allowed to perform. Rev. Hall wrote: "We have regulations that limit our participation with groups that would be involved with things like Paganism. If we allowed this event at our church, with their [Pagan] participation, it would send a message to the community of our acceptance. As Orthodox Christians, we cannot accept their [Pagan] tenets and we cannot send a message that it [Paganism] is OK. Well, it's not OK. And we had to take a stand.'' Rev. Jon Dainty, a member of the Council and executive director of the Association of Churches, said the mission of the council is to promote freedom of religion, equality and tolerance, and "for us to do anything but what we did would have gone against everything we stand for.'' Joe Jerek, the Pagan representative to the Council said: "Part of (the Pagan) tradition is finding balance. So, I said to the group, 'It's probably easiest to ask us not to perform. But it's probably better to change venues.' I was so impressed and gratified with their decision. It showed that they don't just profess their mission, they
actually live it."
Crow Welch, a Witch, said: "...we are still struggling against misperceptions. And we expect that, but when it comes from religious leaders, it is very painful.'' 2
bullet2001-FEB-25: USA: Wiccans and other Neopagans object to faith-based initiative plan: The Alternative Religions Educational Network (AREN) represents various Wiccan and other Pagan/Neopagan individuals and groups. They are seeking signatures for a petition to President Bush which protests the faith-based initiatives program. They object to the government routing tax revenue to fund potentially discriminatory social programs: The petition says in part: "We are concerned that the government will appear to be supporting ideologies and theologies that are discriminatory and exclusionary. We are also concerned that some secular organizations will be forced to cease services due to lack of governmental funding. Such programs may be the only non-religious choice in small communities, and their termination could force some needy participants into a religious-based program with which they may be uncomfortable..."

Their accompanying "Pagan Press Release on Faith Based Initiative" mentions that modern-day Druids, Wiccans and other earth religious faith groups have been cited negatively by government officials and the media:
"Many deem Wicca as a substandard religion without giving clarifying reasons for why it would not qualify in the program...Like many other faith groups, earth religious traditions have food pantries, prison ministries, and substance abuse programs in their community." By mid-day on FEB-28, they had received over 2,100 signatures. 3
bullet2001-MAR-10: USA: MTV spreads religious misinformation: In the "Fear" program section of their website, MTV states: "This is the cabin where cult members convene in dark robes, chant in strange tongues and drink the blood of their sacrifices--sometimes animal, sometimes human. A common icon in many cult religions, particularly satanic sects, is the pentagram. A pentagram is an inverted, five-pointed star surrounded by two circles. It is to satanic cults what the crucifix is to Christians. A local man gave testimony to witnessing a cult ritual near Pawnee Cabin in which a man dressed as a Catholic priest wrote the number "666" on a naked woman's breasts in blood while she was lying in a coffin. He then called on Satan to appear upon the lake of fire." All of this is weird fantasy unrelated to reality. Much of it can be traced to the "Burning Times" centuries ago in Europe when hundreds of thousands of heretics were accused of Witchcraft and burned at the stake. Unfortunately, some youth may well believe that this type of fantasy is happening today and that Satanic Ritual Abuse is real. This type of material raises groundless fears against all new religious movements -- here called "cults" here -- including the vast majority which are benign. It is also liable to confuse the Wiccan upright pentacle with its copy, the Satanic inverted pentacle.
bullet2001-MAY-1: USA Jay Leno makes disparaging remark: One frequent feature on the Tonight Show challenges a member of the studio audience in the front row to answer a question. If they fail, they have to exchange seats with a member of the audience from the "nosebleed" section in the back of the studio. At about 11:40 ET, Jay Leno referred to each of the members at the back as a "syphilitic Druid." Jay's motivation for the label is not clear. 
bullet2001-MAY-2: Ohio: Church of Spiral Oak refused membership in Akron interfaith group:  After three years a with the status of observers, The Church of Spiral Oak applied for membership in the Akron Area Interfaith Council. According to the Rev. Nancy O. Arnold, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Fairlawn, the purpose of the Council is "to coordinate and enable effective interfaith responses to the social, moral, ethical and cultural issues of our community and to promote freedom of religion, equality and tolerance.'' The Council has Baha'i, Byzantine Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, Protestant, and Roman Catholic representatives. They have had Buddhist and Muslim representatives in the past. The Spiral Oak's request was refused. However they will be allowed to continue attending as observers for three years. 4
bullet2001-MAY-19: Ohio: May Day ritual results in indecency charge: According to the Toledo Blade:
A citizen of Toledo, OH, was doing yard work in his back yard and caught a fleeting glimpse of a naked man involved in a Church of All Worlds religious ritual. He complained to the police. Misdemeanor charges of public indecency are expected. The participants, members of the Spirit Weavers, had expected that the ritual would be viewed only by its members. Tyey erected a fence, put up a tent and located plants in order to preserve privacy. But they missed one angle -- the one that led to neighbor Jerry Guess. "During the ceremony, the dancers used multicolored ribbons and tied the May King to the pole. The pagan ritual goes back to pre-Christian days..."Another neighbor, Jerry Beeching seemed to be primarily concerned with the ritual itself. He said: "I’m concerned about that type of behavior in my neighborhood. I just don’t feel that should be going on...We are Christian people, and that type of behavior doesn’t fit. I haven’t seen other people running around nude." 5
bullet2001-JUN-26: TN: Court declares Wicca a "lifestyle:" A judge has ruled that Wicca is only a "lifestyle." This is in spite of multiple documents having been filed that described previous court decisions that declare Wicca to be a religion. The judge wrote: "Now Wicca appears to be a lifestyle that has a creed of harm none; do what you will. It's been described to The Court as a form of some kind of witch-craft. It's been described to The Court as a lifestyle that has no moral code. There's no right or wrong. And while there may be some factors under this lifestyle that encourage visualizing yourself to be the best you can, to be in tune with yourself -- and there's some testimony about reincarnation and meditation; but on the other hand there's also substantial testimony as to the partial and total nudity that's involved in this lifestyle." The judge also ruled that during the time that a daughter is visiting her father, that "there will be no exposure to violent movies, no exposures to books such as spirits and ghosts [sic], no exposure to the teachings of Wicca." 6 The decision has come under fire from Wiccans and other Pagans. It is important to note that judges are not expected to be religious experts. In any court case involving a minority religion, it is important that the court be provided with documents from other courts which have determined the religion to be valid. Documents about the exact nature of the religion, its moral code, its beliefs and practices are also important. It appears that the latter were not done in this case.
bullet2001-JUL-7: UK: "King of the Witches" criticizes Warner Brothers: A self-appointed "King of the Witches" in England is criticizing Warner Brothers for its Harry Potter movie. There are scenes in which the hero is being trained to fly a broomstick, with the broom facing backwards. King Kevin Carylon claims that "white witches" fly broomsticks with the broom end forwards. He has three of them, all grounded at this time. He said: "The CAA (Britain's Civil Aviation Authority) won't give me permission to fly."

Of course, Wicca in the UK is like Wicca in North America. It has no king; its followers don't fly broomsticks; and Witches don't refer to themselves as "white Witches."
bullet2001-AUG-22: NC: Jesse Helms to retire: Senator Jesse Helms, (R-NC), 79, has allegedly decided to not seek a sixth term. He has been a vocal opponent of Russia, the United Nations, abortion access, and equal rights for homosexuals. He has been a vocal advocate of prayer in the public school. Among Neopagans, he is remembered for his activity in 1986, when he introduced an amendment to a bill which would have removed tax exempt status from existing Wiccan groups and prevent any new groups from being recognized by the Federal government. The amendment passed without opposition, but was later removed by the Congressional joint Conference Committee. The threat politicized the Wiccan community. A number of Neopagan anti-defamation groups were formed to fight the Helms bill. Some are still in existence, educating the public, and providing legal assistance to persecuted Neopagans.
bullet2001-SEP-13: Jerry Falwell attacks Pagans: On Pat Robertson's "700 Club" TV program, two days after the terrorist attack, guest Jerry Falwell said via satellite hookup, that "God will not be mocked." He continued, blaming Pagans and others for the New York City and Washington tragedies. More details.
bullet2001-SEP-17: James Dobson attacks Paganism: On his Focus on the Family daily radio program, Dr. James Dobson said: "I also pray that the Lord will bring a national revival that will sweep through our nation and pull us back from the wickedness and the Paganism that's engulfed us in recent years." More details.
bullet2001-SEP-21/22: North America: Pagan ribbons: Pagans of all traditions wore ribbons as part of a "fight the fear" campaign. They hope to win acceptance and recognition from the public. The religiously conservative Culture & Family Institute, an affiliate of Concerned Women for America wrote a "straight up" article on the campaign: no charges of heresy; no snide comments; no references to Satan worship. 7 If this article is any indication, Pagans may well be gaining acceptance.
bullet2001-OCT-29: Chicago, IL: WLS-AM canceled Wiccan commercials: According to Telepathic Media Inc.: "WLS-AM Newstalk 890 Chicago, a Disney owned radio station, canceled commercials aired on the Art Bell show for WitchSchool.com, an online Wiccan educational site. It should be noted, the Art Bell show is known for discussing topics such as ghosts, paranormal, and having major Wiccan personalities as guests. These twice-nightly commercials have been running since October 11th in the timeslot of 12 AM – 4 AM. The commercials were canceled on Monday, October 29, the beginning of the Halloween week which is amongst the most sacred of times for Wiccans.

WLS spokesperson, Susan Hallinan, informed WitchSchool.com that the "commercials were canceled because of the number of strongly worded emails that had been received, along with the controversy from 9-11. The management of the radio station decided it was best to pull the ads immediately."
bullet2001-NOV-2: USA: Source say Wiccan may be responsible for Anthrax attacks: According to NYPost.com, one theory being circulated at the FBI and Justice Department is that "the anthrax scare is the work of a twisted home-grown menace rather than a terrorist linked to state-sponsored action or Osama bin Laden. Source say investigators are eyeing a number of groups, including radical members of a pagan cult. The Wiccan group fashions itself as modern-day witches seeking religious freedom, but they are not known to be violent. Investigators are probing whether a disturbed member of the group may have taken a bizarre turn and is targeting the media and the government in particular." 8 A Wiccan group has contacted the FBI since NOV-2. They FBI is saying that they have no Pagan groups as suspects and that the the NY Post report is bogus.

2001-NOV-1: MA: Salem witches exonerated: Five people who had been convicted of Witchcraft  and hanged in 1692-3 were exonerated when Governor Jane Swift signed a bill into law. There were a total of 24 men and women who were hanged, crushed to death or died in prison. In 1711, the state issued a general amnesty that exonerated all but six of the judicial victims. Ann Pudeator was exonerated in 1957. Susannah Martin, Briget Bishop, Alice Parker, Margaret cott and Wilmot Redd were exonerated on NOV-1. (Witchcraft in this context means alleged Satan worshiper; it has nothing in common with modern Witchcraft, often called Wicca, which attempts to duplicate an ancient Celtic Pagan religion. 9


2001-NOV-28: KS: County commissioners close religious camp: Six years ago, the owners of the Gaea Retreat Center obtained a county permit to convert an abandoned church camp into a alternative religious center. The center is on a 168-acre (68-hectare) area west of Kansas City, KS. It has sponsored the well-known annual Gaea Goddess Gathering and a Heartland Pagan Spiritual event. The Leavenworth County commissioners denied their license renewal, thus putting it out of business. A petition from the community accused the center of permitting public nudity, pedophilia, illegal drug usage, and devil worship. Caretaker Wanda Roths said: "They say they're afraid of us, what we do here, the sound of drums...They don't know how lucky they are to have us as their neighbors...We're very quiet, very peaceful. There has never been any trouble out here."

 The owners of the center filed a lawsuit suit on NOV-26, claiming that the commissioners' action is illegal, unconstitutional and in violation of laws protecting freedom of religious expression and practice. According to Reuters: "The retreat denies any illegal activity, and county officials say there is no evidence of any." 10


2001-DEC-5: USA: Pat Robertson attacks the Wiccan religion -- maybe: On his "700 club" program, Robertson interviewed Caryl Matrisciana of Jeremiah Films. They were discussing her recent video concerning the Harry Potter books. She is distressed that the books are being read in public schools. She equates the fantasy witchcraft found in these books with an unrelated established Neopagan religion, Wicca. She concluded that schools are violating the principle of separation of church and state. After the interview, Robertson made a list of the main reasons why a country like the U.S. could invoke divine displeasure. He talked "about God lifting his anointing his mantle from the United States of America." The first item on the list was "Witchcraft." It is not known whether Robertson is referring to:

Fantasy witchcraft (which doesn't exist outside of novels), or


The religion of Wicca, or


The hurting or killing people by verbal curses -- sometimes called "witchcraft" in the Bible, or


Some of the other 14 or so meanings of the word "witchcraft."

Other reasons on his list is the decriminalization of sodomy; the practices of bestiality and incest; and abortion access. ("Sodomy" is a term that is often used by Fundamentalist Christians to refer to homosexual behavior.)

He concluded: "We're doing all the things that God said were so repugnant that the land itself would be repulsed and would vomit its inhabitants out. And, if there was ever a time that we need God's blessing, it's now. We don't need to bring in heathen, pagan practices to the United States of America. We need to call on God and ask him for revival." Some unstable individuals might interpret this as a call to physically attack religious minorities. 14


2001-DEC-8: WI: State hires Wiccan chaplain: Rev. Jamyi Witch, 43, a Wiccan priestess, started work as a chaplain at the Waupun Correctional Institution in early December. She explained that she had changed her name from Welch to Witch "because I am one." She works alongside the other chaplain: Rev. Francis Paliekara, an Episcopal priest. Although Ms. Witch will conduct rituals with the approximately 30 Wiccan inmates, her main job will be to help provide for the general religious needs of the 1,200 inmates at the Institution. A minority of prisoners there, about 400, regard themselves to be Christians; 100 are Muslim. The other 700 either have no religious affiliation or are members of smaller faith groups. She has impressive qualifications, being a mother, a Girl Scout leader, school volunteer, hospice counselor, crisis counselor. She also volunteered in the prisons for two years and has helped train Corrections Department employees about alternative religions. She won out over nine other applicants.

Reaction to her hiring was swift, particularly among Republican state legislators:

State Representative Scott Walker (R-Wauwatosa), a Baptist, heads the assembly committee that regulates prison. He said that he was personally "offended" by Witch's religion. He is studying whether her hiring violated the state's hiring freeze. Walker commented that: "Clearly there are a lot of people who are offended by this...It's a very narrow practice that a lot of people - Christians, Jews, Muslims, - find offensive."


Representative Mike Huebsch, (R-West Salem), threatened to terminate funding of entire the prison chaplain program. He called Ms. Witch's hiring "hocus-pocus." His press release was headed "Huebsch burns Waupun witch project."


Deb Tetzlaff manages of religious and other programs at the institution. She was troubled by the reaction. She said: "Religious intolerance really bugs me. We're fighting a war right now over religious intolerance, for gosh sake."


Selena Fox is the head of Circle Sanctuary in Wisconsin. She is one of the best-known Neopagans in the U.S.  Ms. Witch received her training at the Sanctuary. She called Huebsch's remarks about witch burning "very disappointing." She added: "Would people joke about gassing Jews or lynching blacks?. The genocide that happened in old Europe was a very dark chapter in Western civilization and not a joking matter." She mentioned that there are other Wiccan chaplains in U.S. military and federal prisons. She consults with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and the Armed Forces Chaplains Board. Fox said: "The trend nationwide is to make sure Wiccans have equal rights as members of a world religion." She categorized the negative reaction as "the same kind of noise that happens whenever any social barrier is broken."

bulletWaupun Warden Gary McCaughtry said he would support Ms. Witch. He said: "Basically, a lot of it has to do with the duties and character of the individual, and Jamyi is an outstandingly approachable person - somebody that I wouldn't mind approaching on spiritual matters myself. If biases are present, it's a matter for us to work through those biases."

He hopes that legislators will clear their misconceptions about Wicca. He said: "We would hope to engage the Legislature in some discussion. We've followed the required state personnel process. . . . If any activity translates into oppression and harassment, we would be concerned with that." State equal employment laws prohibit discrimination based on religion. 11,12

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  1. Joe Blundo, "Attempt to ban fortune telling brings witches out of closet," The Columbus Dispatch, 2001-FEB-8, at: http://www.dispatch.com/news/features01/feb01/588718.html 
  2. Colette M. Jenkins, "Pagans are grateful for understanding," 2001-FEB-10, the Akron Beacon Journal.
  3. AREN's web site is at: http://aren.org
  4. The Church of Spiral Oak meets at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at the Shady Hollow Pavilion at Sand Run Metro Park in Akron, OH. Their web site is at:  www.spiraloak.com 
  5. Jason Williams, "Naked May King's spring rite to result in indecency charge," ToledoBlade.com, 2001-MAY-19
  6. Case 8990, Chancery Court for Lawrence County, TN. OPINION, 2000-MAY-23.
  7. "Purple Pagan pride ribbons," Culture & Family Institute, at: http://cultureandfamily.org/report/2001-09-20/r_pagans.shtml
  8. Murray Weiss, "Pre-9/11 'Terrorist' mail came from Indy," NYPost.com, 2001-NOV-1, at: http://www.nypost.com/news/
  9. Christopher Noble, "Salem witches finally cleared," Reuters, 2001-NOV-2.
  10. "Kansas camp for nude witches fights closing," Reuters, 2001-NOV-27.
  11. Nahal Toosi, "Wiccan is new state prison chaplain: Some a bit bothered by hiring of Rev. Witch," Updated 2001-DEC-5, Journal Sentinel, at: http://www.jsonline.com/news/state/dec01/
  12. Susan Lampert Smith, "Wicca religion of new prison chaplain stirs up concern, outrage and hostile comments," Wisconsin State Journal, at: http://www.wisconsinstatejournal.com/
  13. Nahal Toosi, "Wiccan defends right to be chaplain: Lawmaker says he'll push to cut funds for prison chaplain," 2001-DEC-7, Journal Sentinel, at: http://www.jsonline.com/news/state/dec01/3593.asp
  14. "Religious Right leaders stick to theme that gays, abortionists, and others invite God's wrath on America," People for the American Way, 2002-JAN-4, at: http://www.pfaw.org/issues/right/

Copyright © 2001 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally published: 2001-JAN-4
Latest update: 2002-FEB-6
Author: B.A. Robinson

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