WICCAN NEWS IN THE MEDIA
Wiccan news for 2002:
||2002-JAN-9: WI: ReligionToday article on Wicca:
ReligionToday, a service of Crosswalk.com -- a Fundamentalist
Christian Internet organization -- discussed the
appointment of a Wiccan chaplain for the
Waupun Correctional Institution in 2001-DEC.
California and several other states have Wiccan volunteers in their prison
systems. But, Jamyi Witch, 43, is the first Wiccan priestess to serve as a
full-time state prison chaplain in the U.S. Three state lawmakers
are outraged at the appointment. Rep. Scott Walker showed a profound
misunderstanding of the role of prison chaplains. He asked: "Why are we
paying a woman $35,000 a year to work with just 30 inmates?" There are
two chaplains at the institution: one Protestant and the other Wiccan.
Their role consists mainly of making certain that the inmates are well
equipped with needed materials, from Bibles to herbs for native smudging,
to crystals. Another main task is to arrange for clergy to give one-on-one
counseling to individual inmates. Chaplains do little counseling
themselves. One legislator said that taxpayers "shouldn't be forced to
accept this hocus-pocus." Another called the appointment "morally
dangerous." Complaint calls have swamped the prison switchboard, the
state Legislature and radio talk shows. In one day, Ms. Witch received 76
phone messages and 432 E-mails -- mostly supportive. The reporter from the
LA Times explained in her article that the public's beliefs about Wicca
are quite off base. "Witch's brand of magic involves focusing psychic
energy on a worthy goal, using meditation to achieve good. It is, she
said, just another word for prayer. And it can be used only for healing.
Wiccans are absolutely forbidden to use magic to enact curses...Her
critics, however, don't trust her. And they have nightmares of her using
her chaplain's post to suck criminals into the 'cult' of bizarre ritual
that Wicca represents to them." In her defense, Warden Gary McCaughtry
told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that "Jamyi is an outstandingly
approachable person, somebody that I wouldn't mind approaching on
spiritual matters myself." State officials state that Ms. Witch meets
or exceeds all the requirements for the job of chaplain. State laws
prohibit her from being discriminated against on the basis of her
religious faith. She also has a proven track record working as a volunteer
in the prison. Referring to her critics, she said: "They think I'm
teaching all the inmates to chant spells. If I had one-eighth of the power
that people are crediting me with, I wouldn't be sitting in Waupun
Correctional [Institution] working my butt off. I'd have my patootie up on
a velvet cushion with people throwing grapes at me. Or cheeseburgers."
2002-APR-8: CA: Anti-Wiccan
The Antelope Valley Press of Palmdale, CA, reported on what the
called "Wiccagate:" a demonstration by Christians against a group
of Wiccans who were rededicating the Witches Grove: a store in
Lancaster CA which sells Neopagan material. The ritual also involved the
celebration of the spring equinox, and honored the Pagan Goddess Brigid
and the God Thor. "Store proprietors alleged that Christian protesters
bumped participants in the Wiccan ritual, screamed Bible verses and blared
Christian rock music in the store's back parking lot, where the
rededication ceremony took place." 2 Cyndia Riker,
a Wiccan high priestess and owner of the store, said that the Sheriff's
Department took five hours to respond to a phone call for help. One of the
Christians alleged to have taken part is Billy Pricer, a volunteer
sheriff's chaplain and pastor of Life Changers Christian Center. He
was reported as saying that the event was "totally blown out of
proportion." He said that the protest was not organized. However,
Riker said that representatives from three local Christian churches
arrived in rental cars at about the same time and that some of the
protestors communicated via walkie-talkies. Pricer is reported as saying
that the protestors only went there to pray in public for the Wiccans.
The lesson? If you are a non-Christian and plan to hold a public ritual,
we suggest that you request police protection in advance. As a minimum,
have a member videotape the entire ritual.
2002-MAY-1: CA: More on the anti-Wiccan demonstration: About twenty conservative Christians interrupted
the Pagan religious service in Lancaster CA, described above. Fifty Pagans
were present. "Words
were exchanged. A praying man, who turned out to be a sheriff's chaplain,
was blaring Christian pop tunes through his SUV speakers. 'Forgive them,
Lord,' he said. 'They don't know what they're doing. The pagans said they
felt intimidated and called the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Although the Lancaster station is three blocks away, it took deputies 4
1/2 hours to respond. By the time they arrived, everyone was gone."
The event triggered intense debate among the locals about First Amendment
Rights, hate legislation and the limits of tolerance. The Antelope
Valley Interfaith Council has scheduled a day of prayer on MAY-19 in
response to the event. Council President, Bishop Bernard Price, of the
Orthodox Christian Church of St. Thomas said: "What technically
happened was not a crime, but a great deal of hatred motivated the action.
The Christians accused [the Pagans] of being Satanists, and [the Pagans]
don't believe in that. It's only the religious right that believes in
Satan." [Actually, Muslims believe in the existence of Satan as well.]
In recent years, valley leaders have attempted to "combat the area's
reputation for narrow-mindedness...[they have founded] a hate crimes
hotline, a human relations task force and an anger management course for
teens drawn to bigotry."
"The man blaring his stereo was...John
Canavello, then associate chaplain at the Lancaster sheriff's station."
He has since been suspended because of his involvement in the incident.
2002-JUL-1: Australia: Census figures show rapid growth
of Wicca, Paganism: Wiccans in Australia have grown from fewer than
2,000 in 1996 to nearly 9,000 in 2001. The number of Pagans more than
doubled over the same interval, and are now at 10,632.
According to the Herald Sun, a Victoria newspaper,
"Most of the major Christian denominations lost followers during the
past six years." 4
2002-JUL-2: Australia: Roman Catholic religious
The information service "This is True" posted the following
information about Wicca and Roman Catholicism in Australia: "The
fastest-growing religion in Australia is
Witchcraft, census officials say, and the state of Victoria is
considering repealing a 1966 law banning the practice of it and similar
religions, such as Paganism. Census figures indicate that in the last six
years, the number of witches has more than quadrupled to 9,000, and the
number of pagans has more than doubled to 10,632, while most Christian
denominations have seen decreases in followers. 'I'd be appalled if
[repealing the law] implies some sort of approval,' says Monsignor Peter
J. Elliot of the local Catholic Archdiocese. 'I think it reflects the
collapse of values and sanity in our society that this mishmash of
superstition and fraud is to be recognized.' (Melbourne Herald Sun)
...Funny, that's just what the witches say about Catholicism." 5 The state of Victoria, the census office, and the church
appear to be using the same word, "witchcraft" to refer to three very
different activities: The state of Victoria is apparently referring to a
law prohibiting fortune telling. The census office is referring to Wicca,
a religion which prohibits its followers from harming others. The Monsignor is
apparently referring to two practices often translated as
"witchcraft" in the Bible: women issuing spoken
curses to harm others and murderers who use poison. Needless to say, the
three activities are unrelated.
2002-OCT-4: VA: Wiccan rejected: Cyndi Simpson is a
Wiccan priestess, who lives in
Chesterfield County, VA. In her area of the country, Wicca and other
Neopagan religions are highly
misunderstood. She asked Chesterfield County to add her name to the list
of ministers and priests who give invocations at county meetings. Her hope
was that if she gave an invocation, she would help rid the community of
misconceptions of Witches and Wiccans. She got several responses:
Steven L. Micas, the county's attorney, wrote back that: "Based
upon our review of Wicca, it is neo-pagan and invokes polytheistic,
pre-Christian deities...Accordingly, we cannot honor your request."
Simpson said: "I believe that this shows bias not only against my faith
but against Islam, Hindu, Buddhism, Native Americans and any faith outside
the Judeo-Christian religion. In a public area, government sponsored, we
should all be welcome....I am a proud citizen of Chesterfield County. I
think these kinds of public practices should reflect the true religious
diversity of Chesterfield County, and I am part of that. I would welcome a
phone call from any of the county officials."
Supervisor Renny B. Humphrey, from the rural, heavily
Baptist Matoaca District, said "I hope she's a good witch like Glinda."
Glinda is the Good Witch of the North in the movie "The Wizard of Oz."
Board Chairman Kelly E. Miller said: "It [Wicca] is a
mockery. It is not any religion I would subscribe to. There are certain
places we ought not to go, and this is one of them."
On a positive note, Supervisor Edward B. Barber said: "How
do you justify drawing a line to say this religious practice is acceptable
to begin a board meeting but this one is not?"
Kent Willis, spokesperson for the Virginia branch of the
American Civil Liberties Union, said "They are dead wrong. Wicca
is a highly recognized religion. The military manual for chaplains
includes instructions for people who are Wiccans...Their reasoning is
highly suspect." 6
2002-OCT-28: Scotland: Witches blamed for animal
mutilation: The British Broadcasting Corporation has a
world-wide reputation of providing very high quality news coverage.
However, they resorted to yellow journalism in a report on OCT-28. They
linked sporadic attacks on horses with "witchcraft." The latter
term has about 17 different meanings. However, its most common meaning in
the UK refers to a religious group called Wicca. They display a Wiccan
religious symbol -- a pentagram -- and indicate that it "may be clue to
woundings." They quote the National Equine Welfare Council who
have concluded that there is "a link between attacks on horses and
dates in the pagan calendar.... between October and Easter."
There is, of course, no such thing as a "pagan calendar" and Easter
is not a holiday recognized by Wiccans or other Pagans. 7
2002-NOV-5: IL: Judge prohibits Wiccan religious
observance in prison: Kerry D. O'Bryan, a bank robber and
counterfeiter, asked for permission to perform Wiccan rituals as part of
his religious observances. He was denied permission by the prison
administration, who cited a Federal Bureau of Prison's ban on
spells and curses, dated 2001-MAY. That policy was instituted "in the
interest of security and good order of the institution." He filed a
lawsuit in East St. Louis, claiming that the prison's policy violates his
First Amendment rights and also runs counter to the
Religion Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. He named the Bureau, its
director and regional directors, and the prison warden. U.S. District
Judge Michael J. Reagan ruled rejected the case. 8
"Wiccan Chaplain Brews Storm:
Some taxpayers want the Rev. Jamyi
Witch removed from her state job counseling prisoners," LA Times,
Rich Breault, "Wiccagate: What do Witches Grove protesters have
to hide?," Valley Press, 2002-APR-8.
Richard Fausset, "Pagans' Presence Tests
Tolerance in High Desert," LA Times, 2002-APR-28, at:
Jason Frenkel, "Witches win converts," Herald Sun,
"This is True" mailing for 2002-AUG-3.
"Chesterfield Gives Witch the Broom," Richmond
Times-Dispatch, 2002-OCT-7, at:
"Horse attacks may be witchcraft," BBC News, 2002-OCT-28, at:
- Michael Shaw, "Judge forbids casting of spells at Illinois prison,"
Copyright © 2002 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally published: 2002-JAN-9
Latest update: 2005-APR-28
Author: B.A. Robinson