2015: A Wiccan priestess in Iowa
what is believed to be the
Wiccan invocation at any
U.S. State House:
2015-MAR/APR: A Wiccan priestess delivered an invocation at the Iowa State House:
During 2015-MAR, Iowa State Rep. Liz Bennett (D) invited Deborah Maynard, a Wiccan priestess, to give the invocation in the State House on APR-09. 1
"I didn’t really think it was that big of a deal, until I did more research on it. The more research I did on it, that’s when I found that it’s never been done in a state government body before by a Wiccan."
"I think there are people across the nation who don’t realize how diverse Iowa really is, and so I’m proud that this is another first for us."
Readers of the article in Pathos.com posted 61 comments on this short news item. Some of the more interesting were:
Ann Kah posted:
"Wicca is just another flavor of woo. Nevertheless, if it annoys the Christians not to be the only game in town, I'm for it."
To which "CanuckAmuck" responded:
"I'll say this for Wiccans and assorted pagans: I've never had one warn me to believe lest I be subject to eternal torture or solicit me for donations or, in general, be any kind of bother.
What more could an atheist want out of the religious?"
Armin Tamzarian posted:
"Wicca (like Satanism and Paganism) isn't a traditional religion for most adherents, it's more of a philosophy. Most Wiccans, Satanists and Pagans [who] I know don't actually believe that magic/Satan/Zeus/Odin/whatever exist, but they think the values of those 'religions' are good or see it as part of their cultural heritage they want to preserve (especially the Pagans)."
"As much as it doesn't belong, I would rather have a religion represented that commands you to worship stones rather than a religion that commands you to throw the stones."
To which Sophia Sadek responded:
"I have never heard that Wiccans worship stones. The ones I have met would prefer to get stoned."
Jeff posted some misinformation about Wicca:
"I don't really think that this is something to celebrate. Wiccans believe in twice as many gods as Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and somewhat hypocritically believe that they have a right to harm everyone who doesn't believe what they believe, simply for not thinking in the Wiccan way. I don't think it's a good thing to have someone who believes in twice as much hypocritical bullshit as Christians deliver some sort of prayer to open a government function."
To which "SBC DSM" responded:
"Where do you get your information? The primary concept of Wicca is 'an it Harm None, do as you will.' There is no universal proscription for worship of two specific Gods/Goddesses. Wicca, like most forms of modern Paganism encourages individuals to build their own beliefs through the responsible search for personal truths. [It is] hypocrisy [to] tell everyone that you know what someone else believes without ever actually talking to them or doing the slightest bit of research." 1
2015-APR-09: Priestess Deborah Maynard delivered the first ever Wiccan opening invocation to a partly empty House:
Some representatives experienced a conflict over the Wiccan invocation. Many probably based their beliefs about Wicca on centuries old propaganda that witches worship Satan and perform black magic, issue curses, and cast evil spells. Some Reps attended the invocation. Some remained absent until Deborah Maynard was finished. One, Rep. Rob Taylor (R) was present but silently protested. He explained that he asked himself "what would Jesus do?" He answered:
"Jesus would be in the chamber, from my perspective, he would passively protest. Then he would seek that individual out and have peaceful conversation about why his way was the best way." 2
So, during the invocation, Taylor turned his back to Deborah Mynard, and silently prayed a Christian prayer as she invoked the four major elements that some Wiccans believe make up the universe: earth, air, fire and water:
"We call this morning to God, Goddess, universe, that which is greater than ourselves, to be with us here today.
By the Earth that is in our bones and centers us, may all here remember our roots and those we are here to represent.
By the Fire that gives us light and passion, may all here remain passionate about the work that must be done for the people of Iowa.
By the Air that gives us breath and logic, may all here find thoughtful solutions to the problems that are presented.
By the Water that flows through our blood and stirs our emotions, may all here draw on that emotional intelligence which helps us to see the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
We call this morning to Spirit which is ever-present to help us respect the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. Be with us and this legislative body, and guide them to seek justice, equity, and compassion in the work that is before them today.
Blessed be, Aho, and Amen."
The portion of the invocation in which she referred to "the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part" appears to be a direct quotation from the last of The Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism, 3 a liberal religious faith that welcomes people whose beliefs range from Agnosticism and Atheism, to Wicca and Zoroastrianism.
Readers of the second article in Patheos also added some interesting comments:
Margaret Whitestone posted:
" 'Jesus would be in the chamber, from my perspective, he would passively protest. Then he would seek that individual out and have peaceful conversation about why his way was the best way,' Taylor said.
So when a Christian protests another person's prayer, they're doing The Right Thing. When anybody protests a Christian's prayer, they're being an anti-Christian a--hole.
To which "The_Wretched" responded:
"Double standards at their finest. And a healthy serving of a lack of introspection."
And "Tobias 27772" responded:
" 'cause they don't know the TRUTH."
And "301.83" responded:
"Well, I think what he did was the most respectful form of protest. He was not claiming to be mistreated or saying it was anti- christian to do so. He is saying as a Christian he felt that Jesus would not be hateful or arbitrary in his actions. That is a VERY Christian thought. And I am a pagan.... not too fond of the Christian Right at all... This was a classy response."
"... The whole reason why a Wiccan was invited to do the invocation was to challenge the status quo of Christianity as the default. The protester isn't protesting a violation of the establishment clause or some other morally valid concern. He is protesting other religions being presented as potentially valid and of value, just as Christianity has always had the privilege of being presented.
It was a very polite and socially acceptable way of saying that he believes that his religion should be given a place of privilege and power over the people of other religions/paths, and that he will protest anything that doesn't uphold that."
"From your article, you say only one person silently protested, which is correct. However, you don't realize that nearly half of the people who were supposed to be there, left the room before the invocation began and went to another room to open with Christian prayer. That was truly pathetic." 2
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Hemant Mehta, "Iowa Lawmaker Invites Wiccan Priestess to Deliver Invocation in State House," Patheos, 2015-MAR-30, at: http://www.patheos.com/
Hemant Mehta, "A Wiccan Priestess Delivered the Invocation in the Iowa State House This Morning," Patheos, 2015-APR-09, at:http://www.patheos.com/