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YEAR 2005

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Wiccan news for 2005:

News about Wiccans and other Neopagans in the media appears to be drying up. We suspect that some of the reasons are:

bullet Many new conservative Christian web sites and books have accurately reflected Wicca instead of reprinting misinformation based on religious propaganda from the Burning Times
bullet The public has generally become much more aware of Wicca, and have accepted it as a valid minority religion.
bullet Enough Wiccans have enforced their rights through the court. Few public school districts continue to ban religious jewelry; few municipal councils reject non-Judeo-Christian representatives for the delivery of invocations.

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News items:

bullet 2005-FEB: Chesterfield County, VA, rejects Wiccan priestess: Cynthia Simpson, a Wiccan priestess, was informed that she could not lead the opening prayer at a Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors meeting. The county asserted that her beliefs as a Wiccan were not consistent with the Judeo-Christian tradition. A trial judge ruled that it was unconstitutional to deny her the chance to deliver the invocation. The county has appealed the decision.

Simpson said that she was excluded because of a lack of understanding. She said: "People just don't know about...[Wicca] and there has definitely been a misrepresentation of Witchcraft...I understand all that ignorance and confusion." She plans to appeal the decision of the appeals court if it does not rule in her favor.

8 News referred to Simpson as "a self-proclaimed witch." We have found no evidence of the media outlet referring to Christians, Jews, Muslims etc. as "self-proclaimed." 1 More info.

bullet 2005-MAY-26: IN: Divorced parents prohibited from religious expression: When Tammie Bristol and Thomas Jones Jr. applied for a divorce in 2004-fall, Judge Cale J. Bradford of the Marion Superior Court added an unusual -- perhaps unique -- provision to their divorce. They could not no longer expose their 9-year-old son to the Wiccan religious beliefs, which both of them share. The Domestic Relations Counseling Bureau, interviewed the couple and sent their recommendations about custody and visitation rights to the court. The Bureau detected what they judged to be a problem: the son attends a local Catholic parochial school and the parents follow a non-Catholic, non-Christian religion. The Bureau's report stated that: "There is a discrepancy between Ms. Jones and Mr. Jones' lifestyle and the belief system adhered to by the parochial school....Ms. Jones and Mr. Jones display little insight into the confusion these divergent belief systems will have upon (the boy) as he ages." The Bureau appears to regard the religion of Wicca as a "lifestyle" and Roman Catholicism as a "belief system." The judge prohibited both parents from exposing their son to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals." He did not define what a "mainstream" religion is. Both parents were outraged by this ruling and, with the support of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, have filed a request with the appeals court to have the restrictive clause deleted. The father said: "This was done without either of us requesting it and at the judge's whim. It is upsetting to our son that he cannot celebrate holidays with us, including Yule, which is winter solstice, and Ostara, which is the spring equinox." 2

It is likely that the judge is unaware:
bullet Of the nature of Wicca. A great deal of misinformation and disinformation is still being circulated about Wicca.
bullet That many non-Catholics attend Roman Catholics parochial schools.
bullet The sizeable and growing percentage of families in which children are exposed to religious diversity because their parents follow different religions or different faith groups within the same religion.
bullet That many adults regard themselves as both Wiccans and Christians.

Above all, the judge appears to be unaware of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which guarantees freedom of religion and requires separation of church and state.

bullet 2005-AUG-17: Appeals court overturns judge's ruling concerning Wicca: As expected, the Marion Superior Court ruling was overturned on appeal. The Indiana Civil Liberties Union based the appeal partly on the unconstitutionally vague instruction that the son was not to be exposed to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals." But the appeals court based its ruling on state law which gives custodial parents the right to determine a child's upbringing, including religious training.  3

Covenant News covered this news item in its web site in its "Abominations" section. They follow their abstract with a quotation from the King James version of the Bible: Exodus 22:18: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."

2005-OCT-11: Appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court rejected: Cyndi Simpson is a Wiccan priestess who is affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. She lives in Chesterfield County, VA. The county board starts its meetings with a Judeo-Christian invocation. She tried to have her name added to the list of religious persons who gave invocations but was refused. She sued and her case eventually was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Rebecca Glenberg of the American Civil Liberties Union told the court that the county issues invitations to deliver prayers to all Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religious leaders in the county, but refuses to invite Native Americans, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Wiccans. Local Hindu, Buddhist, and Native American groups filed a brief on her behalf. The Supreme Court refused to hear Ms. Simpson's appeal. As is normal in these cases, the court did not offer a reason. Simpson feels that the legal effort was worthwhile because it informed the public in an area of the U.S. that is particularly religiously intolerant about Wicca and Unitarian Universalism. More details.


2005-OCT-28: ON: Toronto Board of Education issues memo on Halloween/Samhain: The Board issued a memo titled "Hallowe'en at Toronto District School Board Schools: Scarrrrry Stuff!. " It asked the schools to hold culturally sensitive Halloween celebrations. It urged schools to respect the celebration as a Wiccan holy day. It also noted that some students have had "first-hand traumatic experiences of violence that make talking about death, ghosts, etc., extremely alienating." 4


2005-NOV-02: MD: Spiral Dance Circle discussed in media: ReligionNewsBlog described a Saturday morning meeting in Baltimore County, MD, of Spiral Dance Circle No. 101. The meeting includes a half-dozen children in the age range 4 to 8 and their mothers. They are members of the SpiralScouts, an international youth group composed mainly of Wiccans, Druids, and other Neopagans. The group sang a song about a Halloween pumpkin, heard about the first jack-l'-lanterns made from turnips to scare away evil spirits, and prepared for trick or treating on their seasonal day of celebration, Samhain. Spiral Scouts International was formed in 2001, partly in response to discrimination against homosexuals by the regular Boy Scouts. 5

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  1. "Witch Prayer Flap," 8 News, WRIC, Petersburg/Richmond VA, 2005-FEB-17, at: http://www.wric.com/
  2. Kevin Corcoran, "Judge: Parents can't teach pagan beliefs," Indianapolis Star, 2005-MAY-26, at: http://www.indystar.com/
  3. Mike Smith, "Appeals Court Tosses Judge's Wiccan Order," Associated Press, 2005-AUG-17, at: http://news.yahoo.com/
  4. Tess Kalinowski, "Board urges 'inclusive' Halloween," The Toronto Star, 2005-OCT-28, Page B2.
  5. Matthew Brown, "Flourishing, pagan groups get organized," at: http://www.religionnewsblog.com

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Copyright 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally published: 2005-FEB-17
Latest update: 2005-NOV-02
Author: B.A. Robinson

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