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YEAR 2004

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Wiccan news for 2004:

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 religion.
bullet Enough school students have taken -- or threatened -- legal action to preserve their right to wear Neopagan symbols that public school districts are no longer banning religious jewelry.

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News items:

bullet 2004-AUG-20: NY: Pagan Pride Day meets resistance: Two Wiccans, Heidi Gleber and Shelly O'Brien, are organizing a Pagan festival on AUG-28 to celebrate the first Finger Lakes Pagan Pride Day in Canandaigua, NY. Their first problem was that they wanted to donate nonperishable food collected at the festival to a local group that serves the needy. The latter refused to accept the gifts. We have a hunch that they fear that the food may be hexed. The women were able to find a taker: St. Mary Church in Canandaigua -- a Roman Catholic church. Then, according to Gleber, the city refused them permission to hold the event at the local Baker Park. She said that the city refused on religious grounds. Later, they said it could not be held because it was in a space reserved for sports. At this point, Gleber and O'Brien called the American Civil Liberties Union. The city caved in, and the event will proceed as scheduled. 1
bullet 2004-AUG-24: USA: Military uses education to combat religious hatred: While some military servicemen and women serving in Iraq were worshiping, other army personnel pelted them with bottles and rocks. The victims were Wiccans conducting a ritual in a sacred circle. It is unclear what the religious affiliation of the perpetrators were. The Pentagon turned to Patrick McCollum of Moraga, CA to explain the Wiccan religion to the troops. He said: "Education is the single most powerful tool," in dealing with misunderstandings in the military. There are currently 1,552 enlisted Air Force personnel who identify themselves as Wiccans. The Marines have 68. The Navy and Army do not list Wiccans. The Department of Veterans Affairs refuses to allow a Wiccan symbol to be placed on the headstones or markers of deceased soldiers. 2 We received an Email on OCT-12 from the author of this story who reported that: "The Times has been unable to substantiate the claim of rock and bottle throwing. Sources say the incident probably never occurred."
bullet 2004-SEP-21: Scotland: Wiccan wedding solemnized: Two Canadians, Paul Cameron Rickards, 37, and Laurie Schendler, 42, were married in a Wiccan ceremony deep in the underground vaults of Edinburgh's historic Old Town. The couple are not Wiccans, but chose to have this type of ceremony because it appealed to their sensibilities and general beliefs. The ceremony was conducted at the Niddry Street Temple of the Source Coven of the Blue Dragon by George Cameron and Lady Felina, the coven's High Priest and Priestess.
bullet Schendler said: "Itís one of the oldest forms of marriage, tying the knot. Itís just so old and romantic. It was fantastic being piped down the Royal Mile by the piper. It was beautiful."
bullet Rickards said: "The wedding appealed to us. It appealed to our sensibilities, it appealed to everything we believe in with nature. It fitted perfectly."
bullet Hamilton said: "This is the most important event to have happened in the religion for over past 50 years, since the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in 1951, the year of my birth....Weíve already been approached by a company who wish us to carry out weddings for them and we expect to have hundreds of weddings in the future."
bullet A spokeswoman for the General Register Office for Scotland said: "It is the first Wicca wedding to be authorized in Scotland. It is a recommended form of religion. The Registrar General for Scotland attaches great importance to the principle of marriage."

Not everyone was thrilled:
bullet Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, a member of the Scottish parliament, said: " Many centuries ago, witches were burnt in Scotland and this was an intolerant way of dealing with dissident women who disagreed with official policies. Happily, we live in a tolerant society today, but the state has to be very careful before endorsing practices which may be seen at least as bizarre."
bullet Bill Wallace, a former convener of the Church of Scotlandís board of social responsibility and a minister in Wick, said: "I think this illustrates peopleís desperate need for some spiritual dimension in their lives and their willingness to go to any wild extreme....It would be a sad reflection on the state of our country [if more weddings like this took place]. It emphasizes all the more need for Christian affirmations." 2,3

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  1. Denise-Marie Santiago, "Pagans say they just want acceptance, fair treatment," Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester NY, 2004-AUG-20, at: Myers, "Wiccans in the military seek more understanding, tolerance," (Mississippi), 2004-AUG-18, at:
  2. "New Hats Abound at White Witch Wedding," Scottish Press Association, 2004-SEP-21, at:
  3. Sam Halstead & Gareth Edwards, "A nice day for a witch Wedding," 2004-SEP-16, Evening News, at:

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Copyright © 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally published: 2004-AUG-25
Latest update: 2004-SEP-25
Author: B.A. Robinson

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