Tag Archives: First Amendment

Come Celebrate Banned Books Week with Me

Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to second best in a free and open encounter?

~ John Milton in Areopagitica.

What’s your favorite banned book? Which are still on your list?

No Compromise. No Surrender.

All Acts of Love and Pleasure Are Rituals of the Goddess

I do love poetry, but there are poems and then there are POEMS.

And there are two Poems that I’ve written into my will to have read at my funeral.

One is Mary Oliver’s When Death Comes.

And the other is The Charge of the Goddess:

Listen to the words of the Great Mother, Who of old was called Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Diana, Arionrhod, Brigid, and by many other names:

Whenever you have need of anything, once a month, and better it be when the Moon is full, you shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me Who is Queen of All the Wise.

You shall be free from slavery, and, as a sign that you be free, you shall be naked in your rites.

Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in My Presence, for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on earth.

For My law is love is unto all beings. Mine is the secret that opens the door of youth, and Mine is the cup of wine of life that is the cauldron of Cerridwen, that is the holy grail of immortality.

I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal, and beyond death I give peace and freedom and reunion with those that have gone before.

Nor do I demand aught of sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of all things and My love is poured out upon the earth.

Hear the words of the Star Goddess, the dust of Whose feet are the hosts of Heaven, whose body encircles the universe:

I Who am the beauty of the green Earth and the white Moon among the stars and the mysteries of the waters,

I call upon your soul to arise and come unto me.

For I am the soul of Nature that gives life to the universe.

From Me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.

Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.

Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

And you who seek to know Me, know that the seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.

For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.

~ Attributed to Doreen Valiente

As Jason Pitzl-Waters notes over at the Wild Hunt, many Pagan religions actually support gay marriage. Of course we do. “All acts of love and pleasure” obviously includes gay sex, and “Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you,” clearly encompasses gay marriages. (Some of the strongest, most powerful, most compassionate, most honorable, and most reverent unions that I know are between gay friends of mine.) Pagans are (again, generally) polytheists. We worship diversity, difference, multiplicity, “all acts of love and pleasure.”

As a result, as Jason and his commenters explain, a statue or constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage actually discriminates against Pagan religions and causes the government to favor the tenants of one religion (Christianity) over the tenants of other religions (Paganism) — which is PRECISELY what the First Amendment prohibits. The First Amendment bans any “law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . .” And a statue that establishes Christian hatred of gay sex and gay marriage, and that prohibits Pagans from exercising their religious support of gay sex and gay marriage, trespasses against the Constitution.

Our Pagan religion is about being free and naked in our rites. Our religion is about making music and love in the Presence of our Goddess.

And our Goddess is all about ecstasy of the spirit AND about joy on Earth, both of which many of us find in sex, of whatever kind. Her law is love unto ALL beings, with no limitations or restrictions. She is with us from the beginning and She is that which we attain at the end of ALL desire. All desire. (One morning, this past week, G/Son and I had breakfast out on the screen porch. He had blueberries, apple slices, and cheddar cheese, along with some apple cider in his favorite Thomas the Tank Engine cup. Nonna had a poached egg on toast and coffee in her favorite mug, which says, “You pray. I dance naked in the forest.” G/Son, who is now reading EVERYTHING, read my mug and said, “Nonna, that’s funny. Do you dance naked in the forest?” I said, “Yes, sometimes I do. For me, that is a way of praying.” G/Son stopped for a few minutes and thought about that before he said, “Nonna, I think it’s time for me to beat you at Uno. Again.” Kid is a card shark.)

I’d like to see as many “official” Pagan religions as possible specifically adopt support for gay marriage as a part of their catechisms. That would help the ultimate legal argument that North Carolina’s recent constitutional amendment, for example, violates the First Amendment.

As I’ve noted before, I occasionally find that the arc of the moral universe benefits from some of my dulcet urgings for it to “BEND, MOTHERFUCKER, JUST FUCKING BEND, ALREADY.” Today, I believe that it bent a bit. I’ll take whatever I can get.

I’m a big believer in the bend. If I’d been sitting at Mamma Doreen’s shoulder, I’d have added:

From Me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.

Let the arc of the moral universe bend towards justice and may the bending sometimes not take too long.

Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals.

I’m more than willing to beat up on President Obama when he (all too frequently, for my progressive heart) fucks up. Today, I’d like to thank him for (finally, in a politically-calculated way, but I don’t care) doing the right thing.

All acts of love and pleasure are rituals of the Goddess. The government of the United States shouldn’t ban any of them.

Picture found here.

The Continued War on Sanity in Loudon County

You’ll never guess who’s missing:

Supervisor Ken Reid (R-Leesburg) presented a drawing made by his teenage daughter of what the display could be, including children representing each faith and holiday—Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Kwanzaa, Aethism, and Sikhism—and holding a symbol of their beliefs, with a Christmas tree in the background. Reid said he was not offering it up as an actual option, but said it was more a representation of how each of the major religions could be represented in the display.

You know, I never ceased to be amazed at the lengths some people will go to in order to ignore simple solutions. What Loudon County needs to do is to keep holiday displays off of county property. Simple. If churches, private businesses, and individuals want to put up holiday displays on their own property, that’s fine. But there is NO REASON why county property has to be used to put up holiday displays. And, if there were some incredible reason to put up a holiday display (to promote holiday shopping or community good will or whatever), an led-lit snowman surrounded by giant candy canes and snowflakes would do just fine. You want your holiday display? There, you got one. (Of course the Dominionists will just complain that Jesus is the Reason for the Season and it’s terrible to leave Jesus out. Which leads me back to my first point.)

Stop for a minute and consider the amount of time of money being spent on this nonsense by a county that, like most counties in America, has had to cut back on basic services. And, regardless of what display someone’s teen-age daughter creates (/rolls eyes), the Dominionists won’t be happy and the First Amendment WILL get trampled on and the county will likely end up spending more time and money in court. Intelligent county officials could make this case and explain that, as a prudent use of tax dollars, there will be no holiday displays on county property. The Dominionists could bitch for a few years and, eventually, no one would even remember that the Christians used to get to take over county property to impose their religion on everyone else.

What is so difficult about that???????

/hat tip to my madcap friend, R.

Picture found here.

This Is What a Patriot Looks Like

I was thinking the other day about the people who are continuing to Occupy various places, even through the depths of Winter. I recalled Thomas Paine‘s statement that:

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

There are Winter Patriots all over America. People who show up, even when it would be easier to stay home, who show up even when the sun isn’t shining on their deeds. And as Paine explained, those Winter Patriots “deserve the love and thanks of man and woman.”

As The Wild Hunt reported, a public school in North Carolina recently handed out free Gideon-donated Bibles to young students, a pretty clear violation of the First Amendment. The principal of the school defended her actions, saying that:

If another group wishes to do the same, I plan on handling that the same way as I have handled this.

And that’s where our Winter Patriot comes in. Byron Ballard (and if you’re not reading Byron’s blog and following her on Twitter, you should be) didn’t just get mad and complain about this on a blog. She called the principal’s bluff.

It was very cold and very early today when I met Ginger Strivelli in Weaverville and followed her to her son’s school, North Windy Ridge Intermediate, part of the Buncombe county school system.

She had a couple of boxes of books that had been donated from several Pagan authors and supporters all over the East Coast. I added a handful of books and brought two copies of the Mountain Area Interfaith Forum’s Diversity Guide, which was created as a resource for public schools.(If you or your school needs one, it can be downloaded for free at the Center for Diversity Education’s website–diversityed.org/K-12.)

We were there to deliver the materials that she was assured would be “made available” in the same way the Gideon material was, right before the winter break. No surprise to find that, in consultation with the system’s superintendent Dr. Baldwin, the principal Jackie Byerly and asst principal Danny Fusco couldn’t do that at all because the central office was reviewing its policy regarding religious materials in schools. They suggested that they would “hold onto” the books, in case the school system needed to review them for appropriate content, once the policy was vetted.


We determined that leaving the materials was not the best plan because we are certain the new policy will preclude distribution–even passively–of these materials, and that these books can be used for the active Pagan prison ministries in the area. Ginger and I had a meeting with the principal and her assistant that lasted for some time and we left with the books. As we knew we would.

We have dealt with this issue again and again in this school system. Enough is enough.

The Earth religions community is frankly tired of dealing with this every few years. As long as any child in a public school system is bullied, coerced or ostracized for the spiritual path of their family and themselves, the situation is not fixed and the school environment is not safe.

There will be more media, more “good Christian” people threatening violence, more bullying and “othering” before this is settled. But settled it will be. Of this you can be certain.

Byron’s efforts are going to make it very difficult for the school to continue to hand out Christian propaganda. (To be clear, the school shouldn’t be handing out ANY religious materials, as even that act demonstrates a government preference for religion over atheism. But if the school is going to hand out religious literature, it’s important that they be forced to do so even-handedly. And the simple act of making them follow their own rules (as Saul Alinsky knew) often makes them change their rules. This happened a few years ago in Virginia, as I’ve blogged before. (That school district ultimately decided that maybe they’d be better off sending no religious literature home with kids. Duh.))

No one’s going to write a history book about Byron’s work today. She’s not going to get a medal or have poems written about her (but only because I can’t write poetry to save my soul). She’s a Winter Patriot who just keeps showing up and making it more difficult for those who want to trash our Constitutional rights and turn America from a free country into a theocracy. (It’s surprising, or maybe it’s not, how often this is women’s work.)

And it’s not enough, or even the beginning of enough, but tonight, at my altar, I’m going to take some time to send gratitude to our modern Winter Soldiers — those who Occupy physical space and those who show up and make Dominionists eat their words.

I shan’t be gone long. You come too.

Thank you, Byron.

Picture found here.

All Politics Are Local

There’s going to be a special election for the County Board in my little corner of the world. The election’s not for a few months, so I haven’t yet done much work to educate myself about the candidates.

This morning, one of them came to my door.*

He’s a charming young man, accomplished, and has the endorsement of a politician who almost always votes the way that I want him to vote. We chatted for a few minutes on my front porch and he told me about some of the ideas he has for consolidating county services and getting citizens more involved in local government. I told him that my one complaint with his (potential) predecessor was that she was too cozy with the local developers, allowing sixty-year-old neighborhoods with genuine character to be invaded by McMansions and strip malls. He’d already explained his view (which I share) that economic times may well remain tough. I pointed out to him that the developers of these McMansions (in addition to destroying neighborhood character) only had to pay the fees associated with single-family homes. Yet, in tough economic times, these giant places are sure to become multi-family homes/boarding houses/subdivided apartments. But they only have the parking, sewer hook-ups, school allotments, etc. associated with single-family homes. He quickly agreed, and showed me one of the bullet points on the hand-out he’d given me that calls for more thoughtful growth.

That’s when I asked him the question that he didn’t know how I wanted him to answer.

I told him that I’d read with interest a story in yesterday’s Washington Post about problems that our neighboring county is having over holiday displays on the grounds of the courthouse. I asked him what he thought about disputes over such displays. I’m pretty sure that he hadn’t read the article and I’m certain that he didn’t know how I wanted him to answer my question. I think a fair guess on the part of someone in his shoes would be that anyone concerned enough to ask about that article is likely to be a Dominionist. He stopped, thought for a minute, and then threw caution to the winds. He allowed as how any group** should be able to put up a display that reflects “their religion or their beliefs” because that’s what’s fair in America. I said, “What about Wiccans?”

And that’s where I learned something really important, not only about this candidate, but also about the huge importance of religious freedom in our military.

He took a deep breath and (I imagine, figuring in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-pound) said to the older, white, suburban lady who was specifically asking about religious displays, “As you can see on my handout, I’m a veteran of the Iraq War. When I was in Iraq, we had a guy in my unit who was Wiccan. He was a really good guy. He had his holidays and we always made sure that he could celebrate them. He was a good soldier. Once, when it was his holiday, he needed to go out into the woods to celebrate and we made sure that could happen.” I said, “So Wiccans should get a display?” He said, “Yes. If other religions get a display, I’ve got no problem at all with a Wiccan display. A lot of religions have holidays this time of year, well, at this time of year and at Easter.”

I held out my hand and said, “I’m Wiccan and I appreciate your answer.” He looked, first, amazed, and, second, a bit relieved. He shook my hand. I told him that, as a member of a minority religion, and a believer in the 1st Amendment, my preference would be for there to be no religious displays on county property. But that if some religious displays were allowed, then all must be.

My mailman stopped by to deliver a package, the candidate and I chatted for a few more minutes about when the upcoming election will occur, we shook hands again, I wished him luck, and he left for the next house on my block. I went inside with a newer and deeper appreciation of how important it is for our military to respect all religions. I am convinced that having known a Wiccan who was “a really good guy,” and “good solider,” and whose religion could be accommodated made all the difference for this candidate who, whether he wins this election or not, is going to be an influence in my county and my state (I can just tell when I shake someone’s hand. And I could tell.)

I’ve still got to learn about the other candidates. I’m not sure that I’ll vote for this young man. But I was really impressed with him and I’m grateful to him for teaching me something important.

*(Dear politicians, I don’t think that you can overestimate the value of this sort of contact. I may or may not agree with every position that you take, but I am much more likely to vote for, and to get involved supporting, someone who comes to my door, shakes my hand, looks me in the eye, and answers my questions.)

** To be fair, he said, “any group but, well, I don’t know, Satanists.” I asked, “So a county official gets to determine who it’s ok to worship?” and he quickly said, “Well, no, I see your point.” (Good answer.) Later, after he’d told me about the Wiccan soldier with whom he served, I pointed out that a lot of people, maybe even the county official making the decision about holiday displays, think that Wiccans worship Satan. To which he responded, “And they don’t. That’s not it. They worship Nature, but not Satan. I’ve learned that.” I’m convinced that it was his experience in the military that taught him this fact.

*** Celia‘s song, The Symbol, springs from the years-long campaign to allow Wiccan soldiers to have the Pentacle carved on their gravestones at Arlington Cemetery, just as soldiers of other religions have the symbol of their religions carved on their gravestones. After a long battle, the Veterans’ Administration finally allowed Sgt. Patrick Stewart’s marker (thanks to the endless efforts of his widow) to bear the Wiccan Pentacle. Other Pagan soldiers, including Druids, Asatru, and Goddessians, are still denied the right to have their symbols carved upon their gravestones.

Stand Up for Religious Freedom & the Divine Feminine

This Sunday, October 30th, is predicted to be a lovely Autumn day in Columbia’s District. That’s good news because, beginning at noon, Pagans from all around the country will be gathering at Lafayette Park, directly across from the White House, to hold a Celebration of the Divine Feminine and Religious Freedom, as a protest to the New Apostolic Reformation’s 51-day prayer campaign targeting Pagans, Wiccans, Witches, Druids, Heathens, and other Goddess-worshipers nationwide.

If you can possibly be there, even for a short time, please do come.

Because Lafayette Park is so near to the White House, there are some safety restrictions. For example, weapons are not allowed and that includes even ritual knives, athames, staffs, etc. More information on these requirements, as well as information on metro stops, etc. can be found here.

The ritual and drumming promise to be outstanding.

Will you be there?

Picture found here.

Lafayette, Nous Sommes Ici!

I’m an urban Witch. I live and work in the area of Washington, the District of Columbia.

And, as a Witch who believes very deeply in being in relationship with my landbase (indeed, to me, that is the most fundamental basis and purpose of Witchcraft), I’ve worked for some years to develop a relationship with the Goddess Columbia. She may have been “merely” allegorical for some of our Founders, (not that the allegory wasn’t v. important to them; then-Secretary of War, later-traitor and leader of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, fought long and hard to make sure that Her statue atop the Capitol in Washington, D.C. didn’t wear the the phygrian cap that emblemized, in ancient Rome, freedom for slaves), but she’s “become,” over the last few hundred years, a real, living Goddess, an incarnation of the ancient Roman Goddess Libertas, and the genius loci of not only Washington, D.C., Columbia, South Carolina, and other places, but, also, of the United States. Those of us who worship Her would never force others to accept her, but, to us, She is the Goddess of the idea of America. Her statue on the United States Capitol is named, “Freedom, Triumphant in War and Peace.” That’s an amazing notion: the idea that, in America, Freedom will be triumphant whether we are at war or at peace. We may (“Patriot Act,” I’m looking at you) have honored that incarnation of Columbia more in the breach than the observance, but it’s still an epithet by which I worship Her.

Last July, Literata alerted me to the fact that a group of Christian Dominionists were planning a spiritual attack upon Columbia. The New Apostolic Reformation is a group that has long hated every representation of the Divine Feminine, including the Statue of Liberty, the Catholic Madonna, and Columbia. Their “prayer war” is designed to place “uncompromising” Christian Dominionist leaders into positions of power in every aspect of American life: government, arts, education, industry, etc. And one of their specific goals is to topple the statue of Columbia from atop the Capitol and to have Washington, D.C. declared the “District of Christ.” They are now in the process of conducting a “prayer war” seriatum against every State of the Union. They began with Hawaii, the last state admitted to the Union (and, conveniently, the birthplace of the current President), and are moving across the country, planning (again, conveniently) to focus on Washington, D.C. over the Samhein weekend.

I blogged about this threat, Literata blogged about it, and Jason Pitzl-Waters at the Wild Hunt blogged about it. (I believe that words have power and I’m calling this threat what it is. It’s a threat. It’s an attack on the religious freedom of all who worship any Goddess. Those who worry about “negative” language are free to conduct their own workings. But I’m not going to pretend that an attack on my Goddess isn’t an attack. YMMV.) Several new blogs sprung up to help American Pagans focus on the need to protect our religious freedom and several other bloggers have added regular features focusing on the local Goddesses and Gods of each American state. (Apologies to anyone I’ve missed; please leave links in comments and I will try to add them.) NAR struck back, launching, in their words “blood soaked arrows” at all Pagan bloggers who dared to expose and/or oppose them. Several of us have noted clear examples of their attacks on our lands, our vehicles, our blogs.

In August, Caroline Kenner, a wonderful local Pagan, who was instrumental in the local demonstrations that led, along with other efforts, to get the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs to add the Pentacle to the list of acceptable religious symbols that may be engraved upon the tombstones of American service members buried at Arlington Cemetery, applied for a permit to conduct a religious ceremony and demonstration at Lafayette Park in support of religious freedom for America’s Pagans. She applied for a permit for Sunday, October 30th, just when NAR will be focusing it’s “prayer war” on Washington, D.C. Lafayette Park is the park in Columbia’s District directly across from the White House.

Sadly, due in part to budget cuts, the granting of the permit was delayed several times. And the National Park Service has a rule that prevents anyone who seeks a permit from publicizing their event before the permit it granted. (I can grok this. Imagine that the permit is ultimately denied because the NPS decides that the demonstration would pose a threat to the President and his family. If the event had already been publicized, members of the group might show up, regardless, and pose the very threat that was meant to be avoided. I’m not unconscious of the fact that the Secret Service (who also weighs in on these permits) has been on high alert ever since America’s first “black” President and his wife, two little girls, and mother-in-law moved into the White House.)

That’s posed a big problem for those of us supporting this event.

First, the weekend of October 30th is already hugely busy for most Pagans. (A point, that, I imagine, wasn’t wasted upon NAR.) As we searched for priestesses and priests to come to this event, we were met, not surprisingly, over and over, with people who said, “I really support this event, but I’ve been committed for months to show up for a local Samhein event.” Local priestess Katrina Messenger had to, kindly, reschedule her groups‘s Samhein event in order to work with us, and we’re fortunate that she could do so. And, this delay has meant that we couldn’t publicize the event until now.

So, now, Caroline (and Literata) have finally gotten the permit. The ritual and demonstration are ON. October 30th, from noon until 5:00 pm. If you live anywhere near D.C. and can possibly come, please, please do so. Lafayette Park is an incredibly powerful site and the ritual promises to be fantastic. If you care at all about religious freedom and the importance of the separation of church and state, you should be here. Yes, I know it’s a busy weekend. Yes, I know it’s difficult. But, honestly, this does matter. NAR will have its forces in Columbia’s District this weekend. We should, too. If you can’t stay for the entire time, that’s fine. Show up for the period when you can Be Here Now.

Picture found here.