Intolerance of all sorts has been making headway in the United States. The growing reports of religious intolerance and hate speech also involve Pagans. Here is a running timeline of incidents involving Pagans, and resources to raise awareness of how pernicious the problem of intolerance has become.
Earth Religions Assistance List (ERLAN) and their Links for Help and Guidance Concerning Religious Discrimination page.
Pagans and the Law (March 4, 2009), by Dana D. Eilers
Virginia Schools Close After Uproar Over Arabic Calligraphy Lesson, HuffPo, 12-18-15, Augusta Co, VA
If heavily armed, masked men ‘protested’ outside a church or synagogue, it would be national news, Daily Kos, 11-22-15, Irving TX
This is a running timeline of intolerance directed at or by Pagans in North America starting about 2000. While not complete, it will be added to as I find published examples.
Asatru Folk Assembly Statement Against Homosexuals and Non-Whites- Facebook, August 21, 2016
The Asatru Folk Assembly (a Heathen group) issued a Facebook post that the group only believes heterosexuality is valid, and in a membership of traditional heterosexuals and whites. Though not atypical for the AFA, this statement is being condemned in Heathen and Pagan circles.
Official Note from The Troth– condemning the AFA position
Inmate Wins Injunction Allowing Wearing of Pentacle, Chicago, Illinois, July 13, 2016
An inmate in the Pontiac Correctional Center had his pentacle pendant removed, with the prison stating 5 and 6 point stars are usable as gang identifiers (though it otherwise complied with their jewelry policy). The inmate sued under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, obtaining a preliminary injunction from the US Court of Appeals 7th Circuit allowing him to wear his pentacle.
Harassment and Neglect at Fort Hood Open Circle, Killeen, TX, February 21, 2016
The Open Circle is a non-denominational Pagan group in existence since 1997 at the Ford Hood army base. Clergy for the Circle wrote an open letter detailing years of harassment and neglect at their chapel space. This includes being locked out of the stone circle at their chapel. Circle Sanctuary has supported the Open Circle for years and is assisting at meetings to help resolve some of these issues.
Use of Term 'Heathens' to Describe Gang Members by Law Enforcement, St Landry Parish, Louisiana, February 18, 2016
Terrorist Attack, San Bernardino, CA, December 2, 2015
Daniel Kaufman (aged 42 and a Wiccan) pushed people out of harm’s way, urging them to the safety of the door before he was shot and killed. He is credited with saving 4 people’s lives.
Pagan Ryan Reyes to Attend State of the Union Address, The Wild Hunt, January 12, 2016
Planned Attack on Synagogues & Black Churches, Virginia, November, 2015
Two men arrested in a plot to attack synagogues and black churches in Virginia are alleged to ascribe to a white supremacy extremist version of the Asatru faith. One has been sentenced so far.
Umpqua Community College, Roseburg, Oregon, October 1, 2015
The shooter in this incident asked if people were Christians, but their answers did not seem to determine who he shot (9 people were killed). Kim Saltmarsh Dietz was closely connected to the Covenant of the Goddess, and died at the scene. One survivor, Tracey Heu, is a practitioner of Hmong Shamanism.
'Hindu Witch' fired at Dental Clinic, Ft. Meade, Maryland, September 2, 2015
Air Force Pledges to Review ‘Witch’ Complaint from Fired Hindu, Military.com, November 13, 2015
New Orleans HexFest, New Orleans, LA, August 7, 2015
With less than 2 weeks notice HexFest in New Orleans, Louisiana was forced to change the location of a ritual on the steamship Natchez when their contract was canceled for ‘religious reasons’. (The nature of Hexfest and the ritual was disclosed to the Natchez staff repeatedly before the contract was signed.) Another riverboat company was found for the opening event.
Credit Card Company Cancels Account of Pagan Company , Kalamazoo, MI, August 2015
Conjured Cardea, a company that provides supplies for African diasporic religions had it’s credit card service cancelled over their association with voodoo. They have moved on to another credit card company.
Alledged 'Witchcraft' Killings, Pennsacola, FL, July 31, 2015
The July 31, 2015 murder of three residents of Pensacola, Florida was blamed on witchcraft and a recent blue moon by Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan. No specifics were offered, and even though this Sheriff has a bad track record the national media reported the story without verification. No proof of witchcraft has been provided as of February 2016.
Recognition of Heathen Religion by US Army Stalls, July 2015
After 6 years of petitions and a rescinded approval in early 2015, Heathens are still not recognized as a religion by the US Army.
Etsy Bans Sales of Metaphysical Items, April 2015
Online retailer Etsy banned the sale of metaphysical items in June 2015, leading to the closure of many Pagan stores. Etsy claimed this was a simple policy clarification, but users point out that similar items in Christian and Judaism sections were not effected. Subsequently, Amazon sent email invites to Etsy store owners inviting participation in their ‘handmade’ marketplace.
Sorry Witches, You Won’t Be Able to Buy Spells on Etsy Anymore, Time.com, June 22, 2015
Man Killed in Near-beheading for Alledged Practrice of Witchcraft, Stillwater, OK. October 2014
Jacob Crockett was a college student and was killed in a near-beheading by his brother’s roommate, Isaiah Marin. In a police affidavit a witness stated the two had disagreements because Crockett allegedly practiced witchcraft and Marin “had strong Christian beliefs.” (It’s not actually clear that Crockett had anything to do with witchcraft, and was described in his obituary as a born again Christian.)
Christian zealot beheads teen for practicing witchcraft, Patheos, Oct. 30, 2014
Appeals Court Rules in Favor of the Maetreum of Cybele, Catskill, NY. November 18, 2014
The Maetreum of Cybele fought through the courts to obtain a standard religious property tax exemption in Catskill NY. This battle took from 2007 until 2014, when the New York Court of Appeals made their unanimous decision ruling in favor of the Maetreum. This is an important and precedence setting case.
Town’s treatment of pagans may be discrimination, 2-27-11 (Watershed Post)
N.Y. Top Court Rules In Favor of the Maetreum of Cybele, November 19, 2014 (Wild Hunt)
Wiccan Uninvited to Give Opening Prayer at City Council, Huntsville, AL , June 2014
Blake Kirk, a Wiccan was listed as “A leader in earth-based spiritual communities” and gave an invocation to the Huntsville City Council 0n January 23, 2014. However, when Mr. Kirk was scheduled for an invocation on June 26th as “Blake Kirk, priest of the Oak, Ash and Thorn tradition of Wicca” he was uninvited. The Council later changed their position, and on November 6th Mr. Kirk gave the invocation at another council meeting. (All of this followed a 2012 lawsuit brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which led to the City instituting a policy to rotate prayers from among different faiths.)
Tarot Readings and Magic Art Ordinance , Front Royal Virginia , May 2014
Jewish Community Center & Village Shalom shootings, Overland Park, Kansas, April 2014
Frazier Glenn Cross (an avowed white supremacist and Odinist) shot and killed 3 victims at a Jewish community center and care home. (It turns out all three victims were Christian.) He has been sentenced to death for these crimes.
CNN Ties Accused White Supremacist Killer Frazier Glenn Cross to Odinism, Wild Hunt, 4-15-15
Iowa Representatives Shun Witch's Invocation, Des Moines, IA, April 2014
Pagan Temple Denied, Beebe, Arkansas, January 2014
Bertram Dahl wanted to move his existing Arkanas church to a home he purchased in Beebe, Arkansas. Originally supportive, once the city found out the place of worship would be Pagan their attitude changed. Mr. Dahl states that city officials banned him even before he had applied for permits, citing his Pagan (non-Christian) religion. Mr. Dahl reports ongoing harassment.
Arkansas town bans pagan temple after finding out it’s not Christian: Your ‘God isn’t my God’, RawStory.com, June 18, 2014
Wiccan Invited to High School Class, Carthage, Illinois, October 2013
Following a planned presentation by an invited Wiccan at a high school senior elective class in Carthage Illinois, a few parents complaints were lodged. But this grew into a larger outcry from outside the school, and the school board canceled the class. Following this, students, parents, and members of the community banded together and the school board reinstated the class.
Small Town Teacher Invites Wiccan Guest Speaker into Classroom, The Wild Hunt, December 29, 2013
Florida Pagan Summer Solstice Festival, Florida, June 2013
The Florida Pagan Summer Solstice Festival in Pahokee was the target of anger and protest by several Christian pastors, with one pastor calling the event “an abomination” at a city Commission meeting.
The Limits of Christian Tolerance: Florida Edition, May 30, 2013, The Wild Hunt
Lady Liberty League Update on Pahokee Florida Pagan Festival Support, 6-1-13, Circle Sanctuary
Kryja Withers, New Port Richey, FLorida, Spring 2013
Kryja Withers, a Pagan Witch, reported that her home had been the target of hate crimes.
Florida Masons, November 28, 2012
The Florida Grand Master Decides Pagans (and others) can’t be Freemasons.
Reports Surfacing: Ban Against Pagan Masons Overturned, Florida Pagan Newswire Collective, 6-5-2013
Anti-Pagan Wikipedia Editor, November 2012
Public Safety Minister cancels contracts for non-Christian prison chaplains, Canada. October, 2012
In September 2015 Public Safety Minister Vic Toews suspended a new job with Corrections Canada to hire a Wiccan prison chaplain in B.C. In October 2012 Toews followed this by cancelling the contracts of non-Christian ministers at Canadian prisons.
Carrol County School Harasses Pagan Student, Bowden, Georgia. November 2011
Wisconsin Prison Chaplain Accused of Alleged Prison Hostage Plan After Rape, Omro, WI, September, 2011
Pagan prison chaplain Jamyi J. Witch was hired in 2001 (after a controversy) as the first Pagan prison chaplain for Wisconsin. On August 10, 2011 she was made hostage and sexually assaulted by an inmate. However, she was then brought up on criminal charges when it was alleged she staged her own rape and hostage-taking by that inmate. On August 26, 2013 all charges were dropped after the facts came out. (These included the inmate changing his story, and the room the assault happened in being under surveillance the entire time.)
Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO. February 3, 2010
The Air Force Academy in Colorado built the Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle, an outdoor space dedicated primarily for use by cadets and staff who follow Pagan, Native American, and Earth-based religious traditions. The circle was vandalized in 2010 when a large wooden cross was found placed in the circle.
Bath & Body Works Employee Fired, Hartford, Connecticut. November 2008
Today Show Host Disparages Pagans, New York, NY. June 25, 2008
US Veterans Administration adds the pentacle to the list of emblems allowed on grave markers- April 23, 2007
Sgt. Patrick Stewart, a veteran of Desert Storm, was killed in 2005 while on active duty in Afghanistan. The US Department of Veteran’s Affairs would not allow the pentacle to be used on his gravestone (there were no approved Pagan or Heathen symbols at the time). In September of 2006, the Attorney General of Stewart’s home state, Nevada, overruled the VA allowing the installation of a pentacle on Stewart’s grave in November.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State then filed lawsuits on behalf of veteran widows, Circle Sanctuary, and Isis Invicta Military Mission alleging that the VA had deliberately delayed and obstructed their requests to allow the allow a pentacle to be placed on grave markers of deceased service personnel. (Wiccan requests had been made for 9 years without results, while the symbols of other faiths were added.) As part of the lawsuit it was disclosed that “VA officials had incorporated into department policy a statement by George W. Bush (when he was a presidential candidate) that “witchcraft” isn’t a religion and, therefore, that the military should not allow members of the Armed Forces to practice it”.
The VA approached Americans United, and the case was settled on April 23, 2007. As part of the settlement, the VA added the pentacle to the list of emblems allowed in national cemeteries.
Pagan Discrimination in the U.S. Military– Witches & Pagans
Divorce Order Banning Exposure of Child to Parents Wiccan Faith Overturned, Indianapolis, Indiana, August 18, 2005
Prisoners with Non-Mainstream Religions Win Supreme Court Case, US, May 31, 2005
Five residents of an Ohio prison, which included two adherents of Asatru, a minister of the white supremacist Church of Jesus Christ Christian, a Wiccan and a Satanist filed suit, stating that prison officials violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) by failing to accommodate the inmates’ exercise of their “nonmainstream” religions. The Supreme Court in Cutter v. Wilkinson held that under the RLUIPA facilities that accept federal funds cannot deny prisoners accommodations that are necessary to engage in activities for the practice of their own religious beliefs.