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                                 Modern Pagan Persecutions 
                                   By: Jonathan Hutchins

          I  wonder  about this  whole big  deal  of how  unrealisticly paranoid
          people  can get about Paganism.   I live here in  the real Bible Belt.
          People  get  pretty extreme  here about  religion, although  there are
          places  where it's worse.  They even refused to  install the statue of
          Ceres  that was  commissioned for  the  Kansas State  Capitol building
          because  she was  a Pagan  Goddess.  (There  followed the  three worst
          grain harvests since the dust bowl.)

          Still, we  have a thriving Pagan  community, and not a  small share of
          misguided fundamentalist teenagers rebelling into holywood satanism.

          We have had a lot of trouble with cases of religious persecution - but
          not  the kind  you might  think.   What has  happened has been  that a
          borderline Pagan has imagined  or misunderstood something, and started
          telling  all their friends that _somebody_ was being hassled for being
          a Witch.

          We  have a  Rennisance Festival  here,  and the  rumor  mill there  is
          boringly  predictable.  Every year, two stories are guaranteed to make
          the rounds:

          One goes  that a knife  was stolen from  a participant, and used  by a
          parton to  stab someone.  Therefore you can't carry live steel.  Funny
          thing, no one ever  seems to actually know either the participant, the
          patron,  or  the victim.   And  responsible  people still  carry their

          The other story varries a little; either the adminstration is hassling
          participants  for wearing pagan jewlry (ridiculous - 1/3 of the jewlry
          sold out  there is "pagan"), or  someone was planning a  circle on the
          grounds and got hassled  about it, or someone actually _had_  a circle
          and was raided.  (How do you do a circle of 100 or so people, and  get
          raided, within  200 yards of all  the people camping on  site, and not
          make a single noise?)

          We've had problems  with the Heartland Pagan Festival too.   One year,
          someone started a rumor that there was an objection to our beliefs and
          practices on the part of the people who owned the camp we'd used.  One
          of  the people who was  peripherally involved with  the planning group
          took it upon himself  to do something.  Unfortunately,  that something
          didn't involve  checking out the rumor first - he just called the Camp
          offices and gave everybody  who would listen to him holy  hell <sorry>
          for being religious bigots.

          Fortunately we were able to explain that he was not an official of the
          organisation, and we  were able  to mend things  sufficiently that  we
          were  allowed  to  use  the  camp   untill  it  was  sold  last  year.
          Unfortunately, we were never quite as well trusted as we had been, and
          the camp  staff lost their new found belief that we weren't all just a
          bunch of nuts.


          Why does this happen with so often with Pagans?

          Those of us who've studied the  history of the Christian Church may be
          aware of the power the church found in being persecuted.  It gave them
          a binding common enemy.  It gave them a reason for extremism.  It gave
          their  persecutions of heretics legitimacy.  It made people willing to
          sacrifice everything for the church.

          When  true persecution ended, they  found goals for  the Crusades that
          carried  on  the tradition  of holy  war.   Even  today, if  you watch
          Fun-D-TV, you will find that they use the false story  that the church
          is a persecuted minority to drum up support an  dcontributions, and to
          justify their actions.

          Is  this what  we're  after?   Do  those  of us  who  come from  these
          traditions find it so hard  to leave the old habits behind,  even when
          we've dressed them in new forms?  Do some  of us even see this kind of
          activity as legitimate?

          Gods save us from Jehova in drag.

          We  do ourselves  more  damage with  false,  imagined, and  exagerated
          claims  of persecution  than  is done  against us  by all  the fundies

          If  we are  to be credible,  if we  are to  be taken seriously  by the
          mundane world,  if we  are ever to  be able  to mount  a real  defense
          against those who would persecute  us because of our beliefs, we  must
          refrain from crying wolf.

          We  must be vigilant  to apply our  critical minds to  the accounts we
          hear,  to track them down, and to explain  to the people who start and
          spread them that  we are held to a higher standard of truth because we
          are in the minority.



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