I spent this past Friday and Saturday at the Lake Okeechobee Summer Solstice Festival- this was a pleasant, peaceful event that gained a lot of attention when local Pastors threatened to protest the presence of Pagans in their small rural town.
This weekend Kyrja Withers of New Port Richey posted pictures of her flourishing garden, but only 2 months ago, she was experiencing pellets being shot through her windows and bottle bombs being thrown at her house.
Just a few weeks ago, the new Grand Lodge of Florida elected a new Grand Man, who overturned the ban on Pagan Masons that had been issued earlier this year by his predecessor.
It’s been a rough 6 months for Pagans in Florida, hasn’t it? And Florida is just one small corner of our country. Sadly, religious discrimination still exists.
There are gifts that come with these hurdles, though. Communities rally to support, education occurs, interfaith dialogue takes place, organizations collaborate. Change. Progress. From dark comes the light, we are taught, and the Light is so bright right now, at the time of Summer Solstice, that we can strive to see clearly and light our path for the journey forward.
After all, we have rights to preserve and protect, don’t we?! In the year 2013, discrimination on the basis of religious practice should not happen. Hatred based on misinformation must be battled. We feel outrage, don’t we?! We have a right to practice what we want, where we want! We have a right to feel safe in our own homes and communities, no matter what our spiritual path is! Let them try to stop us! Go ahead and protest! We have as much right to wear or display our symbols as anyone else! Yes! We’re angry!
When we feel these rights have been violated, to whom do we turn? We are so fortunate that within our greater Pagan Community, we have access to media like Pagan Newswire Collective and The Wild Hunt to inform when incidents like this occur, and organizations, most notably Lady Liberty League, to advocate for us, speak to community leaders, law enforcement and media on our behalf. How blessed we are to have those who assist us in defending our rights!
I would ask you to consider that, in addition to rights, we also have responsibilities. And that our responsibilities are great.
We have the responsibility to walk our talk. That means that if we expect religious tolerance and acceptance, we should be ready with acceptance and tolerance ourselves, treating even those who misunderstand us with respect. It also means to display the same respect for each other. For a Druid to ridicule a piece of literature about Wicca demonstrates the same intolerance as the fundies on the other side of the gate.
It also means that to someone who does not know the Craft, each one of us represents all of us. So, the person with the pent bumper sticker who displays a vulgar gesture at the traffic light, or the neighbor having disruptive parties in the name of Sabbats, or the individual who insults a reporter leaves misconceptions for everyone else to correct.
Most importantly, though, it means we have a responsibility to pay it back and pay it forward. Organizations like Lady Liberty League operate on small budgets and huge volunteer manpower. Gods bless Lady Liberty League volunteer Peter Dybing who no doubt got to know the dark roads that cross the state of Florida as he traveled to New Port Richey and Pahokee to assess, educate, collaborate, mentor, and network. What happens when there is a need in a state where there is no volunteer available, or a volunteer without the resources to stay out of town for a few days? I don’t know what Lady Liberty League has in the bank for situations like that, but I’d bet it’s not as much as they’d like.
We all live knowing that if our home catches fire, we can call 911 and help will be on the way. We have been so fortunate that when members of our spiritual community have been in need of assistance, Lady Liberty League has been right there. As Witches and Pagans, we need to support our Pagan Rights 911 system, and it needs to start right here in Florida.
So, if you have benefited from the work of Lady Liberty League, or may someday benefit from the work of Lady Liberty League, I encourage you to consider making a donation. Go to the Circle Sanctuary Donation page and scroll down to the Lady Liberty League box, and donate any amount. I also encourage you to share this link with your covens, e-lists, MeetUp groups, festival pages, and any other way of reaching Pagans who can support this organization. Even small donations by many people make big dollars.
Hopefully soon, we won’t worry about religious discrimination, but until then, I am thankful for the work that Lady Liberty League does, and I want them to have no problem assisting with any issue should it arise with my (and your) festival, MeetUp, job, school, Sabbat celebration, or any other right granted to any other religious person in this country.
Kasha, EMLC First Officer
Let’s remember our Rights, and let’s not forget our Responsibilities!
8 thoughts on “Editorial: Rights and Responsibilites”
Here, at The Glitter Dome, our gardens are flourishing beautifully, as are the gardens we tend to within our Pagan and mundane communities – growing awareness and acceptance. As we harvest the fruits of our labors, we share all we have, both with those in need of information and resources, and with those who thirst for understanding or justice.
One extremely simple way to support Circle Sanctuary and their extremely important efforts through Lady Liberty League is to use a search engine called “Good Search” instead of Google or Bing or any of the others. Each time you look something up, Good Search donates one cent to the charity of your choice. Circle Sanctuary is my choice. It may take thousands and thousands of searches to make any kind of impact, but think of what we can do together. http://www.goodsearch.com Pretty simple. Give it a try.
When we were in the worst of our situation, I asked my husband, Randy, “What if this would have happened to us and we were NOT Pagans? Who would we have called? Who would we have turned to? Who would have shown up to help?”
Can YOU answer that question? If we had been Baptists or Buddhists or Hindus – would we have received a phone call from a national civil rights organization asking how they could help? Would we have had someone show up to provide security and a comprehensive security assessment? Who would have interacted with local authorities to relate the seriousness of the situation and to ensure cooperation?
Everyone reading these words knows that when push comes to shove, Lady Libery League is there for us. Every minute of every day. With all the right answers and resources. Most of us don’t “tithe” or write a check to our churches, temples, or covens each week. But let us all please remember that when we DO have that extra – Lady Liberty League needs US as much as we need them.
Rock on with your fabulous self!
Friend of Rupert
and Lady Liberty League
Thank you so much for your words, Kyrja! You are in the position of being helped by the amazing people of LLL, and I am glad that you posted here about them, as well as providing another way to help support them!
Never looked at it from that perspective Kryja….definitely going to help LLL when we can.
Great article. Wish I could have made it to this event!!
Thanks! We do our best to keep everyone in the know about upcoming FL-based pagan and wiccan festivals, so please be sure to check back on our site for upcoming events. It sounds like this is going to become a yearly event!
Good read. I would like to add my two copper pennies…We need an amendment to the First Bill Of Rights granting EVERYONE The Freedom Of Speech and Religion to read: Freedom From Religious Persecution. I believe it could curtail the over zealous Christianistas who have waged war on every ethinic, religion, and sec imaginable in the name of The. Church.