Witches and Wicca have certainly been in the news a lot during these first few months of 2013. Will 2013 see more stories of tolerance (and, unfortunately, intolerance) of Wiccan and Pagan religions? Only time will tell. But if the rest of the year follows suit with the activity of 2013, this might very well be the Year of the Witch!
You could say that some of this started last year. Back in December, the current Grand Master of the Freemasons of Florida issued his edict that Pagans, along with other groups, would not be eligible to petition for membership in their fraternal organization. This is an issue that is still being discussed in the halls of Florida Freemasonry, as well as among the brotherhood nationwide. Everglades Moon issued a Media Statement about this situation, and our site quickly become one of the places pagans visited for more information.
Also last year, the University of Missouri updated their Guide to Religions: Major Holidays and Suggested Accommodations to include Pagan holidays. While this happened in 2012, it wasn’t until Fox New on-air personalities discussed Wicca rather unfavorably that this update sparked national media coverage. Rather, it sparked national media coverage of Fox News’ coverage of the story. It resulted in an apology Tweet from Tucker Carlson and an on-air apology… of sorts. Covenant of the Goddess issued a statement on this situation.
In other news….California’s Department of Corrections has been taken to task for it’s “Five Faiths” policy, where it limits the hiring of paid chaplains of the Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Native American faiths. Inmates brought a complaint to court, saying that while the Department of Corrections does have Wiccan volunteers, they are not able to come in as often as the chaplains of the other religions. While the suit was dismissed in 2011, this latest suit asserted that the prisons may not be using neutral standards when deciding how best to spend money on the prisoners’ religious need, and may be in violation of the constitutional ban on a governmental “establishment of religion”. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling now allows for the case to proceed in court.
We return back to Missouri for the last bit of Wicca in the news. Last week, a judgement in the case of Hunter v. Salem Public Library Board of Trustees was reached. In this case, the Salem Public Library system was actively blocking sites it deemed “occult” which included, according to the ACLU complaint, “prevented access to sites such as the official webpage of the Wiccan Church; the Wikipedia entry for Wicca; Astrology.com; and the Encyclopedia on Death and Dying.” A federal judge ruled against the library, saying that while the library can have filters for obvious instances of pornography, as well as anti-virus filters, they cannot block viewpoints with which they disagree. Even Rachel Maddow covered it, saying “At least this Salem Witch Trial worked out better than the last.”
And while Wicca and Paganism have been in the news, let’s not ignore the bounty of movies featuring witches that come out in 2013. These include Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Beautiful Creatures, and Oz: the Great and Powerful.
With so much activity so far in 2013… could this year be the Year of the Witch?