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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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