Work: The Bliss of Besting Bigots
Lady Passion, HPS, Coven Oldenwilde
July 8th. 2007, on The Witches' Voice,
This week I succeeded in compelling the
Virginia Dept. of Corrections to reverse its policy and allow Pagan
inmates to use Tarot. Although I live in North Carolina, I’d
been advocating for a VA inmate who’d contacted me for help.
VA DoC’s resistance to my efforts on his behalf continually
stoked me and turned what should’ve been an easily resolved
matter into a needless battle of wills. VA DoC became my personal
hobby; 60 + letters later, I was thrilled to hear the goodly news.
rush of feelings I experienced at my latest victory felt as fresh as
the first time I won Wiccan religious freedoms. I felt flush with
happiness; humbled that the persistence of one woman can make such a
difference; and gratitude that the Gods had given me the wits to win
Supreme Court has ruled in
upholding RLUIPA that any prison or institution receiving federal funds
must grant full and equal rights to all inmates to practice their
religion -- specifically including Wicca. My mate and I have done a lot of
successful religious activism over the years. We got North Carolina's
53-year-old law forbidding fortunetelling repealed statewide
(That campaign took 6 years to come to fruition.) My tutelage of Ohio
Pagan inmates helped them fight religious repression all the way to the
Court, who ruled that prison officials should not impede the
practice of Witchcraft (Cutter v. Wilkinson).
Oldenwilde has compiled a packet of legal rulings and texts of laws
(including RLUIPA) for Wiccan prisoners, their advocates, and prison
officials to read and download.
never seek out the problems: The sad fact is that Paganism and Wicca
are routinely persecuted faiths across all strata of society today. And
the methods that bigots use are little changed from those they employed
in the past — ridicule, harassment, eviction, etc.
who perpetuate such repression proudly proclaim themselves Christians,
yet they fail to see the irony inherent in their actions. While they
say they follow a lover of children, they think it fit to fire a
child’s mother for her faith – thereby literally
starving an innocent child.
The complaints of pagan
persecution that I receive daily from folks worldwide are not mere
inconveniences. These experiences are no joke, some “lesson
to be learned”, a blessing in disguise, or an opportunity to
see a silver lining in all bad things. No, these instances of
institutionalized and societal bigotry are as painful as they are
It can feel daunting at first to be
relied on to solve strangers’ problems that so impact and
imperil their lives. What if you screw up? What if you make things
worse? Let compassion be your guide — commiserate with the
sufferer in one breath, and empower their Witchy backbone with the next.
the problem if you’re unfamiliar with it, and ask experts for
advice when need be. The main thing is to do something to help another
Witch in trouble — the more hopeless the situation seems, the
more they need your calm, wise care.
I pick both
battles I know I can win, and those I fear I can’t. In each
case I work the problem point-by-tedious-point, concomitantly helping
the person going through the crisis to learn myriad ways to resist
religious repression and practice Paganism with pride.
track record of spiritual legal successes reveals surprising truths.
Contrary to Witches’ penchant for secrecy and pacifism, the
squeaky wheel gets the grease: Complaining mightily gets results and
going public with the problem elicits popular sympathy for your plight.
folks raised in the U.S. are encouraged to suck it up and not rock the
boat. They’re not taught that effective complaining is an art
form with its own language, rules (veiled threats of publicity or legal
redress are fine), and brinksmanship-like maneuvers.
nice then bombard your target with the tenacity of a feral Celt.
Don’t confine your complaint to one person and hope for the
best: Contact every person in any conceivable position to help you, any
who may be responsible, and those who are working to resolve similar
Advocacy groups abound on the Internet,
and it is easy to find others who are or have battled similar issues,
such as the Department of Justice’s First Freedoms Project
and the ACLU. E-mail them frequently to cultivate them in case you need
their help filing legal briefs later.
initially respond with dismissal: There’s no such problem or
there’s a policy in place that actually supports the bigotry
— so there’s nothing you can do about it. This is
simply their opening gambit, so disregard this rebuff.
delays and excuses quickly follow. Persist through this tactic,
repeating the facts of the case and your demands over and over if
necessary. This part of the battle represents the bigot’s
hope that if they ignore you, perhaps you’ll just go away.
for strength and re-double your efforts: Produce legal precedents
supporting your position and supply specific ways they can satisfy you.
They won’t admit it, but they’re desperate for a
face-saving way out of the mess, so give them one.
now you’ve built up a dossier of you attempts to alleviate
the difficulty, which will serve you well if you end up having to go to
the last resort — lawsuit.
The truth is,
it rarely comes to that. Relentlessness pays off, and most bigots fold
like pup tents when confronted with legal precedents like RLUIPA
(Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act) and Cutter v.
Wilkinson, etc. And when they fold, it makes you bloom like a flower!
religious wins is an important part of the process, as it inspires
others to work for spiritual equality, and shows the true progress
Pagans and Wiccans are making nationwide.
when having finesse writing lucid press releases proving the
story’s news hook is most crucial. Avoid making the PR all
about you; rather, focus on the issue itself, how widespread the
problem is, and why it qualifies as unfair, irrational, or illegal.
Cite the Amendments or common law that it violated and educate the
reader on the positive implications of the new ruling.
upshot of spiritual activism is the delicious thrill of understanding
what They hope you don’t: that one person can make not only a
difference in their lifetime, but many.
to How to Win Wiccan Religious Freedoms.
to The Black Ribbon Campaign.
Go to General
Return to Coven
Oldenwilde's home page.
update: 02 Dec. 2007