In our ongoing effort to help victims of religious prejudice, we provide the following general advice.
How to Win Wiccan Religious Freedoms
The practice of magic is an inborn human right, a natural endowment of every person's soul. As the world reawakens to this timeless truth, Paganism and Witchcraft are growing exponentially in popularity. Still, many societies remain riddled with personal, legal and institutional bigotry that can lash out at you when you least expect it.
Pagan parents, schoolchildren, renters, employees, military personnel, and prisoners are most frequently exposed to religious persecution. But the phenomenon can strike anyone anywhere, no matter what their income level or occupation. In every walk of life, however, closeted Crafters — those who try to keep their religious beliefs and practices a secret, or who refuse to stand up for their spirituality when attacked — are much more vulnerable to persecution than those who are proud and honest about their Witchy ways.
America's Constitution begins with a guarantee of religious freedom. And people of conscience worldwide agree that the right to follow the faith of one's choice is crucial for a just and peaceful society. When Wiccans successfully defend our practice of the Olde Religion, we strengthen liberty for everyone — not only for other Pagans, but for Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Christians ... everyone.
Witches don't cause problems; bigots do. But we are Crafty at finding solutions. We use our words, our wits, and above all, our perseverance to overcome the prejudice we've been confronting for two thousand years.
The keys to winning your religious rights are three-fold:
1). Identify the type of persecution to which you're being subjected -- different types necessitate different remedies.
2). Know your religious and legal rights regarding your situation.
3). Document the persecution you've endured in detail, then avail yourself of every legal, media, and magical recourse imaginable until you've won.
The list below of persecutions Pagans and Wiccans commonly encounter is not exhaustive, merely indicative; each case varies slightly. If, after reading it, you remain unsure what you're experiencing is religiously based persecution, write us the details of your case and we'll help you sort it out.
Following the list are ways Pagans embroiled in religious persecution can fight for, and win, their religious rights.
1). Typical Types of Pagan Persecution
The Goodly Spellbook
Wiccan and Pagan prison inmates can mail-order a copy of our The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells for Modern Problems and pay for it by money order from Malaprop's Bookstore & Café.
As of Aug. 2010 it sells to North Carolina inmates for $23.36, tax & shipping included. Purchasers in all other states can buy it for a total of $23.45, shipping included.
If desired, confirm price & shipping cost by writing Malaprop's (address below), then mail a check or money order made out to Malaprop's and enjoy!
55 Haywood Street
Asheville, NC 28801
Toll free inquiries: 1-800-441-9829
Local phone number: 828-254-6734
Child custody battle Examples:
your ex-spouse exposes your Paganism in court to induce a bigoted judge to terminate your parental rights;
Social Services tries to take your child because you're a Pagan parent;
Social Services questions your child about your Pagan activities while they're at school, without your knowledge or consent
Wrongful firing Example:
a co-worker reveals you're Wiccan to a supervisor, and the company soon fires you on a pretext
Housing discrimination Examples:
a landlord refuses to rent to you when they discover you're Pagan;
your landlord raises your rent and threatens to "out" you as a Witch if you refuse to pay the extortion
a landlord evicts you for "practicing Satanism"
- Help Pagan & Wiccan inmates secure their rights; see a gallery of Wiccan prisoner art; download a free Pagan Prisoner Advocate's Guide; and more at "Pagan & Wiccan Prisoner Advocacy".
- Read Cutter v. Wilkinson, May 2005 (whose plaintiffs we helped and encouraged to file their initial lawsuit).
you want to change your designation from Christian to Pagan, but the chaplain won't let you;
the chaplain favors Christian study groups, but won't agree to let you start a Pagan study group;
the chaplain won't give you a copy of your state's Religious Guidelines for Prisoners;
your state's Book Review Committee has banned a beloved Craft book you want to read;
your state allows other faiths to practice divination, but forbids you to;
your state allows Catholics wine during their religious rites, but forbids you to have any for yours;
the chaplain threatens to ship you to a worse prison unless you quit practicing Wicca
School repression Examples:
a teacher —
forbids you to write a paper about the Olde Religion;
mocks your opinions during a discussion about the Inquisition;
refuses to let you do a project on "The Burning Times";
forbids you to read a Craft book after you've finished your work;
refuses to protect you when bullies accuse you of "worshipping Satan"
the administration —
forbids class Halloween parties, but holds a lavish Christmas cantata;
forbids you from wearing a pentagram, but allows Christians to wear a cross;
encourages pre-school prayer, but bans Wiccan books from the library;
demands all pledge allegiance to the flag and won't support your refusal to say the pledge
Spousal/Familial persecution Examples:
your mate verbally or emotionally abuses you because of your religious choice;
your relatives refuse to visit and threaten to seek custody of your child because you're Wiccan
Military religious repression Examples:
you want to change your designation from Christian to Pagan, but the chaplain won't let you;
you want to become a Conscientious Objector, but the chaplain won't help you;
the chaplain favors Christian study groups, but won't help you start a Pagan study group on the base
2). Religious and legal rights.
Identifying the religious rights that are pertinent to your situation helps you build a winnable case. It's not enough just to cry "foul" — you must prove how the action taken against you is unjust, unethical, unsafe, or unwise.
Regardless of whether you're in school, in the military, in prison, or wherever, the basic process for resolving the situation remains basically the same. There are effective ways to handle it, and a process that most countries or systems require.
Though you may think your case involves only religious persecution, research the laws that apply where you live. You will often discover that, along the way, your persecutors have violated numerous other laws as well.
Consider the broad implications and long-term ramifications of your case. Did your persecutors violate any workplace regulations, industry guidelines, employment or fair-housing laws, personnel-policy-manual rules, or labor conventions? Did they violate a law preventing folks of other faiths from disrupting your religious ritual? School-board rules should protect, not penalize minorities. Is there a pro bono lawyer who'll help you for free, or an arbitrator, ombudsman, or mediator who can work with you to prevent the situation from devolving into a protracted court battle? (In the case of minors, American parents can hire a guardian ad litem to advocate for a child being persecuted.)
In America, Wiccans can ultimately win any case of government-sponsored persecution by appealing to the First Amendment's guarantee of separation of church and state. Religious discrimination in matters such as housing, employment, and lending is also forbidden by the Constitution and federal law.
Most countries have laws that regulate nearly every aspect of life, and Wiccans can either suffer from the punitive ones, or use the goodly ones to ensure our religious freedom. There are protective public health and safety policies, traditional "fairness" rules, religious and legal ethical constraints, privacy laws, and specific religious rights.
Find the laws, regulations, or policies that protect you in your particular case, and copy their texts down, as well as their identifying information -- titles, statute numbers or page numbers, the dates they were issued, where they were published. More important than the letter of the law, however, is its spirit and intent — as you may need to remind an official who tries to use a technicality as an excuse to avoid remedying your problem.
Regardless of your circumstances, there is almost always a grievance process that you can go through whenever you experience persecution. Try to get a copy of that process in its written form, so you can hold the appropriate officials to it and prevent them from giving you the runaround. Do your best to follow that process, without allowing it to bog you down; you have to be able to say that you've crossed all the t's and dotted all the i's — especially if you're ultimately forced to take your case to the court of law or of public opinion. Keep copies of all paperwork and correspondence throughout your case, even after you win it.
3). Document everything — then fight back through the law, the media, & magic.
Once you've identified the kind of persecution you're experiencing and the religious or legal right(s) it violates, follow the system below, and you will likely win the day:
A). Collect evidence of the persecution. Keep (in a safe place) any threatening letters or notes your persecutor has written to you. Take photos of vandalism or other physical acts they've perpetrated, and of any wounds they've inflicted. Start carrying and using a tape recorder to record their verbal threats, including those they make by phone. (In some states, you are legally required to notify the other person that you are recording them; in others, you are allowed to do it secretly. Often, however, just letting a bigot know they are being recorded will frighten them into stopping their persecutory behavior.)
B). Write down the official "chain of command" you need to follow -- all the people or committees you need to go through to eliminate the persecution. For instance, if it involves a school matter, you'd write down the names and contact information (address, phone number, and e-mail) of the primary teacher(s) involved, their immediate superior, the principal, the superintendent, then the school-board members' names.
C). Draft a one-page "chronology of events" — a detailed timeline of what happened when and where, who said what, and everything you've tried to resolve the situation.
D). Once you've got the above facts, use key portions to write a separate, one-page letter giving the gist of your complaint. Conclude the letter with a summary paragraph or two describing your pertinent religious rights, demanding what you want, proposing a workable solution to the problem, then warning what you are prepared to do if officials refuse to resolve the situation. Reasonable options include filing a lawsuit; filing a complaint with an regulatory organization such as the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), or with a rights-advocacy organization such as the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union); or "going public" -- telling your story to radio and TV stations and newspapers, and at the next public meeting of the school board, PTA, board of directors, prison officials, etc.
E). To your packet, add pertinent documentation (such as pictures of any physical injuries sustained, or of property damage) and copies of other pertinent documents (such as threatening letters or violated laws) — anything that physically proves your case.
F). Then mail the packet of documents to those on your list in such a way that they have to sign that they received it; by registered mail, for example.
If those to whom you've sent the documents don't respond within a week or so, phone them. Any time you speak or meet with people in a position to resolve your case, hold them accountable to their words by taking notes and, if possible, tape-recording the conversation. If they're unwilling to dialogue, follow through on your promise to them and take immediate action.
Winning public opinion is often crucial, and usually fairly easy. Bigotry always looks ugly under the spotlight of publicity. Write letters to the editor or, if you're a good writer, submit guest commentaries to your local newspapers detailing your travails, and connecting your persecution to the larger issue of religious freedom. Readers are often sympathetic, and quick societal change is often wrought this way.
If possible, work with others to start a campaign, protest, or petition about the matter. Attend a school-board meeting and bring the matter to their attention. Be sure to notify the local news media and give them a heads-up before you hold your protest or make your public complaint to the board. The presence of the media either compels officials (including police) to behave responsibly and treat your grievance seriously, or else catches and broadcasts their bigoted or insensitive response for all to see — which usually provokes widespread outrage and brings public pressure to bear on the powers that be.
The more trees you shake, the more folks you phone or talk to, the more public ire you raise, the more successful you'll be.
If your problem gets resolved, but it keeps happening to others, keep up the pressure: Protest, picket, write the CEO, or form a grassroots organization whose sole mission is to eliminate that specific kind of bigotry in your area.
Keep working on the issue whenever you can — the wheels of justice turn very slowly, and they won't turn at all if no one's pushing on them. For example, as obviously discriminatory and unconstitutional as North Carolina's anti-divination law was, it still took more than six years to get it repealed.
Throughout the process, work magic spells to help you win your religious freedoms. These include:
"win-in-court" amulets to wear during lawsuits;
eloquence spells for when you must explain your case to others;
courage spells to renew your vigor during protracted battles;
attraction spells to incline judges to heed your argument;
and many other helpful magics to ensure success.
We print many of these in our book The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells for Modern Problems.
Goodly luck, and may the Gods preserve the Craft!
If you need further help or advice, contact Coven Oldenwilde at [email protected].
Further resources for countering anti-Pagan religious discrimination can be found at http://www.erlan.org/.