Religious Discrimination

originally published in the Sunday Stew 8/16/15 edition

The Sunday Stew is Your Pagan Sunday Paper. Each week we start our issue with In The News. This segment features news from around the world. We believe you should be informed as to what is going on in the world where the terms Paganism and Witchcraft are concerned.

This issue the focus is religious discrimination and how it affects each and every one of us.

You only have to Google ‘religious discrimination’ to get a return of many cases going on right now.

Judges bar pharmacies from withholding contraceptives Los Angeles Times Jul. 24 12:06 PM, A federal appeals court has just struck back against the discreditable trend of healthcare professionals placing their personal beliefs ahead of their duties to patients.

Christian Man Files Lawsuit Against Ford After Motor Company Fires Him for Saying Homosexuality Is ‘Immoral’ The Christian Post Jul. 28 05:32 AM

Los Angeles Times Aug. 04 08:18 AM, Former college football television analyst Craig James sued Fox Sports on Monday for religious discrimination, saying the network fired him two years ago for expressing his views against gay marriage while running for the U.S. Senate.

“Your life begins to end the moment you start being silent about the things that matter.” Martin Luther King Jr.

The right to practice religion, or no religion at all, is among the most fundamental of the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Religious liberty requires that the government permit a wide range of religious exercise and expression for people of all faiths, in public and in private. Government officials may not impede such religious exercise unless it would threaten the rights, welfare, and well-being of others or violate the core constitutional ban on governmental promotion of religion. Freedom of Religion, in the United States is secured by the First Amendment.

Imagine if you will the upcoming visit of Pope Francis to the U.S. in September 2015 including a visit to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia to take place from Sept. 22-27. The meeting is expected to draw a crowd of about 1 million people. A global Catholic event. But he receives a phone call 2 weeks beforehand by a city spokesperson saying “we are canceling the event because we don’t want Catholics in our city, and didn’t know it was an event for the Pope, and don’t want to be connected with a bunch of Catholics or the Vatican.” Far fetched you say?

Booked a year in advance, the upcoming Hexfest August 21 – 23, 2015, A Weekend of Witchery held in the heart of the historic French Quarter. The conference will open with a Riverboat Ritual and dinner, held on an authentic steamboat on the Mississippi River, followed by two full days of workshops, drumming, and ritual at The Bourbon Orleans Hotel. Gathered will be Witches, Rootworkers, Voodoo priests and other magical teachers from within New Orleans and around the world to offer their time-honored wisdom.

Featured presenters hail from across the spectrum of Witchcraft and magic and include Brian Cain, Christian Day, Christopher Penczak, Dorothy Morrison, Fiona Horne, Hoodoo Sen Moise, Judika Illes, Steven Bragg, Leanne Marrama, Carie Ewers, Bloody Mary, Mulysa Mayhem, Lilith Dorsey, Katina Smith, Raven and Stephanie Grimassi, Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Sandra Mariah Wright, Starr Casas, Witchdoctor Utu, and the Dragon Ritual Drummers!

Ty Siddiqui, who is the co-coordinator of Greater New Orleans Pagan Pride Day, was the one who got the phone call from the sales director, Deidra Edwards, speaking on behalf of the Steamboat Natchez just 2 weeks before the event, saying that they were canceling for “religious reasons’ and that the owner had found out a couple of weeks before and decided, for “religious reasons” that he wanted nothing to do with Witchcraft or Voodoo. But it was totally paid for, and the events agreed upon a year ago. Also according to Bloody Mary “I have been called on to work for that company directly, sent many of my groups to them for years “.

Voodoo Queen Bloody Mary will officiate an opening ritual, while the Dragon Ritual Drummers invoke the spirits with powerful percussion! The ritual is to honor the river. It is to honor the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. It is to honor the very magic that is the Crescent City of New Orleans.

The website and brochures of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau claim to celebrate the aura of mysticism surrounding Voodoo, “it pervades, perhaps because it fits right in with the fascination surrounding New Orleans culture. Voodoo, like jazz music, our multi-cultural cuisine, and Mardi Gras. It belongs here among the aged streets and centuries old oak trees that make New Orleans the singularly distinctive place that it has always been.” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu wrote “ In New Orleans, we believe religious liberty and freedoms should be protected and discrimination prohibited”. So why the change? It would all make Marie Laveau turn over in her grave.

Voodoo both fascinated and repelled the white New Orleanians who came to watch the public rites that were held in Congo Square until 1857, where Armstrong Park is today. 158 years later Congo Square is now the Creole Queen, since the Steamboat Natchez turned Hexfest away.

In a heartfelt talk with the Founder and Creator of Hexfest Christian Day, I was overwhelmed by his mission and his passion.

“You know, from the very beginning of the planning of Hexfest, I had said to Brian, I want to do this even if we lose 20 grand. I was willing to take up to a $20,000.00 loss for this, because it’s so important to me that we show, the city of New Orleans how much we care , across the board, and how much we want to celebrate the magic of place here, because it is such a magical place, the magic of the city goes back hundreds of years and it’s rooted in all of the different immigrations ! From the African slaves to the Irish immigrants, the Sicilian immigrants, the German immigrants, and everything else, and the Native American people that were already here and all of those cultures and conjurations came together in a gumbo of Magical wisdom. It’s what I want people to see, coming to this and so, it didn’t matter, you know, I looked at these other pagan festivals and they were all marvelous in their own way but they weren’t what I wanted to do, I wanted something that had our indelible stamp upon it.”

Utu Witchdoctor of The Dragon Ritual Drummers penned recently “it’s the ones who teach, inspire and entertain, who write about what we see and feel as we travel the Continent (and the world for some) and see first hand away from the keyboard what is really going on. We are the ones that are in return inspired and nurtured from the folks that tirelessly put on festivals and gatherings for folks to meet, celebrate and honour the many mysteries of our sacred earth.”

Raven Grimassi wrote, “It is about Community and our rightful place in Society. That is the real issue here. Religious discrimination should not be tolerated and there should not be any exceptions.”

Witchcraft is a legally recognized religion in the United States and Witches are entitled to every right and protection for freedom of religion, including freedom from harassment and prejudice as every other recognized religion in the United States.

The Witches’ League for Public Awareness is a proactive educational network dedicated to correcting misinformation about Witches and Witchcraft. The work of the League springs from a shared vision of a world free from all religious persecution. The League was founded in Salem, Massachusetts, in May, 1986, by Rev. Laurie Cabot H.Ps.

Founded in 1985 by Selena Fox and others, Lady Liberty League (LLL) is the religious freedom and civil rights support organization sponsored by Circle Sanctuary, an international Wiccan church and Pagan resource center headquartered in Wisconsin. LLL provides information and networking assistance to individuals and organizations concerned with religious freedom issues pertaining to Wiccan ways, Paganism, and other forms of Nature religions.

Lady Liberty League members include specialists in a variety of focus areas, including public relations, countering harassment, employment issues, child custody issues, military affairs, law enforcement relations, legal affairs, interfaith relations, scholars support, and others.

Christian’s partner and husband Brian Cain said “I want to do whatever I can to bring awareness. So that this doesn’t happen to others. The reality is sad. The Witchcraft and Pagan community. We’ve had some Lady Liberty League communication. She didn’t have the corporate training to have said what she did. She slipped up. Around the globe we are discriminated against. Witchcraft and Voodoo, Judaism, Catholic, none should be an issue. Religious discrimination, especially against witches, they would still burn us if they could. Intolerance goes far beyond Witchcraft even. This is an opportunity for transformation. That is the way I see it.”

Christian is a dedicated artist whether applying his vision to Salem, Massachusetts or New Orleans, Louisiana, “the one thing that I would keep, if you could take away my magic and my brains or my creativity, and that’s my tenacity. I will never stop. I will keep going and going like the damn energizer bunny until I decide I don’t want to go anymore. I’m certainly not going to have prejudicial bigots decide for me when it’s time to stop. It’s my choice and not theirs. “

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” Martin Luther King Jr.

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