4th of July Pagan Religious Rights Rally and Ritual
Author: Caroline Kenner
[a WitchVox Sponsor]
Pagan religious rights advocates spent more than ten years in struggle to achieve the Veterans’ Pentacle victory. As we celebrate, we must ponder our next move in the quest for religious freedom. The Veterans’ Pentacle is a wonderful victory, but the longer campaign for universal religious freedom continues. And so, what should our next steps be?
We have seen how long it took to get the Pentacle. Surely we can manifest continued focus on Pagan religious rights issues, so that we don’t wait another ten years for our next victory. We need to voice a further agenda for Pagan religious rights now, while America still remembers that a department of the federal government stonewalled the Pentacle for political reasons. And we need to voice our demand for religious freedom publicly, and invite the media to attend as well.
To that end, Chesapeake Pagan Community and I have been working for months to arrange a Pagan Religious Rights Rally and Ritual, to be held on the Fourth of July 2007 in Lafayette Square Park, in front of the White House and catty-corner to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Originally, our intent was to support the Veterans’ Pentacle Quest. Now that we have won the Pentacle, there are many other issues to put forward. Advocating a military chaplain in the U.S. Armed Forces is one of the most pressing issues. Adding the symbols of more Pagan denominations to those religious emblems approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs is another vital issue. Even the mere act of demonstrating publicly for Pagan religious rights is empowering.
And so, we invite you to join us on the Glorious Fourth of July! Meet us in front of the White House to listen to our leaders articulate a further agenda for Pagan Religious Rights.
Our special guest speaker is Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. It was the attorneys of Americans United who negotiated the settlement in the Pentacle case, Circle Sanctuary v. Nicholson. We are grateful to Rev. Lynn and Americans United for their advocacy litigation. He says: “Until Pagans have the same rights as Presbyterians and Pentecostals, religious liberty is not safe in America. The Framers of our Constitution mandated no preference for any one religion over another or for all religion over secularist beliefs."
We will also be welcoming Rev. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, a tireless campaigner for Pagan religious rights with many proud achievements. Selena proposes continued unity of action among diverse Pagan groups for religious liberty: “United We Stand. United We Win!" Selena and her Pagan rights group the Lady Liberty League will continue the struggle on behalf of all Pagans nationally.
At this time, there are no Pagan chaplains in the U.S. Armed Forces, although other minority religions with similar numbers of devotees in the military have one or more chaplains. Rev. Michael Akins of the Military Pagan Network, a retired Army Chaplain Assistant, will speak on the Fourth of July about the need for a Pagan chaplain in the U.S. Armed Forces. He says: “Certainly those who protect the freedoms of all of us deserve freedom of religion for themselves.”
Rev. Marcia Drewry of Sacred Well Congregation will be joining us on the Fourth of July to tell us about the first Wiccan Open Circle in Iraq, during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2003. She has also organized circles here at home, beginning with leading the first Wiccan Open Circle at Fort Bragg. Rev. Drewry currently leads the Tidewater Open Circle in southern Virginia. She says, “A lay leader is unable to fully minister to the military Pagan community due to regulatory restrictions. So our military members do not have equality of religious rights currently."
Steve McNallen of the Asatru Folk Assembly will speak about Thor’s Hammer: “Modern-day Asatru has a very high percentage of veterans. We've worn the hammer amulet into combat. It's only right that the same symbol be on our headstones.”
Rev. Skip Ellison, Archdruid of Ar nDraoicht Fein, will speak about the Druids’ Awen symbol. Skip points out “It is important to remember that freedom of religion means freedom for all religions to worship as they choose.”
Diana L. Paxson, acclaimed author and Pagan Elder, will lead us in circle as we invoke the Founders of Our Nation. This will be the first public Pagan ritual in Lafayette Square Park, in the President’s front yard. Diana has been invoking the Founders for some years now. You may have seen her cover article on her rituals in Pangaia Magazine last autumn.
Diana describes the Fourth of July ritual this way: “We will honor those who established our fundamental freedoms, especially Washington and Jefferson, and those who built on their ideas, from Lincoln to Teddy Roosevelt and FDR, offering our energies to preserve the liberties they fought for and the land they loved. We will offer our will to carry on the work of our Founding Fathers and Mothers, and to help America become what they hoped it would be.”
To do such a ritual on the Fourth of July outside the White House will create a very powerful resonance, and have far reaching consequences. We invite you to co-create this ritual of religious freedom with us, and help us further the intent of universal religious freedom and free expression for all. Please join us in meditation or trance, or in ritual where you live, if you cannot be physically present at the Washington ritual.
Immediately following the ceremony, Mz. imani, shaman of the drum and founder of Conscious Collaborations, will lead a Spirit Drum Circle lasting until 5pm. The drum circle is designed to send our intent into all the realms. Through the voices of the drums, our ritual intent will travel into the hearts of the world, entwined with the strength of the Founders of Our Nation. Together we will invoke harmony, justice and religious freedom for all.
We are establishing a website for the Fourth of July 2007 Pagan Religious Rights Rally and Ritual, to keep the community updated. Go to www.paganreligiousrights.org for more information about nitty-gritty things like site constraints, T-shirts and the restaurant meetup after the event, as well as the full roster of speakers, including their bios. We are still working on the website, so not everything is going to be live until later this month.
So please join us on the Glorious Fourth of July in front of the White House, and add your voice to the chorus: We will not accept another ten years of stonewalling and denial. We want full Pagan religious rights. And we want our rights immediately.