Pagan Awareness
Are Your Rights Safe?

Pagan Awareness | America's Secular Government | Pagan Awareness Campaign

  The Burning Times
A term used by neo-Pagans and witches as a label for an era in history of intense witch-hunting and executions. The period began in the mid-15th century to the mid-18th century.
The Burning Times are attributed to Saint Augustine who said that pagans, Jews and heretics would burn forever in eternal fire with the Devil unless saved by the Catholic Church. This began the first trials of the inquisition. Witches were labeled as heretics who worshiped the Devil and and could only be saved by the purification of fire. However, burning was not the only means of purification. England and America often hung or drowned witches. In France, Scotland and Germany most prisoners were throttled or strangled as a sign of mercy before they were burned for purification.
There are no accurate figures for the total number of people who were murdered during this era, but estimates put the number between 30,000 in Europe during the 150 years of the Inquisition to a minimum of 100,000 in Germany alone where these hunts were their most intent.
In 1692 to 1693 the Salem Witch Trials began with 141 people being accused of practicing the craft. Of these people 19 were hung, and 1 was pressed to death under the town leadership of Roger Conant. However, it was Rev. Samuel Parris who caused the witch hysteria when he brought a slave couple into the village to work in his home. The couple, John and Tituba were originally from Barbados where a practice of Voodoo is widely used and accepted. Tituba was given the task of caring for Rev. Parris' children, telling them stories of her home land and of the mysteries of some voodoo practices. As with most children, the Parris children and their friends began to dabble in the Occult as soon as they learned these topics shocked their Puritan parents.
It's important for every American to remember that the United States was founded based on a secular society. Not a Christian society as some would have you believe. America's Government Is Secular was proclaimed by a little-known U.S. document signed by President Adams in July 1820. ALL of the founding fathers had strong opinions about this fact. Something that has gotten lost in the rhetoric of Christian fundamentalists.
  The Present Day
In 1985 United States Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina and United States Representative Robert Walker of Pennsylvania, introduced legislation in both Congressional Houses which would deny tax-exempt status to witchcraft and Neo-pagan groups. The legislation was introduced, with a Walker assistant saying, "If a person is praying for horrible things and sticking pins into voodoo dolls, that is not the kind of religion that should be supported by a tax exemption."
The underlying essence of these measures were to deny recognition of these alternative religions and would have been a precedent for further more restrictive legislation. Thankfully both bills failed.
At the time, Helms questioned Secretary of the Treasury James Baker concerning witchcraft groups. In a letter Baker replied that several organizations that "espouse a system of beliefs, rituals and practices derived in part from pre-Christian Celtic and Welsh traditions which they might label as `witchcraft'" did certainly have tax-exempt status" if they applied for it. Also, Baker stated, that any group that is sincere in its beliefs, does not break the law and conforms to "clearly defined public policy" and can qualify for tax exemption.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and several witchcraft and Neo-pagan organizations including the Covenant of the Goddess, in Berkeley, California, who not only represents 70+ Witchcraft groups around the country but are a tax-exempt organization themselves; seriously contested the bills. Along with Church and School of Wicca, in New Bern, North Carolina, the Circle Sanctuary, an international Wicca and neo-Pagan networking organization based near Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin and many other grass roots groups and organizations.
The ACLU released a statement declaring the two bills "the crudest example of First Amendment infringement." Adding that, "Witches, who organized a massive letter-writing and flyer campaign, termed the bills a throwback to the witch-hunts of the Middle Ages." This entire issue became known as the Helms Amendment.
Not long after Secretary Baker's letter to congress, the U.S. Army included a section in the Army Chaplin's Handbook on Wicca.
  The Present Persecutions
If you think these time are long ago and remembered only in history books, you're wrong. Although a little more subtle than death, witches are still persecuted today in many ways and all over the world. With presentations like the Helms Amendment described above, Neo-pagans still face the threat of losing the right to practice their beliefs.
Take the case of Bill, a friend of mine who was arrested recently in Chicago for practicing witchcraft. Yes, that's right he was arrested, arraigned and paid bail to get out of jail. In his case, Bill was casting a small circle in a quiet wooded area of a public park. Two policeman came across Bill, and upon learning what he was doing, they arrested him. Had he been lighting a white candle and praying to Jesus, would he have been given a warning about the dangers of fire in a public park? Or had he been banging a small gong and chanting to Buddha would he have been escorted out of the park for using public lands for religious purposes?
Take the policy of the internet's popular 'babysitting' services. These organizations have decided that any sites on the internet which relate to paganism or witchcraft are not suitable for family viewing. Thus this site and many more like ours are banded by these internet servicers.
Now look at your rights on a larger scale.
  Protect Your Right to Religious Freedom
The best way to protect your freedom is to learn what your legislators are doing to limit your rights. Get involved, not only in federal politics, but in local resolutions as well. Take the case of Rep. Bob Barr (R.Ga) who recently attacked the military for allowing pagan practices on Army bases. This is a modern day U.S. Congressman who is pushing his bigotry and ignorance into YOUR House on Capital Hill. Take a few moments to read the letter we sent to our Congressman and Mr. Barr in response. Then use your own voice to protect your rights as well.
These attacks on your free right to practice continue even further. Take George Bush, as an example. During October 1999, artwork that seemingly insulted Christianity's virgin Mary was displayed in Brooklyn Museum Of Art. George Bush. criticized the art work saying "From what I've read, the exhibit besmirches religion," adding "It denigrates someone's religion. I don't think we ought to be using public monies to denigrate religion." However, on June 23rd 1999, Governor Bush appeared on Good Morning America, stating ".. I don't think witchcraft is a religion. I would hope the military officials would take a second look at the decision they made." allowing Wiccan practices on bases, such as Fort Hood.
Unfortunately, legislators are not the only people who propagate mis-information. As a spiritual education organization, we do a great deal of research to create our postings or answer questions. To our dismay, we have found many "reference" material to contain drastic measures of mis-information. Take the case of AOL's partnership web site with Compton's New World Encyclopedia. Here is an organization that makes it's living at providing reliable research information, and yet they can't even document the meaning of the word Witch properly.
The following Pagan resources will help you focus on those resolutions and government proposals that affect your rights. Most of these are geared toward the United States, so I would like to invite any of you to email us and let us know of other organizations around the world who focus their work on other countries.
Following these resources, you'll find links to several Government Resources around the world. We encourage you to write your all your representatives and let them know how you want them to vote on up-coming issues. Your voice can make a difference, but you must use it to affect change!
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