On Thursday 19 June 2014 Zaracon and RevKess hosted Bert Dahl, high priest of the Seekers Temple in Beebe, Arkansas. The news broke in Pagan media early last week that the Seekers Temple, established in 2009 in El Paso, Arkansas and seeking to relocate permanently to Bee, had become the target of apparently systematic religious discrimination from the office of the mayor and the town’s council. A nearby church had also begun focusing alleged harassment on the Dahl family by shining the light of a bright lighthouse sculpture through their windows.
On Monday 23 June 2014 Zaracon hosted a music and call-in show to support the Seekers Temple while they were attending the June Beebe Town Hall Meeting. The original intent of Monday’s show was for someone with Seekers Temple to be dialed into the show so that everyone listening could hear exactly what happened at the meeting. Unfortunately that did not happen.
According to HP Dahl, the mayor and the town of Beebe has given them a new option, to have their property rezoned and restructured to build a separate building after dividing the property into two properties. An option that really is not an option, a minimum investment of $250,000 to do such a project. Seekers Temple was opened on 13 December 2008 in El Paso. No apparent issue there. It was only after the Pagan community asked the Dahls to move their residence and the Temple to Beebe and the Mayor (9 months later) figured out that Seekers Temple is a Pagan church.
Monday the 23rd was the monthly Town Council Meeting in Beebe, AR. Record-setting attendance at the meeting wowed citizens and the mayor, but little real resolution resulted. Christians gathered on the lawn of the town hall and prayed around the flag pole while Pagans (including several from the Southern Delta Church of Wicca – ATC) gathered around a tree and sang songs and chants. Bert Dahl was allowed a private backroom meeting with the city zoning committee, but not allowed to speak before the open assembly. Local media source Arkansas Matters had this brief report on the meeting.
It would appear that Pagans are not the only ones who face religious discrimination in Beebe. Catholics and other non-Protestant religionists have contact Seekers Temple saying that they have been denied a church or been subjected to some form of religious persecution. To the best of PWN’s knowledge, only Protestant institutions exist in Beebe.
Dahl repeatedly stated during his visit today that letters, emails, and phone calls of support are welcome. He also emphasized that any contact with the Mayor, the town council, or other governmental entities in Beebe and the state of Arkansas should be written or conducted in a calm, civil manner. An example of how visitors to the Beebe area who are Pagan can help is to shop the local businesses and somehow indicate that you are Pagan or Pagan-friendly.
Continued support for the Dahls and the Seekers Temple can be sent via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Funds can be donated via PayPal at email@example.com, all funds raised are used by the Temple, not the Dahls themselves. Some of the funds may also be used to help with the legal costs related to this situation, up to and including the criminal case for “disorderly conduct” filed against HP Dahl. To date, the largest single donation to the Temple after the news broke was from an atheist.
Links to other Religious Discrimination related articles
- A growing coalition of politics is urging the Obama administration to drop a Bush-era exemption on religious discrimination when it comes to religious based organizations that receive government grants. On Patheos, apparently conservative Christian blogger Gene Veith writes in his posting on this issue “A major take away for religious organizations: Don’t take federal funds!” RevKess would agree, but for different reasons: religious organizations should be privately funded, not government funded.
- Political and religious refugees from around the world may also experience religious discrimination when seeking asylum. On World Refugee Day, a Sudanese refugee in Israel talked with the media about how he is treated in the Israeli refugee camp in Holot as a Muslim and a black man.
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing a New York-based insurance company for firing employees who decline to participate in religious activities on company time.
- In Missouri, a proposed Student Religious Liberty Act would clearly define and combine state and federal laws that prohibit religious discrimination in public schools.
- Obama’s recent executive order to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against LGBTQ employees has led to a debate about religious discrimination. The debate hinges on the idea that the owners/operators of a business who have strong religious beliefs against LGBTQ people should have the exemption and ability to hire and fire based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
- A recent study of religious discrimination in hiring and firing in the Southern U.S. indicates that those who list some form of religious affiliation on their resume are 26% less likely to be contacted by an employer – unless they are Jewish.
Kept to one artist for this broadcast. Damh the Bard, a Druid in the UK and a podcaster, was one of the first Pagan musicians to give PMPChannel permission to air his music. We would like to extend another hearty thank you to Damh for his willingness to share his music in this manner. Visit his website for more of his music, his podcast, and to keep tabs on what is going on in the UK with Pagan and specifically Druid issues.
- Damh the Bard – Pipes of Pan – Herne’s Apprentice
- Damh the Bard – Sons & Daughters of Robin Hood – Antlered Crown & Standing Stone
- Damh the Bard – Pagan Ways – Cauldron Born