I didn’t get to watch the Democratic debate as it aired this passed Sunday night. I was on podcast with my co-host KaliSara and our guest Rhiannon Dragcruin talking about sacrifice and community service in the Pagan community. I do feel strongly that paying attention to politics is important, but my duty to the community in regards to a consistent schedule of the podcast series outweighs my duty to watch political events as they happen. I watched the debate through the NBC/YouTube archives.
I’m going to start this out with a full disclosure. I’m a former employee of Hobby Lobby, I’m a man, I do not have children, and I am gay. The store I worked in had a Jewish woman as a supervisor, a Buddhist working the sales floor, a Pagan (me), and at least two openly gay employees.
On Monday 30 June 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States delivered their ruling on the case involving Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods. These companies had challenged the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that companies pay for contraceptives. The ruling effects a limited number of contraceptives, “morning after” pills and IUDs, not contraception in general. And of course abortion. The USAToday has a list of examples of the contraceptives that this ruling does and does not effect.
Wednesday morning at work, a customer with whom I regularly have political conversations with came in. I noticed that he had a limp and asked him about it. That turned towards talking about health care, in particular the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). This man is relatively intelligent, compared to man of the conversations I have with customers, he is very intelligent. He’s a small business owner and a Christian. He agrees with Hobby Lobby and other companies that are owned (or the majority shareholders are) by Christians should not be required to cover contraceptives in their insurance policies. Saying that people who wish to use prescribed contraceptives should pay for them with private insurance or out of pocket. (Note: the majority of Hobby Lobby employees work less than 30 hours a week, thus not qualifying for insurance coverage in most states. They are also paid minimum wage or slightly hiring, thus not being able to afford private coverage.) He went so far as to say that “he shouldn’t pay for these whores.” I looked him dead in the eye and asked him if my sister-in-law is a whore because she uses birth control pills to regulate her menstrual cycle.
These kinds of conversations are happening all over the place right now, of that I am sure. I see the memes and discussion threads on my friends’ Facebook pages. I’ve seen articles in the local and national papers that come in at work. People have been following this case carefully and continue to follow the outcome now that SCOTUS has made their decision, a decision of a 5-4 vote.
As a gay man without children, it seems odd to some that I might have a strong opinion on this case. I have a strong opinion because I am a person living in the United States. I have sisters, nieces, and female friends that are effected by this decision. I am effected by the precedence this ruling makes.
Already companies have been filing suits or briefs requesting religious exemption from other Federal laws. This ruling can and will open the door to cases where companies, privately held or otherwise, want to use their religious beliefs to have legal discrimination. We’ve already seen, since the 2013 SCOTUS ruling on DOMA section 3, private owned companies seeking to deny marriage services (including wedding cakes) to same-sex couples. With this current ruling from SCOTUS these companies and others may have more ammunition in those cases.
Listeners of my community radio program Lavender Hill, have heard me speak out on these situations. I do feel that a privately owned business, single person or single family ownership, that has less than 15 or so employees should be able to determine what kind of clientele they serve. That freedom, however, ends when it encroaches on the civil rights of others. A company or business should not be allowed to discriminate against people of other races, national origins, or other similar criteria. But, those same companies may have a design that would preclude them seeking to hire person that does not fit that design – for example the YWCA (a large institution) may not want to hire a man to teach aerobics or some such as it may interfere with business. A “gentlemen’s club” may not want to hire a male exotic dancer, etc, etc.
That said, I am a realist. If we allow companies to pick and choose willy-nilly (or after long consideration) what “kinds” of people they will hire then we open the door to discrimination of all kinds. It may be a faux-news site, but I have seen articles where privately owned restaurants are seeking a religious exemption to not serve black people. Many feel that the SCOTUS ruling on the religious exemption in Obamacare regarding contraception coverage will open the door for companies to seek such exemption in the yet-to-be-Federalized Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA).
According to a TalkingPointsMemo from Wednesday, “Without a robust religious exemption this expansion of hiring rights will come at an unreasonable cost to the common good, national unity and religious freedom,” according to a letter of intent sent by 14 faith and business leaders to President Obama. This letter was sent response to Obama’s June announcement to use his executive power to require Federal contractors to provide an environment of non-discrimination for LGBT employees. Though the letter did not mention the Hobby Lobby decision, the timing of the letter and its intent makes it clear that these faith and business leaders wish to use this SCOTUS decision to sway the Administration.
I’m a man, I’m gay, but I am person. SCOTUS is granted the legal right to make decisions that may have direct effect on me and others in the United States. When others in the United States seek to use those decision to have discriminatory effect on other citizens then they, in this case business, are over stepping their bounds. Fine, Hobby Lobby and certain other privately owned multi-million (multi-billion) dollar companies have won their case with SCOTUS and do not have to follow the Obamacare requirement to provide coverage for certain forms of contraceptives, including abortion. That does not open the doors, on moral and ethical grounds, for other companies to apply for religious exemptions when it comes to hiring and firing of people that they perceive to be gay, people that are of another national origin or race. Etc. Etc.
I’ve tried my damnedest to steer clear of this internet conversation. I’m not a fan of Duck Dynasty, I’ve never even watched the show. I haven’t had cable in years and enjoy being able to pick and choose what I watch when I want to watch it through various online streaming sites. That means that I have been pretty much blissfully ignorant of the whole Duck Dynasty thing. I hear bits and pieces from friends, relatives and customers who watch the show. Usually comments about some of the marketing ploys developed by A&E and advertisers on the show. Chocolates? Wine? Jerky? Really!? Okay, the jerky makes sense….. Frankly, I am getting a little sick of all the camouflage I’ve had to deal with at my bills-paying-job, year round. But that has nothing to do with what I am going to address in this op-ed for Pagan Weekly News.
Phil Robertson is an educated man, as he claims in his exclusive interview with the Daily Mail. He graduated from Louisiana Tech with a bachelors in physical education and a master’s degree in education. Over 40 years ago. He’s business man, a hunter, and a(n) (in)famous reality TV star along with the rest of his hunting family. He and his family struck it rich with a line of duck hunting accessories (Duck Commander). Bully for him and for them! The American dream come true, or something like that.
I’m not going to bore you with the history of the family, nor detail anything about the TV show. You can read all about that on Wikipedia or A&E’s website. If you happen to be someone who watches the show, you probably already know much more than I do. What I am going to do is address the issue that came to the fore front of the American audience’s collective conscience Wednesday the 18th of December, 2013.
On the 18th the January 2014 issue of GQ magazine came out on news stands. In this issue Phil Robertson did an interview with Drew Magary. Of course the interview talks about Duck Commander, Duck Dynasty and some of Robertson’s life not revealed in the TV program. Along the way Robertson voiced his opinion on homosexuality:
Magary asked Robertson: “What, in your mind, is sinful?” Answering, Robertson said: Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.” He added, paraphrasing a Biblical passage from First Corinthians, “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.” Robertson also questioned the appeal of same-sex relationships, particularly amongst men; saying: “It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.” Robertson went on to say “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”
The public cried out and A&E suspended Phil Robertson from the show for an indefinite period, with one episode for the current filming season left to go. And the public cried out again, this time not out of offense for the words and sentiments shared by Phil Robertson, apparently his family, and (unfortunately) millions of Americans. No, this time it was with calls of oppression on the part of A&E, accusations that they were violating Robertson’s First Amendment right to free speech by removing him from the show, even for a short period of time.
Claims of Robertson’s 1st Amendment rights being violated are bull. According to a summary of the 1st Amendment by Cornell Law, “The most basic component of freedom of expression is the right of freedom of speech. The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government.” A&E is not the government. They are a private corporation. They can and will decide when an employee (contract or otherwise) will be suspended, terminated from employment or otherwise disciplined for public comments made as a representative of the company.
Since I became a somewhat known public figure, I’ve made it a point to not specifically talk about my bills-paying-job, to not name the company that I work for. I’ve hinted by saying that I work for one the leading retail companies in the United Sates, but I do not name the company. I avoid doing so because I am well aware that my opinions, life choices, and political stances could interfere with my continued employment – I live in Nebraska, after all. A state in which it is perfectly legal to fire someone because they are gay. I host a local news and talk program for the LGBT community, I have to be careful in what I say regarding the radio station as well as what I say on the radio station. Not because I am afraid of reprisals from the station, but because my views and opinions may be offensive to listeners who cannot separate personal views and opinions from those of the board of directors of that station. I, and my cohost, stress when we are expressing our opinions that they are our opinions. We’ve even gone so far as to play a recorded disclaimer when we think that something we are going to say on the air is liable to ruffle some feathers.
Why did I just detail the above? To show that I am aware that as a public figure who works for a private company, as well as one who volunteers at a community radio station, that what I say as a perceived representative of those two entities can lead to my termination of employment or removal from the radio station. Phil Robertson is the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty family, he’s the central figure of the program on A&E. It is reasonably of the public to perceive him as a representative of both Duck Commander (the company he and his family owns) and of A&E whenever he is speaking in public or talking to the media.
That being said…..
Phil Robertson has every right as a private citizen to say what he said. I may not agree with him, but I can still support his right to freedom of expression. If he had said it as a private citizen. But he did not. He said what he did in an interview with GQ about Duck Dynasty. He was interviewed as a representative of the show, and thus as a representative of A&E. I support the network in suspending him from the show as discipline for giving them a black eye. Frankly, I think it is too little.
One comment to the GQ article I read hints that perhaps it is time for Duck Dynasty to come to an end, and this might just be the beginning of the end for the show. On the 18th, GQ released the article. On the 19th, A&E suspended Robertson. On the 20th, the rest of the Duck Dynasty family said that they would not participate in the filming of the show without their patriarch. However, A&E has said that Phil Robertson will be returning to the program in January and the show will go on … for now.
RevKess is the host of Pagan Weekly News, co-host of the Pagan-Musings Podcast, minion on Murphy’s Magic Mess, co-host of Lavender Hill and content manager for PMPChannel. He blogs for Hail Columbia, Pagan Activist and Off the Beaten Path. He reviews books and music for RevKess’s Reviews. Follow him on Facebook.
Since Wednesday, December 18th, I have seen many Pagans on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere express their disappointment and sometimes anger at the words of Pope Francis I in his weekly public address in Rome. You can read/hear what the Pope had to say in the video below. The whole clip is worth watching, as it gives context and perspective on what he meant.
“It’s a bad thing when one sees a Christian that does not want to come down, a Christian that uses everything to show off. Not nice, eh? That is not Christian, that is paganism,” Pope Francis said. His comments on greed, luxury and the unwillingness of some Christians to embrace their less fortunate brothers and sisters can be heard around the 1:53 point in the video. These statements came the day after Pope Francis celebrated his 77th birthday with four homeless men, a dog, and his staff.
Clearly this Pope is making a reputation for himself as the Pope of the People, not just the rich and influential. I’d dare say that he values the less fortunate, the less wealthy, the less powerful more than he values those who hold sway over the banking industry or the governments of the world. He has repeatedly pointed out the hypocrisy of those who promote themselves as God-fearing Christians yet refuse to reach out and help the poor, the sick, the elderly; call homosexuals the Devil’s own and turn a blind eye to the mistreatment of other nationalities, creeds, or races.
From the outset, Francis I has been different from previous Popes. He eschewed the fancy dress of most other pontiffs in favor of the simple white suits and ecclesiastical gowns that we have come to expect of him. He’s spoken more leniently on homosexuality than any of his predecessors and spoken out on the Church’s apparent obsession with abortion and birth control. All of this and more makes Pope Francis I a leader of today, not just within the Catholic Church, but on the world stage. Even The Advocate has declared him Person of the Year.
I’ve seen many Pagans, of many flavors, say that they are impressed and pleased with the words and actions of this Pope. But now, after his statement on Wednesday, many of those same Pagans are angrily expressing their disappointment in the Pope. Out of respect for those who have expressed such anger, I am not going to quote them or even name. They know who they are and may well choose to make their thoughts known through me in the future. For now, I am going to leave the particulars out.
Now that I have laid out that Pope Francis I speaks out against things, or in favor of things, that his predecessors did not; that he puts off the affluent robes of the pontiffical throne; that he has called upon Catholics everywhere to be kinder to their less fortunate brethern, it is time to point out concerns over his quote from the 18th, “It’s a bad thing when one sees a Christian that does not want to come down, a Christian that uses everything to show off. Not nice, eh? That is not Christian, that is paganism.”
Putting the argument aside of whether “Pagan” is the term that is generally accepted by the various religions, belief systems, philosophies and individuals that practice some kind of Earth-based honoring system, the media has plainly imparted that Pagan encompasses Wicca, Druidry, and many other flavors of Earth-centered spirituality. Whenever a person of note uses the term “pagan” to describe something or someone that is unlike them or something or someone that they find to be immoral or debased the followers of Wicca and other “Pagan” traditions react. Often with negativity.
Small “p” pagan is a much different thing than big “P” Pagan. Webster defines the word “pagan” to mean primarily two things. The first definition is of the religious use that many who walk an Earth-centered or non-Abrahamic path would use, “a follower of a polytheistic religion” while the second definition is the more generally accepted use of the word by media, politicians and most likely the Pope himself. “One who has little or no religion and who delights in sensual pleasures and material goods : an irreligious or hedonistic person.”
Francis’s use of the term “pagan” to describe Christians who are unwilling to come down to the level of those who are in need, Christians who are unwilling to help the sick or the poor or the elderly, Christians who value their wealth and position above their beliefs and the teachings of their Christ. This use of the word is more in tune with the definition from Webster describing people as hedonistic, delighting in the sensual pleasures of the world and in material goods. His use of the word “pagan” has nothing to do with our religions or spiritual beliefs. In the Catholic world, anything that is not Catholic is “pagan”. (Note, I am using big “C” Catholic here, not small “c”. Again, there is a difference.)
Long before we began to use the word “Pagan” to describe our modern religions and spiritual beliefs, even before we used the term to describe the religions of our ancestors, the ancient Romans used the term to describe the unsophisticated, the people who lived outside the city. Even our word “Heathen” comes from the old term for a country dweller, one who dwells on the “heath” or is a “heathen”. In that context, it is easy to see that many within the Catholic Church are still using the word “pagan” to mean those who are not Catholic, those who do not believe as they do. Even Protestants used the term to describe the beliefs of indigenous peoples in their missionary work.
A recent petition on Change.org may help remedy the issue, at least in print. We may never be able to determine in conversation if someone is saying “pagan” or “Pagan”, but with a concerted effort by journalists, bloggers, authors and other text based commentators we can help to clarify what it is that we are talking about with proper capitalization. It is clear to me that Pope Francis was using “pagan”. It is clear to me that he was not comparing hedonistic Christians to Wiccans or Druids or Native Americans. It is clear to me that he was comparing them to those who have found more value in things and position than in their own faith.
Take this all as you will. I welcome comments and discussion on this article.
RevKess shares his first thoughts on the SCOTUS rulings on DOMA Section 3 and California’s Proposition 8. (Our apologies for any format errors, this was originally submitted for publication or quote for another site.)
In a 5-4 decision, SCOTUS has overturned DOMA. This ruling’s immediate effect is that Ms. Windsor does not owe the IRS $300k in estate taxes. Long term effects are many. The Federal government must now recognize the legitimacy of same-sex marriage performed in any state that has legal same-sex marriage, and the District of Columbia. This recognition is for the purposes of taxes, spousal benefits for military personnel and Federal employees, property rights, etc. This does not mean that all states must now legalize same-sex marriage.
RevKess has been scouring the interwebs this summer and coming across a number of interesting videos on YouTube and Vimeo and other places. Some of these videos are television interviews from the 1970’s, some are more recent educational pieces or interviews with Elders of the Pagan community.
We’ll start out with a 1974 interview show hosted by Tom Snyder called “Tomorrow with Tom snyder”. Around Halloween ’74, Tom Snyder had Ed Fitch, Isaac Bonewits, Fred Adams, and Carroll “Poke” Runyon on the show to talk about Paganism, Witchcraft and Magic. Along with the information imparted by the guests, the video includes the original TV commercials that aired with the program. They are humorous, to say the least.
Keepers of the Flame has a wonderful series of interviews with Elders from the Pagan community. This one is the third in the series and is an interview with Queen Zanoni of the Georgian Tradition. RevKess was a member of the Georgian Tradition at one point. Zanoni declared him a “heretic” because of his willingness to teach students via the internet. This was in the late 1990’s.
Earlier in the series, Keepers of the Flame included this video of Maxine Sanders, widow of Alex Sanders, from an a lecture she did at Beltaine: a Pagan Odyssey Festival in Oxford, CT from 2007. The lecture is called “Initiation”.
Many moons ago, Llewellyn Publications worked with Raymond Buckland on a video. Here is that video, “Witchcraft Yesterday and Today”. Nearly twenty years ago, RevKess was introduced to this video, and others, by his High Priestess. At the time it was available through a branch of his local public library.
Here is another video that RevKess discovered through his HPS and the public library. This one is Scott Cunningham’s “Herb Magic”, a video companion to his Complete Incense, Oils, and Brews.
Keep checking back with PMPChannel.com for more video archives from the Pagan community.
Hello, listeners! Bet you are wondering how Mother’s Day and Death Rites wound up in the same show. Simple: Today is Mother’s Day and Thursday saw the death of my tradition’s founding high priest. Now, I don’t want you to get all sympathetic or empathetic with me. I appreciate the sentiment. I’m not looking for expressions of regret or condolences on his passing. The time was oddly appropriate, though.
Some of the best recognized Mother Goddesses are also Goddesses of death and destruction and rebirth. Kali, Sekhmet, Tiamat, just to name a few. In this episode we will not only honor some of the Goddesses of Motherhood, we will also honor some of the Goddesses of Death and Rebirth. Along the way I will share some memories of my high priest, Papa Tom and some of the music that makes me think of him.
- A Small Mother’s Day Poem from the Pagan Mommy
- A Mother’s Day Poem by Morning Dove
- The Great Mother Goddess, according to infoplease.com
- The Goddess Within by Cateline, scroll down to the bottom of the page to read this poem.
- An interesting article that my brother pulled up and shared in the chat room: Jesus Christ, the Myth by Barbara G. Walker – Pay special attention to her discussion of the Three Marys at the Cross to see how it pertains to this show.
- One look at the Immortal Mother and Immortal Daughter, an interpretation of the store of Demeter and Persephone
- One of the founders of Mother’s Day sought to have it abolished, Anna Jarvis
- Kellianna- Maiden, Mother, Crone – Lady Moon
- Queen Mother Imakhu (Imakhu Sekehmet) – Sacred Mother (Anuk Mwt – I Am Mother) – Water Woman
- Elaine Silver – Grandmother Moon – The Lady of the Lake
- Leigh Anne Hussey – She is Grandmother – Homebrew
- Annette Cantor – Gaia – Songs to the Goddess
- Lis Addison – Mother Gaia – Crown in the Sky
- SJ Tucker – In the House of Mama Dragon – Haphazrd
- Sharon Knight 7 T Thorn Coyle – Ancestor Chant – Songs for the Waning Year
- Kellianna – Ancestor’s Song – I Walk with the Goddess
- Omnia – Cernunnos – Sine Missione
- Omnia – Intro (The Wylde Hunt) – Crone of War
- Omnia – The Wylde Hunt – Crone of War
- Kellianna – Aphrodite and Pan – Lady Moon
- Damh the Bard – The Parting Glass – Tales from the Crow Man In honor of Tex, Jason McDeavitt and now Papa Tom, all Elders of the Pagan community who at one time or another lived in Lincoln, NE.
- Isaac Bonewits – The Thuggee Song – Avalon is Rising!
- Michael Brant DeMaria – Danu – Gaia
- Shawna Carol – Sacred Pleasure – Goddess Chant
- Murphey’s Midnight Rounders – As You Depart – I Am the Goddess