Religious Diversity News

Showing all news articles with tradition Paganism.

2001 Census Shows Growing Religious Diversity

Source: The West Australian

On November 28, 2003 The West Australian reported, “The most comprehensive profile of WA’s religion, language and birthplace – launched this week – reveals there are five main religions and more than 30 minor ones flourishing in WA. The profile is based on results from the 2001 census.More than 63 per cent of the population identified themselves as Christians…Buddhism is the next most practised religion, with 1.6 per cent of the population. It is also the religion which grew most significantly since the last census in 1996 with an increase of 62 per cent and a total following of nearly 30,000 people. Islam is the third most practised religion, making up 1.1 per cent of the population and enjoying 55 per cent growth to nearly 20,000 followers. About 20 per cent of the WA population, or 360,000, have no religious affiliation. In WA, there are more than 1000 people who call themselves Pagans, another 1000 or so Witches and even a couple of hundred self-confessed Satanists.
Druidism is not unique to the British Isles and Rastafarians aren’t only found in Jamaica – there are 138 Rastafarians and 75 Druids in WA.”

8th Circuit: Limiting Wiccan Inmates’ Observance OK

Author: David L. Hudson Jr.

Source: First Amendment Center

Iowa prison officials did not violate the religious-liberty rights of three Wiccan inmates by giving them three hours to hold a religious ceremony, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The three-hour time limit for the ceremony did not impose a “substantial burden” on the inmates under the free-exercise clause or the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), a unanimous three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal decided in Gladson v. Iowa Department of Corrections.

Lawrence T. Gladson, Darrell Smith and Scott Everett Howrey, inmates at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, sued prison officials in 2005 [2006?], alleging they did not receive sufficient time to observe Samhain, the most important of eight annual Wiccan holidays.

In 2002, Iowa prison officials and Wiccan inmates settled a dispute in Hood v. Kautsky, as prison officials agreed to recognize Wicca as a religion. The written settlement agreement in that case provided in part that “Wiccan religion is recognized … and treated like other religious groups at ISP [Iowa State Penitentiary].” However, the agreement was silent on how much time Wiccan inmates were to have to observe religious holidays. For several years after the settlement, the inmates were given three hours for Samhain.

Inmates Gladson, Smith and Howrey filed prison grievances beginning in 2003, contending that they needed at least eight hours to properly observe Samhain, which consists of four parts — set-up, ritual, feast and clean-up. During the set-up, Wiccans lay out a circle, an altar and other communal items. The ritual consists of cleansing the area of “energies” from others, blessing the circle and purifying the participants. During the feast, called “the Dumb Supper,” the participants socialize. Clean-up consists of putting away all the celebratory items.

The inmates said three hours wasn’t enough time in which to conduct all those activities. After their prison grievances were denied, the inmates sued in federal court.

A Day for Examining the Unusual

Author: Steve Mocarsky

Source: Times Leader

Standing near Martz Pavilion in Kirby Park, Jay Fink lit afire two pieces of poi fruit attached to tethers and began spinning them through the air to the beat of music.

A fire spinner whose performance was modeled after the Maori poi dancers of New Zealand, Fink, 37, of York, was one of several artists who entertained attendees at the inaugural Pagan Pride Day festival on Sunday.

Fink spun several other items lit on fire and performed fire eating and fire breathing as well. “It’s a good form of exercise, and I use it for meditation purposes, too,” he said.

Folks who attended the festival got to experience some sights, such as Fink’s fire spinning and Annemarie McMahon’s belly dancing, that might seem out of the norm.

But the day was all about acceptance of the unusual, or, at least, what a majority of society might consider unusual.

A Pagan Group at the University of Iowa

Source: The Iowa City Press-Citizen

On March 18, 2004 The Iowa City Press-Citizen reported on “the Society of Pagans Invested in Reviving Ancient Lifestyles, better known as SPIRAL. The roughly 15-member group aims to dispel misconceptions about witchcraft and magic, such as presumptions about black cats. It also offers students and community members who are ‘out of the broom closet’ a chance to find others who also believe in things like paganism or witchcraft…
The student group meets every Wednesday to talk about pagan issues as well as to participate in activities such as tarot card readings, which reveal a person’s path of life… The group also has witches’ wars where they debate which deity, or god, concepts make sense.”

A Professional Witch

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

On October 27, 2000, The San Francisco Chronicle published an article about the work of Jo Ellen Michelle , a professional witch. Ms. Doney convenes a group, and the fall equinox ritual is described. “Due to inherent fire danger they use a flashlight instead of a flame to light up the small area. Members of the coven hold hands in the circle and begin chanting and walking counterclockwise around the altar. They welcome the north, the south, east and west. They welcome the names of forces from the pages of mythology, as this white-magic ritual is steeped deeply in metaphysical history. On this night, they are also performing a banishing dance, casting away any bad energy that has surrounded the individual members of the coven over the past year. ” Beyond celebrations, Ms. Doney has a private practice where she prescribes spells to assist individuals, mostly in matters of the heart. She is a “follower of Wicca, a Pagan theology that is largely based on symbols, seasonal days of celebration and deities from ancient Celtic society. Followers of Wicca, says Doney, are in tune with the earth and use many herbs and roots in their practice. ”

“A Right for One Religion is a Right for All,” a Commentary by Charles C. Haynes

Author: Charles C. Haynes

Source: Tucson Citizen

In theory, the government treats all religions equally in America. In practice, however, some religions are more equal than others.

But two victories by minority religious groups last month are small but significant steps toward leveling the religious-liberty playing field as promised in the First Amendment.

April 23, Wiccans finally won their 10-year battle to have the symbol of their faith added to the list of 38 “emblems of belief” approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs for placement on government headstones and memorials.

A few days earlier, on April 17, a religious group called Summum won a key round in its fight to place monuments in Utah city parks alongside Ten Commandments monuments. (Summum, founded some 30 years ago, is difficult to summarize, but the group describes its beliefs as consistent with Gnostic Christianity.)

The message to government officials in both cases is simple but profound: Under the First Amendment, a right for one is a right for all.

A Wide Range of Clergy Will Participate at Arlington National Cemetery July 4th

Author: Michael Hess

Source: BBS News

BBSNews 2007-07-02 — America’s first VA-issued gravestone containing both a Christian cross and Wiccan pentacle will be dedicated on the 4th of July at Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac River from Washington, DC.

Wiccans, Christians, and those of other religions from across the nation will be taking part in the interfaith service, which will be conducted by Rev. Selena Fox, Senior Minister of Circle Sanctuary, one of America’s oldest and largest international Wiccan churches.

The ceremony includes a tribute to Jan O’Rourke (Wiccan) and her husband Capt. William O’Rourke (Christian), whose remains are marked by the gravestone.

“A Wish for Spring, a Dance for Rebirth”

Source: Hartford Courant

On May 6, 2001, the Hartford Courant ran two front-page photos entitled “A Wish for Spring, a Dance for Rebirth.” The photos were from the celebration of Beltane the day before, “a Pagan rite of spring that celebrates fertility and rebirth…About 25 people attended the event, which included a May pole dance…and a cleansing ritual in which participants leaped over a bonfire.”

About 2,000 People Took Part in Bathing Rite at “Sayan Ring” Festival

Author: Staff Writer

Source: Newslab

A bathing party was held as part of “Sayan Ring” festival in Shushenskoe, the Krasnoyarsk Territory, on Saturday night. The holiday was conducted by actors of “Krasa” Krasnoyarsk state ensemble. Up to 1,500 people came to the Shusha River, where the pagan holiday was celebrated. Up to 500 spectators were looking at what was happening from the bridge across the river.

“Krasa” sang bathing songs of a few Slavic peoples. “We decided to follow spreading of music with bathing rites from Byzantium to Russia’s North and not to sing local songs or perform rites of a certain village. So here is a kind of a historical and geographical review. Our program includes bathing music of the Serbians, the Bulgarians, Belgorod, Bryansk and Pskov lands,” Anatoly Khlopkov, art director of “Krasa” ensemble said to a REGNUM-KNews correspondent.

To the accompaniment of Slavic songs guests participated in pagan rites. Girls float their flower garlands on the water of the Shusha River, jumped together with guys over a fire and danced in a ring.