Wiccan Fights to Give Opening Prayer at Chesterfield Board of Supervisors Meeting

February 4, 2005

Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch


On February 4, 2005 the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, "it's up to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether [Cynthia] Simpson, a witch of the Wiccan faith, can be excluded from the list of clergy invited to give the opening prayer at Chesterfield Board of Supervisors meetings... Simpson, who calls herself a witch and a Wiccan priestess, plans to become a minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church. To that end she will pursue a master's degree in theology at Lancaster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania starting this fall. Simpson said Unitarian Universalist beliefs are compatible with the Wiccan faith, which is based on a unity with the earth and the idea that God is not separate from human beings -- that they and everything are part of the deity. Chesterfield County prompted yesterday's hearing by appealing the case to the 4th Circuit after losing to Simpson in U.S. District Court. Magistrate Judge Dennis W. Dohnal decided the case in Simpson's favor in November 2003. His opinion said the county policy that invocations be in the Judeo-Christian tradition excluded Simpson 'because of a stated government preference for a different set of religious beliefs.'"