View Full Version : For religious issues, devil's in the details

Eric McTavish
08-15-2005, 10:42 AM
Wow nicely written article! (http://www.dailypress.com/news/columnists/dp-66507cm0aug13,0,482837.column?coll=dp-news-columnists)

For religious issues, devil's in the details
Published August 13 2005
Tamara Dietrich

Stephanie LaTronica of Williamsburg has never offered an opening prayer before a public meeting. But if she did, this is how it might go:

"Goddess, let only truth be spoken here, and only truth be heard. Let our actions and our decisions be in benefit of the earth and the cycle of nature. Blessed be."

Unfortunately, the concept of such a prayer is either so alien or so offensive to public officials up in Chesterfield County, they are willing to crusade against it right up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Why? Because it would be offered by a Wiccan. LaTronica is Wiccan, just like Cynthia Simpson of Chesterfield County. Simpson is the woman who was denied the right to deliver the invocation before one of her local county board meetings. She was told the prayer must be made to a divinity within the Judeo-Christian tradition.

"We have had this policy in place for 20 years," County Attorney Steven L. Micas said in an earlier newspaper report. "It's remained through five boards of supervisors. The law supports the policy." Micas did not return telephone calls Friday for more comment.

Simpson sued, and in 2003, she won in federal court. In April, the county won a reversal in the U.S. Circuit Court in Richmond. So Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union petitioned on Simpson's behalf to the highest court in the land. Arguments should start this fall.

"What Wicca represents is the expanding nature (of religion), the diversity," says David L. Holmes, religion professor at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. "America is becoming more and more diverse, so boards of supervisors are faced with questions that they would not have been faced with not many decades ago."

On the other hand, he said, "From the board's point of view, there are hundreds of other religious groups out there that would like to be part of the rotation."

True enough. So where do you draw the line?

Well, you draw the line according to your own constituency. If you don't have a resident Hindu, for instance - or if you do and he's just fine with the status quo - then praise the Lord however you like.

But if he would like his faith represented in a respectful way, a representative government should oblige, within reason.

County boards or city councils each have their own traditions. Not all have a rotation. In Isle of Wight, for instance, supervisors take turns, board member Richard MacManus said. The gist of what they pray for, he adds, is "wisdom and guidance during the meeting."

Heck, even an atheist could manage that.

Local invocations also are delivered by city council members, staff or representatives from the religious community. So far as I know, none has been Wiccan.

What likely trips people up about Wicca is the lingering stigma that practitioners are into witchcraft or Satan. "It's not devil-worship. We don't even have a concept of the devil," LaTronica says.

Wicca, recognized even by the U.S. government, is based on a respect for earth, nature and the cycle of the seasons. It focuses on the feminine aspects of the divinity, a concept that even intrigues many Christians. "Look at this wildly popular 'Da Vinci Code,' " LaTronica says of the national best-seller. "It's just another mother goddess. We have much more in common than they think."

LaTronica says she still has hate mail from her own court battle several years ago - aided also by the ACLU - to obtain a minister's license that enables her to marry people.

She still recalls Howard Stern yukking about her case: "Why don't they just throw water on her?" Now a supervisor in Chesterfield County jokes that he hopes Simpson is a "good witch, like Glenda."

Frankly, if anyone has the right to be religiously offended here, it's pagans. Christians have piggybacked on their traditions for 2,000 years.

Take Christmas: Biblical evidence is that Jesus was born in the spring (remember all those lambs running around?) But early Christians found they got more traction among pagans - and less flak from persecuting Romans - by rescheduling the celebration around the winter solstice, which pagans celebrated as the sun's rebirth out of the goddess. The Yule log, candles, mistletoe, holly? All pagan.

Then there's Halloween. Before Jesus was even a gleam in God's eye, Celtic druids were celebrating Samhain, the night when pagans believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In the seventh century, a pope sought to replace the pagan festival with a church-sanctioned one and declared Nov. 1 All Saints Day, or All-hallowmas, to honor Christian saints and martyrs. Samhain became All-hallow's Eve.

And at Eastertime, those eggs and rabbits are obvious signs of fertility. Majorly pagan.

Finally, for more evidence of the pagan in our modern lives, here's a very short list of words we use every day that happen to be named for pagan gods, goddesses or symbols. I'll let you figure them out, and you will:

Moon Day

Tiu's Day

Woden's Day

Thor's Day

Frigga's Day

Saturn's Day

Sun Day

And none of us is the worse for it.

Tamara Dietrich can be reached at [email protected] or at 247-7892.

08-15-2005, 11:18 AM
Eric! Don't you remember what happened LAST time you posted one of these?



08-15-2005, 01:24 PM
Nice Article!

I wonder if the government will make us rename our weekdays.....


Vice Madame, Local 69

Jeannie Fitzgerald
08-15-2005, 01:35 PM
Nice Article!

I wonder if the government will make us rename our weekdays.....


Vice Madame, Local 69

Please! Do not even THINK it let alone suggest it. Some extreme religous right moron may take it seriously.

08-15-2005, 01:37 PM
Nice Article!

I wonder if the government will make us rename our weekdays.....


Vice Madame, Local 69

Please! Do not even THINK it let alone suggest it. Some extreme religous right moron may take it seriously.

I know. I'm sorry.. I'm just morbid that way.

:shock: :D :shock: :hi:


08-15-2005, 02:39 PM
Jeannie, nice picture!

08-15-2005, 05:35 PM
Jeannie, nice picture!

Hey! I hadn't noticed you changed it! nice picture indeed!