Sep 30, 2014

Pagans and Satanists Explore Religious Freedoms

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

As predicted, the recent Supreme Court decision to allow religious invocations in public meetings is already exposing the hypocrisy and discriminatory practices of conservative Christian defenders of "religious freedom." Turns out some religions are more equal than others. Shocker.

In Florida's Escambia County, a potential legal battle is heating up between Agnostic Pagan Pantheist David Suhor and the county school board over his right to perform the invocation. Other local institutions have hosted him and his absolutely beautiful invocation can be heard in the video posted above. But he has locked horns with school board member Jeff Bergosh over his proposed appearance.

David Suhor, 46, a Pensacola resident and musician, said he is ready to bring litigation against the school board after he made requests to several board members to lead an invocation but was turned down by all but one. Suhor describes himself as an agnostic pagan pantheist and wanted to lead a pagan prayer.

“If you’re censoring Muslims, pagans or even satanists, then you’re practicing discrimination,” Suhor told the board.

After Suhor and school board member Jeffery Bergosh engaged in a heated debate through their blogs — Bergosh on and Suhor on — Bergosh asked the district’s attorney, Donna Waters, to look into the matter.

Both blogs are worth a look, but Bergosh's has the added value of being unintentionally hilarious.

I mean, should the majority of persons in attendance at one of our meetings really have to listen to a satanic verse?  What if a “Witch Doctor” comes to the podium with a full-on costume, chicken-feet, a voodoo doll and other associated  over-the-top regalia?  It could easily get out of hand, so far as I can tell....(I wonder what our local media would say about this?)

. . .

Locally, I’ve been bombarded by people offering their willingness to give invocations lately…. However, as a current practice each board member has the latitude to select whomever he/she wants to deliver the invocation before the meeting.  In my eight years on the board, I’ve utilized a priest, two pastors, a youth pastor, the leader of my bible study group, several members of the district staff, a school community volunteer, and I’ve delivered the invocation on a number of occasions myself. I like having the flexibility of the board’s rotation system, and I’m not in favor of changing it…

I’d even be willing to select someone other than a Christian to deliver the invocation.  I’ve recently been contacted by someone of the Jewish faith, and I’m considering having that individual bring the invocation when it is next my turn, in January 2015.

He's even willing to let the Jews in. But so far it's been Christians, Christians, Christians, and himself, also Christian.

So, this is pretty much exactly what critics of the SCOTUS ruling feared -- that government officials would end up violating the First Amendment directly by "establishing" what does and does not constitute acceptable religious practice.

This prayer was too much for County Commissioner Wilson Robertson who left the room because of his Christian beliefs.

Wilson Robertson  "People may not realize it, but when we invite someone a minister to pray they are praying for the county commissioners for us to make wise decisions and I'm just not going to have a pagan or satanic minister pray for me."

This also violates the ruling itself which directly calls for inclusiveness and non-discriminatory practices.

While "Witch Doctors" in full regalia are probably unlikely, Satanists are definitely coming for the Bergoshes and Robertsons of the world. The Satanic Temple has been challenging First Amendment loopholes with a sense of fun, flair, and determination. From the previously discussed Baphomet Statue to a court approved activity book for school children, they are pushing the envelope but hard.

The proposed monument is a hoot: Baphomet sitting on a throne while two children gaze adoringly at his goatly visage. The point of the stunt, however, is quite serious, to expose the hypocrisy of Christian conservatives who want to justify government endorsement of religion under the guise of “religious freedom”. Lucien Greaves of the Temple told Vice, “Constitutional law is quite clear on this issue: The state can’t discriminate against viewpoints. If they’ve opened the door for one, they’ve opened it for all.” To turn down the Satanists is to admit that the Christian right didn’t care for religious freedom at all, but simply wants government to push their religion while suppressing others who disagree.

The Satanic Temple is pulling a similar stunt in Florida, to protest the Orange County Public Schools, which allowed the World Changers of Florida to pass out Bibles and religious pamphlets on campus.  An atheist group already managed to get its protest in by getting similar permission to pass out atheist materials, putting the district in a situation where they either had to let them do it or risk a lawsuit. But the Satanist groups are making the situation hilariously surreal by asking to distribute The Satanic Children’s BIG BOOK of Activities, a coloring book with games that explain the ins and outs of Satanic rituals, as well as showing kids how to draw a pentagram.

 photo SatanicActivityBook_zps4a865934.png

It probably doesn't help that this book looks like hella more fun than the Christian rewrite of Harry Potter.

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