Rights For Me, But Not For Thee

I guess some faiths are more equal than others. (via)

Patrick McCollum is a Wiccan chaplain who has been fighting the California Department of Corrections for the right to serve pagan and Wiccan inmates. His case challenges California's "Five Faiths" policy, a policy of the corrections system that allows chaplains of only five faiths: Catholicism, Protestant Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Native American. (Though those five choices are in themselves problematic; it's not like all Native American peoples had the same religion or rituals. That's like saying someone "speaks African". Same goes for lumping all the Protestant denominations together.) Up until now the CDCR has been arguing that McCollum lacked standing to bring the case, as he is not himself an inmate. But just recently it's come out that their real argument is something a little different - and a lot more offensive.

Lawyers for the CDCR are claiming a 2-tier system of religious rights: that "traditional" faiths such as the five mentioned above are first-tier faiths, and as such are meant to receive full rights and protections under the Constitution, and that other faiths, like Wicca, are second-tier faiths, not entitled to the same protections. Which is bad enough, really. Wasn't the whole point of the separation of church and state that the government wouldn't be making decisions like which religions are good and which ones are bad?

But here's where it gets fun. The other day, an amicus brief was filed in the McCollum v CDCR case on behalf of WallBuilders, a Christian Dominionist organization, claiming that not only should we be second-tier faiths, our religion does not even count as a religion under the Constitution. From the WallBuilders brief (pdf):

The problem is that everything they [Interfaith Community Representatives, in their own amicus brief on McCollum's side] write explains why witchcraft and paganism are religions as the term is currently used in non-legal circles; nothing they write addresses whether witchcraft and paganism are religions as that word was used by the Framers in drafting the Religion Clauses. Thus, Amici can quote all the Founders they want for the proposition that various religions and faiths must be treated neutrally, but they will have accomplished nothing unless they demonstrate that paganism and witchcraft were included within the word “religion” as used in the Religion Clauses.

So because we weren't recognized as a religion 200-some years ago, we aren't allowed to be recognized as a religion now? That makes about as much sense as trying to run a modern society on the social mores of Bronze Age tribal societies! ...Wait. Christian Dominionists. I forgot who I was talking about here.

All I can say is, feel free to restrict minority faiths at your own peril. Because you don't know the future; Christians might one day be the minority faith, and at that point, precedent will have been set that the government DOES have the right to choose which faiths are deserving of protection and equality.

Christian Dominionists Have Hurt Fee-fees Over Inclusion Of Pagan Faiths; In Other News, Water Still Wet

I am reminded of a song/chant/thingy that my high school marching band used to do on band trips. (Yes, I was a band geek. Shush.) I don't remember how it goes, but I do remember that we chanted it the first time at a whisper, and at the end of the verse the person leading would say "Second verse, same as the first - a little bit louder and a little bit worse!" and we would do so, over and over until we were all screaming it at the top of our lungs.

Because this? This whole "Ignore the desecration of a religious minority's worship space by Christians - WE'RE the persecuted ones here!" attitude is incredibly familiar, and incredibly annoying. Also, Bill Donahue needs to STFU already.

So the story goes like this: The Air Force Academy has recently created a worship area for its pagan students; a stone ring near the student living areas, scheduled for dedication in March. Yay, inclusion of a minority faith and accommodation for those students who practice it! Except it seems some Christian students took exception to pagan students having a place to worship, because someone nailed together a cross out of railroad ties and left it in the circle. I suppose I should pause here to say, I'm actually glad it was something so easy to remove, as opposed to a cross burnt in the grass or painted on the rocks. Anyway. The administration at the Academy is taking this seriously, and treating it as the act of desecration it is. Let me be absolutely clear about this: it is hate speech. Putting a large version of the holy symbol of a dominant faith which has historically been rather hostile towards this minority faith, in the worship area of the minority faith, is an act intended to violate the safe space that a place of worship should be. It is a very clear statement of "You Are Not Welcome Here"; it is an attempt to bully members of a minority group. The Academy's administration seems to get that, with one spokesperson likening it to finding graffiti on the Student Chapel. So, while the incident itself is fucked up, at least it's getting serious attention from the Powers That Be.

And then I, like the glutton for punishment I am, clicked through to LifeSiteNews and read their coverage of the incident. *facepalm* Here, share my pain:

The Air Force Academy has defended its policy to make a place for witchcraft on its campus as an expression of its commitment to cadet’s freedom of religion. However, critics have replied that the move represents a further rejection of the United States’ Judeo-Christian heritage, and makes little sense given that the numbers of actual neo-pagans at the Academy is miniscule compared to other followers of non-Christian faiths, such as Islam.

Oh noes! We're permitting other faiths to worship openly! This means we are rejecting our (questionable) Judeo-Christian heritage! ...wait, what's wrong with that? If such a heritage exists at all in the sense that these people mean it (Amurika is a Christian Nation!), which is a shaky proposition at best and an outright lie at worst, I see nothing wrong with moving away from that in favor of the kind of multicultural approach that reflects the tolerance, equality, and freedom we as a nation claim to espouse. Also, I'm curious about something. They seem to think that there aren't enough pagans to make dedicating a circle for us "make sense". So, at what threshold are there enough members of a faith to merit a place of worship? If we constitute 5% of the population? 10%? 25%? Or is it number of bodies? Are ten regular attendees enough? 20? 50? Why does that honestly matter?

But Catholic League President Bill Donahue decried the reaction from Academy officials as “boilerplate” and stated that they were going way too far by treating the incident as “hate speech.” Donahue stated that if he found another religious symbol placed at a Catholic site, he would complain.

So in the same breath that he says people are overreacting, geez, relax, it's just a giant wooden cross in your circle, what's the big problem here? he also says that if he were in the exact same position, he would complain? How in the hell does that make sense? Listen, boyo, if you reserve the right to complain if someone else left their holy symbol in your church, we get that same right. Cope.

But here's the best part. Referring to the comparison of the cross in the circle to graffiti on the chapel, Donahue decided to air his hurt fee-fees:

“These remarks have added to the chilling atmosphere that Catholics and Protestants must endure,” said Donahue. He added that he was going to take the matter to the members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee, just as he had done in 2005.

“We need to know why hypersensitivity to non-Christians has evolved into insensitivity to Christians.”

Oh, for fuck's sake. "Chilling atmosphere"? Really? I guess if you believe it is your inalienable right to a position of constant religious superiority, to never be exposed to those *other* religions, to be treated as the One True Faith For Everybody Everywhere, it's chilling to see someone treating pagan religious spaces like they're as worth defending as your chapel. But guess what? Those are not your rights. Your rights are the same as ours, asshole. You have the right to worship in peace. You have the right not to be proselytized at if you do not want to be. You do not have the right to deny others the ability to worship in peace, nor do you have the right to insist that they prioritize your religion above all others.

And as to this alleged insensitivity to Christians...yeah. Let me tell you about the prayers I heard as part of official military ceremonies when I attended, as extended heart-family to a Lieutenant of the Army National Guard. The prayers which specifically referenced God the Father and His Son. I remember gritting my teeth when everyone, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof, was expected to stand and bow their heads in prayer together. I did it, because I did not want my behavior to reflect poorly on the person on whose behalf I was attending. But let me tell you about insensitivity to one's faith, Mr. Donahue. The simple accommodation of my faith within military ranks is vehemently not by its very existence "insensitive" to your faith. It's time you, and other Dominionists like you, learned to fucking coexist already. WITHOUT whining about how it makes you sad to have to share the world with us icky non-Christians.


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