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A CALL TO ACTION

Please forward this posting widely.

INDEX OF THIS POSTING

Background
Barr's points and our response
Why we must take action
Action to take
Links for more info

BACKGROUND

Georgia Republican Representative Bob Barr has begun a widely-publicized effort to deny military personnel who are Witches their Constitutional right to freedom of worship. After seeing a news report about a Spring Equinox ritual held on the military base in Fort Hood, Texas, Barr issued a press release saying it was "entirely appropriate" to bar Witches from the military altogether.

Subsequent attempts to educate Barr to the reality of Witchcraft, and steadfast support by military officials for Witches' right to worship, have not altered Barr's views. In a story broadcast on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" on 09 June, Barr termed Witchcraft "strange" and "abnormal." Barr already tried attaching an amendment to a defense authorization bill that would have outlawed the practice of Witchcraft on military bases. The amendment failed on procedural grounds but Barr has made clear he is determined to pass legislation on this issue.

On Wednesday 09 June the ante was raised when a coalition of thirteen religious right groups called on all Christians not to enlist or re-enlist in the military until Witchcraft is banned from military posts. This is a very serious development and could signal a concerted effort on the part of the conservative right wing to deny Pagans our right to worship freely.

Witchcraft has repeatedly been recognized by the federal courts as a religion protected under the Constitution. The main tenets of Witchcraft have been included in military chaplains' guidebooks since the late 1970s and the revised chaplains' guidebooks (1998) offer even more information and expand on other Pagan faiths. The military has consistently upheld freedom of worship for Witches and has never indicated its practice interferes with morale, as Rep. Barr contends.

The Fort Hood worship group is called Open Circle and has about 300 members. It is sponsored by the Sacred Well Congregation of San Antonio. Fort Hood is America's largest military installation, with 42,000 soldiers stationed there. It was the first military base to provide space for Craft rituals two years ago. Since that time, a base chaplain, Lt. Col. Donald Troyer, a 7th Day Adventist, has supported the group's right to worship in the face of protest by local conservative Christians. He keeps information packets about Witchcraft on hand and has fielded calls about the Craft from other military chaplains. Col. Jerome Haberek, a Roman Catholic priest and head chaplain of the III Army Corps stationed at Fort Hood, has supported Witches' right to worship, as have top Pentagon officials and base commanders. Democratic Representative Chet Edwards, who represents the district where Fort Hood is located, has come out in support of Witches' right to practice, saying "it would be terrible policy to require each installation commander to define what is a religion and decide which religions can be practiced by American citizens."

BARR'S POINTS AND OUR RESPONSE

* Barr alleges that allowing the practice of Witchcraft on military bases hurts morale. The truth is that military commanders and top brass have supported freedom of worship for Witches since the 1970s. If there were any threat to morale, the military would not support the practice. To deny Witches' right to worship is damaging to the morale of all soldiers of non-mainstream faiths, as well as all military personnel who care about First Amendment rights.

* Barr contends that elected officials should determine which beliefs construe a legitimate religion. It is appalling for a government official to be proposing a policy which so clearly violates the letter and the spirit of the First Amendment. The government has no legal right to prefer one religion over another.

* Barr alleges the U.S. military will be ridiculed for allowing Witches to worship. Rep. Barr should be proud to live in a country which guarantees freedom of worship. Military officials have repeatedly expressed support for the proud American tradition of religious pluralism, noting that we provide a model to torn states such as Kosovo and Bosnia.

WHY WE MUST TAKE ACTION

These developments are very disturbing on their face -- it has been many years since we've seen this kind of high-profile campaign by a government official. The good news is that, due to the educational efforts of Pagan organizations and individuals, the media have been largely unbiased in their reporting of this issue. This has kept the issue from turning into a bona fide Witchhunt. Perhaps most importantly, the support of the military in this situation has been and will be the strongest argument for denying Rep. Barr any traction with this issue.

However, the fact that an elected official is making this kind of attack now is very troubling. The fact that a religious right coalition has tried to capitalize on Barr's opening is extremely serious and could lead to the worst kind of demagoguery and political grandstanding.

In the presidential elections, many candidates are already making statements espousing (Christian) religion as a key to solving our nation's problems. While this is partly typical politicospeak, it is also a reaction to the pecadillos of the Clinton presidency. Expect to see more of it as the primaries draw nearer. Because the Republican primaries are controlled mostly by the religious right, politicians often position themselves as more conservative for primaries than they do for the general election. It is not a stretch to see how politicians seeking to distinguish themselves in a crowded field might champion Barr's cause in order to gain critical primary votes. Candidates such as Pat Buchanon and Gary Bauer, who openly parade their religious right credentials, could take this debate to the national level, turning Pagans' religious freedom into a political football. I feel we cannot overstress the dangers inherent in this situation.

It is *critical* that the groundswell of support for Witches' right to practice be so overwhelming that no politician will feel s/he can get away with denying any minority group their Constitutional right to religious freedom. A weak response today allows a stronger threat tomorrow.

This issue deserves the strongest possible response. We must make a strong statement in defense of First Amendment freedoms and be steadfast in our opposition to any move which would deny these hard-won rights to our brothers and sisters. Barr will only have success if he is allowed to define the issue. We must stand up and clearly state what Witchcraft is about. It is up to us to educate the public so they cannot be misled by Barr's characterizations. If there were ever a time to stand up and be heard, it is *now.*

ACTION TO TAKE

* A note on letter-writing: you are representing your religion. Keep all communication civil and respectful. While e-mail letters are convenient, a handwritten letter will have much more clout. Do not engage in personal attacks. You do not need to identify yourself as a Pagan in order to make your point. Keep it brief and to the point. PEN offers educational brochures, press kits, background information on the religious right, an article on writing letters of complaint, and many other resources at http://www.paganed.net/article.html

*Write a respectful, succinct letter to your federal elected representatives decrying Barr's attempt to deny Witches their Constitutionally-protected right to worship. Include educational materials about the Craft and Paganism. See http://congress.org if you don't know the names of your elected officials. Also see http://congress.org for tips on communicating with elected officials.

The U.S. House of Representatives
Washington DC 20515
http://congress.org

The U.S. Senate
Washington DC 20510
http://congress.org

The White House
Washington DC 20500-0001
http://www.whitehouse.gov

* Write a respectful, succinct letter to Rep. Barr (at the address for the U.S. House above) expressing your views. Include educational materials with your letter. Barr can also be contacted by phone at 202-225-2931, fax at 202-225-2944, and e-mail at barr.ga@mail.house.gov.

* Write letters to all those in positions of authority who have supported Witches' right to worship, thanking them for their efforts. (Rep. Chet Edwards can be reached at the U.S. House; General La Porte, commanding officer of the Fort Hood base, can be reached at III Corp and Fort Hood, Fort Hood TX 76544.)

* Express your opinions about this matter to online media (see addresses below). Thank all media for unbiased reporting.

* Write a letter to the editor of your local paper expressing your views and alerting your community to the potential of this issue to divide and discriminate against fellow Americans.

* Spread the news! Forward this e-mail to as many people as possible, including non-Pagans who will be concerned about the issues at stake.

* Keep up-to-date by checking out the Websites of The Magickal Cauldron, the Witches' Voice, and Circle Sanctuary's Lady Liberty League (addresses below).

* Work magic and send blessings of protection and support for the quick and peaceful resolution of this issue. Call on gods and goddesses of communication, justice, and freedom. Ask that your own actions for religious freedom be blessed and multiplied.

* Send news of your actions to Lady Liberty League, which is monitoring the response to the situation (address below).

Thank you for your support of religious freedom!

"I will walk proudly, and hold my head high, for the sky is my Father, and the Earth my Mother, and I am a child of the Gods." -- Vivianne Crowley

Blessings of Justice,
Cairril Adaire
National Coordinator

LINKS FOR MORE INFO

Barr's 18 May '99 press release
http://www.house.gov/barr/p_051899.html

Military Pagan Network
http://www.milpagan.org/barr.htm
http://www.witchvox.com/cases/bb_mpn.html

Fort Hood Chaplain's Office Web page
http://150.114.71/IIICorps/IIICorps.html

UPDATES & MORE INFO
The Magickal Cauldron
http://www.magickalcauldron.com/bobbarr.html

Texas Pagan Awareness On-Line
http://www.tpao.org/cybersit.html

Witches Anti-Discrimination League
http://members.tripod.com/~Elderpaths/position.html

The Witches' Voice
http://www.witchvox.com/cases/bobbarr.html

Circle Sanctuary/Lady Liberty League
http://www.circlesanctuary.org/liberty
Circle Sanctuary
Box 219
Mt Horeb WI 53572 USA
phone 608-924-2216
fax 608-924-5961
e-mail circle@mhtc.net
(please put "LLL update" in subject line)

PETITION TO BARR
http://www.e-thepeople.com/petition.cfm?PETID=153111

MAINSTREAM MEDIA COVERAGE & POLLS
Digital City poll: Should the military outlaw Witches?
http://home.digitalcity.com/houston/national_hotissue/main.dci?#board

American-Statesman poll: What do you think of Fort Hood's decision to allow Wiccan worship?
http://www.statesman.com/news/1metro/1999/05/11wiccatalk.html

About.com
http://altreligion.about.com/library/blbarr.htm

Atlanta Journal-Constitution
http://www.accessatlanta.com:80/news/1999/05/30/barr.html
http://www.accessatlanta.com/ajc/newsatlanta/teepen/

Austin 360.com
http://www.austin360.com:80/news/1metro/1999/05/28wicca.html

Austin American-Statesman
http://www.statesman.com/news/2state/1999/06/10wiccaboycott.html

CNN
http://cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/stories/1999/05/18/barr.wiccan.ap

THE HILL, Vol. 6, No. 20
http://www.witchvox.com/wren/wren_archives/wn_we_990605.html

International Herald Tribune
http://www.iht.com:80/IHT/TODAY/WED/IN/pent.2.html

The Irish Times
http://www.ireland.com:80/newspaper/world/1999/0609/wor18.htm

Philadelphia Daily News
http://www.phillynews.com/daily_news/99/Jun/08/opinion/EDTB08.htm

US News & World Report
http://www.usnews.com:80/usnews/issue/990614/witches.htm

The Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/daily/june99/wicca08.htm

West Virginia Gazette
http://www.wvgazette.com/Editorial/barr0609.html

The VIEW poll:
http://abc.go.com/theview/

Paul Weyrich blasts Wicca
http://www.sltrib.com:80/1999/jun/06201999/commenta/2590.htm

Plain Dealer anti-Wiccan editorial
http://www.cleveland.com:80/news/pdnews/metro/c21feagl.ssf

Ontario Center for Religious Tolerance "Burning Times" award to Barr
http://www.religioustolerance.org/burn_awd.htm

Ontario Center for Religious Tolerance
http://www.religioustolerance.org/boy_army.htm

Dr. Oringderff's online discussion with washingtonpost.com
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/zforum/99/wicca062299.htm

"Fire & Brimstone" Preacher Calls for Denial of Religious Freedom for Wiccans
http://www.kdhnews.com/news.htm

Pagan Rituals on Army Base Cast Controversial Spell - ABC News
http://www.abcnews.go.com/onair/CloserLook/wnt990623_wehmeyer_story.html

ABC News Live message board:
http://boards.go.com/cgi/abcnews/request.dll?LISTroom=WorldNewsTonight

Witches test our religious tolerance,  by Dr. Charles Haynes
http://www.freedomforum.org/religion/haynes/1999/6/27haynes.asp