The Religious Right and the Republican Party are performing a high-wire act with their embrace of so-called Religious Freedom. This Religious Freedom, is, of course, directed at Christians only. But what happens if, at the same time you are holding a forum on protecting religious freedom, a Wiccan priestess is invited to give the invocation at the State Capitol?
Your natural inclination as Bob Vander Plaats of Iowa’s Family Leader, is to condemn the move. But if he denies the Wiccan’s right, he will give the game away, won’t he? He will not only make his own embrace of Religious Freedom hollow, he will do the same to the four candidates he is hosting – Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal – who are also campaigning on a platform that includes Religious Freedom.
So Vander Plaats decided to host an “alternate prayer service” for those offended by the practice of actual religious freedom. According to KCCI 8, fully half of Iowa’s lawmakers chose to show America how they felt about actual Religious Freedom, and skipped Thursday’s invocation by the Wiccan priestess.
The invocation was given by Deborah Maynard, who is described as “a Wiccan from Cedar Rapids.” She is only the third Wiccan to render an invocation in this land of alleged religious liberty.
Her prayer was given as follows. See if you are offended:
We call this morning to god, goddess, universe, that which is greater than ourselves to be with us here today. By the earth that is in our bones and centers us, may all here remember our roots and those we are here to represent. By the fire that gives us light and passion, may all here remain passionate about the work that must be done for the people of Iowa. By the air that gives us breath and logic, may all here find thoughtful solutions to the problems that are presented. By the water that flows through our blood and stirs our emotions, may all here draw an emotional intelligence which helps us see the inherent worth and dignity of every person. We call this morning to spirit ever present, to help us respect the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. Be with us and this legislative body and guide them to seek justice, equity and compassion in the work that is before them today. Blessed be, Aho and Amen.
Justice, equity, and passion. The dignity of every person.
Well…how dare you, madam? Some of those lawmakers who did show up, chose, instead of sitting respectfully like the rest of us do for Christian prayer, to turn their backs on Maynard – like Rep. Rob Taylor – as a show of protest.
At least he didn’t hiss. That’s how ancient Christians handled Pagan prayer (which explains angry Pagan mobs and resultant martyrdom). Thank whatever’s holy he hasn’t picked up a history book any more often than his Bible.
To make matters worse, ABC’s local affiliate, KCRG, reports that “Pastor Michael Demastus of the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ was in the balcony, praying for Maynard.”
This is probably something most of us Pagans have experienced. I’ve lost track of the number of those who’ve told me they are praying for my soul.
It sounds, on the whole, like the concept of Religious Freedom is something completely new and foreign in Iowa. Which is not altogether surprising.
And indeed, Bob Vander Plaats, the alleged champion of Religious Freedom, called the invocation a “stunning development (that) many Christians across the state recognize has spiritual ramification.”
Yes, actually exercising your First Amendment right to have your own beliefs is a “stunning development” with “spiritual ramifications.”
Remember that next time you vote.
In a country ruled by actual religious freedom, this should not even have been news. Let alone bad news.
In a speech that night, Vander Plaats mentioned 9/11 and the resultant God-centered patriotism put on display everywhere (without mentioning the tar and feathering of dissenting voices like the Dixie Chicks) and made his actual feelings known about a Wiccan in the Capitol:
Almost 14 years later, where are we at? Just this morning, in the Iowa capitol, which is totally within the religious liberty right, but you had a state representative invite someone to deliver a Wiccan prayer. Now, you may say that’s religious liberty, but I’d say you’d better be careful if you want to start mocking the God that you’re asking to bless this country. That’s a huge concern.
“You might say that’s religious liberty…”
There you go, Bob, you fascist. Get it out of your system.
Actual religious liberty – in other words, the right of people to be something other than Christian – is “a huge concern,” he says.
But I didn’t see any God-mocking, did you?
We are speaking of actual Religious Liberty now, not the Religious Right’s variety, which countenances only prayers to the guy whose teachings they all ignore – Jesus Christ.
Vander Plaats tried to dance around the issue. That issue being that the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom to all Americans. Including Wiccan priestesses. Including atheists. Including Muslims.
The United States Constitution does not take into account sectarian “spiritual ramifications.” In fact, the Constitution was written by men who wanted to avoid the Old World’s history of sectarian strife.
And Bob Vander Plaats and the Republican Party have made it more than clear that they do not support Religious Freedom, but the religious tyranny our Founding Fathers tried so hard to ban from these shores.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.