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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Religious Tolerance: OK For Me but Not For Thee

  Indiana made big news recently with the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It prevents local and state government from "burdening a person's right to exercise their freedom of religion". It was seen as a big win for Christians who seem to be targeted more today for their beliefs than anyone else. Gay and Lesbian groups say it is a license to discriminate.
  While Indiana was making headlines with the signing of this bill which becomes law on July 1, something happened in Iowa that did not make news. At the closing of the invocation marking the opening ceremonies of the Iowa House of Representatives legislative session, a prayer was delivered by Wiccan Priestess Deborah Maynard.
  Queue the double takes. What?! A state full of good Christian God-fearing farmers inviting a Witch to say a prayer in the Statehouse? You bet your pitchforks. But while we are on the subject of religious freedom, some curious things happened during that prayer.
  Some of the lawmakers did not attend the ceremony to protest the prayer. Some did attend, but turned their backs, again in protest of the prayer. Members of a local church protested outside the Capitol. Seems like a lot of to do about a little prayer. But wait a minute, aren't we talking about religious freedom, religious tolerance? Aren't these the same people who cheered for the Indiana law?
  Well, yes they are. Maybe right here is where some questions need to be asked. America's very founding is on a bedrock of freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, even the right to protest freely. The first immigrants to the new land came here to escape persecution at home, and to worship as they saw fit. Are the descendants of those who first arrived now saying that religious freedom, religious tolerance is selective? As a Wiccan, am I being asked to stand in solidarity, something I am quite willing to do, with my Christian brothers and sisters who are asked to bake wedding cakes for gay weddings, and refuse because it is something that goes against their beliefs, while a Priestess of my faith is disrespected as the very people who now demand religious tolerance turn their backs on her in "protest"?!
  Wicca is a religion that is very often misunderstood. Many people assume we are a cult of Devil-worshippers. That and many other things about my faith that could not be further from the truth. Also true is that there is a fair amount of Wiccans
 and Pagans who do not have nice things to say about Christianity, many times based on their own life experiences. No one can tell you that your own experiences are wrong, but those assumptions are not right either. I can't speak for other Wiccans and Pagans, but I have never demanded that others of different faiths agree with what I believe, what I do ask is that you respect it, just as I would yours.
  One of the Iowa State Reps said that he asked himself, in this situation, "what would Jesus do"?
  Great question, what do you think he would do?         

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