Religious freedom support for Wiccans, Pagans, and other Nature religion practitioners worldwide. An international information and networking organization sponsored by Circle Sanctuary.” — Lady Liberty League
I like to think of Lady Liberty League (LLL) as the Pagan Justice League (a la Super Friends), standing against the Legion of Doom (which includes anyone or any organization who treats Paganism as a “lesser” faith in policy or practice). This may sound tongue-in-cheek, but I mean that sincerely. LLL is a group of individuals who have united and organized to stand against injustice. Really LLL is more like a Pagan-focused American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The LLL doesn’t offer legal representation directly, but they do provide support and resources to help Pagans find legal representation when needed. I think they play a vital and admirable role in the national Pagan community and I wanted share some of their good works with the Realm.
LLL was started in 1985 by Selena Fox,* Patrick McCollum, (whom we’ve written about in a regarding his fight for equal recognition as clergy in the California penal system), and compatriots. The organization is not exactly named for what you’d think — the Statue of Liberty. It takes its name from the Roman goddess of freedom, Libertas, the inspiration for most female figures of freedom. Different members of LLL have special skills in different areas (just like the Super Friends), all designed to help fellow Pagans whose civil liberties have been challenged because of their faith. For example, LLL members specialize in:
- public relations
- countering harassment
- employment issues
- child custody issues
- military affairs
- law enforcement relations
- legal affairs
- interfaith relations
- scholars support
LLL is in the (Pagan)** news frequently when they advocate for people in need. Here are some recent cases:
The Turner Family
In fall 2011, an 11-year-old boy in western Georgia stayed home from public school to observe Samhain with his family. When he returned to school the next day, his teacher pulled him from the classroom and “drilled him about Paganism” ending the exchange with, “Paganism is not a religion.” (Stephanie Turner 2011). School county officials promised to follow-up with a meeting between the Turner children and their teachers, but did not invite their mother to attend. This child was further harassed at school by his teacher and then on his bus by the driver. LLL joined a task force with local and national members to help resolve this issue. Efforts brought a relatively quick resolution to this conflict whereby school officials apologized for the incidents and promised to educate their staff on preserving students’ rights.
The Strivelli Family
Late last year, a 12-year-old boy brought home a Gideon Bible from his public school. Several boxes of bibles were donated to his school and made available for students to pick-up. His mother, a practicing Wiccan, asked the school about making religious material available on school grounds. In response, “the principal assured her the school would make available religious texts donated by any group” (Fox News 2012). However, when Mrs. Strivelli brought Pagan books to share with her son’s school, “the school refused to accept these books and have them distributed in the same way they had been distributing the Bibles, indicating that a new policy was being crafted” (Pagans on First 2012). LLL sent out a call to members and supporters to speak out against this discrimination and asked interfaith leaders to join the conversation. The most recent update I found suggests the school board proposed a new policy that states employees, officials and volunteers in schools “while acting in their official capacities shall not use their positions to endorse, promote, or disparage a particular religious belief, viewpoint or practice” (Americans United 2012). You can also follow this story on the Strivelli Family Support Page.
Last month, a Wiccan priestess in northern Virginia applied for clergy status with her county court so she could perform marriages. She presented her ordination documentation from her coven, a federally registered non-profit order incorporated in California. The clerk was not sure a person could become an officiant sans a brick-and-mortar house of worship in the county, so she brought the Clerk of the Court to clarify. His denied Literata’s application. After pressing for an explanation for this denial, “He said that approving these applications was at his ‘discretion’ and that he didn’t ‘feel’ I met the qualifications, but he wouldn’t tell me how. He told me that I could apply to another court in another county but that he thought they would probably give me the same answer” (Literata Hurley 2012). Literata was seeking the advice of LLL to figure out how to resolve this problem. This is a fairly recent event and so is ongoing. Much luck to Literata and the LLL as they proceed with this case.
These examples are all in the last 10 months. Imagine how much good work LLL has been doing in the last 27 years! These are good peeps fighting the good fight. Do you know of other organizations that fight for faith equality?
* Reverend Fox is a bit of a Rock Star in Paganism. She was one of the founders of Wisconsin-based Circle Sanctuary in 1974 — one of the oldest Pagan centers in the U.S. She is also the founder of the Pagan Spirit Gathering in 1980 — one of the oldest Pagan festivals in the US. Rev. Fox has been representing Paganism in the media (television, radio and publications) since the early 1970s. In other words, she was Pagan when Pagan wasn’t cool (or at least not widely accepted).
** Stories about prejudice against Pagans don’t always make it to mainstream media outlets. And even when they do, they are not always complimentary of our faith. A good example of this is the nonsense Christine O’Donnell generated when her 1999 interview on Politically Incorrect surfaced during her bid for the Senate (DE) in 2010. In the 1999 interview she said she “dabbled” in witchcraft and made a number of ludicrous statements and confused Wicca with Satanism — which are NOT the same thing. Then she tried to back peddle with an “I’m not a witch…I’m you” video. The media had a heyday with the 1999 interview footage and simultaneously mocked Christine O’Donnell for saying and doing silly things and mocking Paganism because news outlets considered her “dabbling” in witchcraft to be among the silly things she did. Not only did Paganism appear as a “joke” to many because of the way it was portrayed in this story, it also appeared as a threat because of the horrible misinformation Candidate O’Donnell spewed in the 1999 video. We wrote about this incident shortly after it happened.