Equal Time, Norwegian Style - Muslims and atheists in
Christian-dominated Oslo, Norway will now be able to slug it out from the
rooftops via loudspeakers in the country's capital.
Under a recent ruling, a mosque will be allowed to broadcast prayer call for 3 minutes each Friday, the Muslim holy day. Giving equal time, the council also honored a seperate request by The Atheist Society, ruling that they can announce their weekly meetings by broadcasting the message "God does not exist."
Full Story: http://www.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/europe/03/29/bc.norway.religion.reut/index.html
3/27/00: Haunted House for Sale?
I thought I'd seen it all: I've deleted spam advertising laser toner for copy machines I don't own, free cruises to places I don't care if I never see, enough ways to make a million dollars to make me richer than Bill Gates, and if I ordered from half of the freakin' Viagra ads, I wouldn't even be able to reach the keyboard! However, this one takes the cake, and is such a hoot I decided to share it. I never, in my wildest dreams, thought somebody would be trying to sell me a haunted house:
---from original message---
"Have you ever dreamed about owing a large haunted house? It is time for me to move on so I am looking for the right people to take care of the spirits of this house.
PRE CIVIL WAR HAUNTED MANSION 5000 +/- SQUARE FEET, 10 ROOMS,
5 BEDROOMS, 2 BATH ON 3 ACRES Main house is Triple-Brick Construction [1 foot thick], Hardwood floors, 4 fire places. High ceilings large rooms. Original wavy glass is most windows. Yes it is supposed to be haunted. A story was done on NBS-Extra. Inside Addition wants to come and spend the night.
For more information, write W.S. Gadd, Rt. 1 Box 128C, Peterstown, West Virginia 24963-9707, phone 304-753-5864
3/26/00: The West Memphis 3: When I heard this story
of three Arkansas teenagers about a year ago, I admit I didn't pay much
attention. It appeared that a few in the Pagan community were up in arms
because "Wicca" was being besmirched in the press after these teens brutally
murdered three eight year old boys and got caught. I wish I'd paid more
attention. Last night we watched the HBO presentation "Paradise Lost 2:
Revelations", where five years later the convictions are upheld despite
questions of the evidence and the investigative process. I recommend that
anyone who thinks justice is blind, or that something like this "could
never happen to me" see this documentary and check out the Free
the West Memphis Three Support Fund website.
HBO will be rerunning this program during March and April. CLICK HERE for schedule information.
[WARNING: Both the documentary and the WM3 website contain graphic crime scene information including photographic evidence and may be unsuitable for younger viewers.]
The school prayer debate will go to the US Supreme Court
next Wednesday when a suit involving prayer at a Texas high school's football
games is heard by the nation's final authority: When Santa Fe Independent
School District decided in 1992 to allow the student body to select who
would speak before their football games, they in effect endorsed one form
of Christianity, alleged a 1995 suit by a Mormon (former) student known
as "Jane Doe". CLICK
HERE for the 3/24 FoxNews story.
3/25/00: Medicine Wheel, a rare white buffalo born
May 9, 1996 and viewed as an omen of good fortune by many Plains Indians
was shot to death Sunday, March 19, 2000 at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation,
home to approximately 20,000 members of the Oglala Lakota. The buffalo
was killed at the direction of the Tribal Police "for the safety of the
community" after it was seen running through a residential section of the
reservation and charged when approached.
See stories on the Lincoln Journal Star and Spokane.netwebsites for more information.
3/24/00: Update on Irma Patton: Earlier this
month the Pagan community mobilized when Clark High School (Hammond, Indiana)
officials told a Wiccan student that she could not wear her pentagram pendant
and ring where they would be visible on school premises. (See 3/15/00 story
and comments, below.)
Thanks to a threat of litigation by the Alternative Religions Educational Network (AREN), this decision has now been reversed: "HAMMOND -- Irma Patton is free to wear her pentagrams while attending Clark High School.
School administrators ordered the freshman to cover up her five-pointed stars last week while she was at school, saying the stars could be associated with the Latin Kings street gang.
Patton, a practicing wiccan, insists she is not a gang member and the star is a religious symbol for protection.
School officials have decided to let Patton wear her pentagrams after a national organization threatened legal action."
CLICK HERE to open this story in a new window. (If this link is broken, go to http://www.thetimesonline.com/asp/main.asp and search the archives using Keyword: "pentagram".)
3/22/00: Well, it finally happened. Silverwing went to
her first real dance last week, a St. Patrick's Day affair at the local
Middle School. She was all excited about getting to go out by herself,
and had talked to her friends about who all would be there, what everyone
would be wearing, you know, "girl stuff".
I drove over to pick her up when the dance was over at 10 o'clock, and sat in my car with the other parents in a long line that extended out of the school parking lot and half a block down the street, grinding my teeth at getting zero miles per gallon of what currently costs me a buck and a half at the pump. Finally, the dance emptied out and as kids piled into cars, the line inched its way forward.
Eventually I reached the sidewalk by the school, scanning the crowd of kids looking for their ride, but no Silverwing in sight. When I pulled up to the door there was nowhere else to go, so I stopped and waited, wondering what in the world was taking so long. Finally, she appeared and started towards the car, all smiles. About halfway there, she suddenly stopped as if remembering something, turned and ran back to where this tall, dark haired young man of 11 or 12 was standing in the schoolhouse door. Giving him a big hug, she finally skipped down to the sidewalk and hopped in, all aglow.
His name is Ian. I'm not ready for this... Sigh.
Speaking of $1.50 per gallon gasoline, it'll probably
get worse before Summer is over. To help reduce America's dependence on
foreign oil, some senators recently proposed opening up the Alaskan Arctic
National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. While it would be about 10 years
before any oil production began, the environmental consequences of opening
up vast stretches of some of this last virgin wilderness could mean disaster
for some of the hundreds of species that live and reproduce along its coastline.
Click here to read the March 9 story in a new window.
3/15/00: Tragedy in Tennessee - Elaine Gilbert Brown (Pandora) and Shawn Louis Wahlenmaier, both members of the Knoxville Pagan community, died in a house fire Friday, March 10, 2000. Allegedly, Pandora's father, Cecil Clyde Williams, disapproved of his daughter's beliefs and set the fire intentionally after stabbing Shawn when he found the pair together at the home he shared with his 41 year old daughter.
Pandora and Shawn were active members of Knoxville Area Pagans and Wiccans (KAPOW), which recently won praises from the Knox County Solid Waste office for its participation in Tennessee's "Adopt a Roadway" program. Additionally, Pandora organized the KAPOW Kid's Auxilliary, working with area Pagan children.
A memorial page has been placed on the KAPOW website. Visitors, family and friends are invited to leave their thoughts on guest books placed for both Shawn and Pandora.
For more information, see Sunday's
story and the Tuesday
follow-up in the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
Just got this in the mail today:
"Pagan student ordered to cover up pentagram while at school - HAMMOND (AP)--A high school student who follows a pagan religion says school officials infringed on her religious freedom by ordering her to cover up two pentagrams she wore to school.
Freshman Irma Patton was sent home Friday from Clark High School for repeatedly refusing to remove or place tape over her pentagram ring and button. School officials insist pentagrams are gang symbols." Click here to go to this story in a new window.
[Looks like another school system is going to have to
change their policy, probably at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars
in legal fees. When will they ever learn? - Oak]
3/11/00: Pagan Children's Book in the Making! I just received this announcement and thought I'd share with anyone interested:
"Merry Meet! - For months I have been entertaining the notion of writing a children's book that is pagan in nature. Here's what I came up with. I'm going to take a "Dear Goddess" approach. It will involve publishing letters and poems written by kids to express their spirituality and different ideas of what the goddess means to them. I think this will be a heartwarming book for adults and children alike. My favorite part is that it will give pagan children something positive to relate to and feel good about. I'm very excited about this and would like to get started as soon as possible. If you would like to contribute to this work, you may send me letters written by our children, poems or anything else you would consider beneficial. Please include the child's name and age. The letters will be printed as they are received. If you would like your letter returned, please include a self-addressed stamped envelope. You can send your stuff to:
care of Jaayd
P.O. Box 326
Taunton, Ma 02780
I thank everybody who participates and i will keep you
Blessed Be, Jaayd"
for more information)
3/9/00: Important Announcement - For anyone planning to
attend "Pagans in the Park" in Nashville, TN on March 11: Due to the possibility
of bad weather, the location for this event has been changed to Bellevue
(Please see the Festival Page for more information.)
3/5/00: Update on Walker County (AL) Board of Education's
uniform dress code:
Back in October we brought you the story of Kandice Smith (Then spelled Kandace due to a misprint in the source quoted), an 11 year old Christian girl prevented from exercising her right of religious expression by being told to keep her cross inside her shirt. This suit has now been settled, and Walker Co. students are again free to display the symbols of their various faiths. OakGrove's 10/10/99 article can be found in the 1999 Archives. See the latest story at *The Freedom Forum Online for more details.
3/4/00: March is here, and it's time for some Spring cleaning and sprucing up around the grove. Contributions from various folks stopping by have been added to the Festivals and Herbal Medicine pages, and last month's news has been archived. New links have also been added to the Cool Links, Merchants and Parenting pages, and these pages have been upgraded so that off-site links now open in a new window, making returning to these pages easier by just closing the new window when you're done. Amberflame found yet another organization to add to the Armchair Activism page, and there's even more to come, so keep checking back!
One of the topics covered in February was the situation faced by a breastfeeding mom, Siri Wright, when she was charged with contempt of court because she refused to wean her daughter prematurely to serve jury duty. This case was due to be heard March 13, 2000, but due to a public outcry that swamped the Idaho 4th District Court's switchboard and e-mail, and even crashed their web server, was settled by the prosecution dropping the charge at a special meeting held two weeks before the appointed date. "We, The People" spoke up, and we made a difference!
2/25/00: Although not strictly a Pagan issue, this is a parenting issue: Siri Wright, a young mother in Idaho, has been charged with contempt of court for failure to serve jury duty because she is a nursing mother.
Idaho law states that "a mother nursing her child shall have jury service postponed until she is no longer nursing the child." (Idaho Code, section 2-209) but the jury comissioner refused a second request to postpone her service and listed Siri as a "no-show" when she appeared at the courthouse with her children in tow. The complete story may be found on a site set up in Ms. Wright's support at http://www.leftgrlls.com/supportsiri/
I find it somewhat ironic that the same government that gives so much lip service to "family values" should penalize a mother for trying to be the best mother she could. Until this matter is settled, OakGrove will display the following banner link:
2/23/00: Most of us are familiar with The Hunger Site, where you can click a button and corporate sponsors contribute to a fund to provide food to hungy people worldwide, but did you know that many other similar sites abound on the web? Amberflame has several bookmarked and clicks through them every morning over coffee while she does her e-mail, and last night suggested that I make a page with the links she'd accumulated. I readily agreed, and the result is called "Armchair Activism". Hint: If you don't already have a favorite "Home Page", this would make a good one!
2/20/00: The trouble with making a web site like
this is that it just never is quite finished; We're always getting new
ideas or finding things to add. While some of them actually work
out, others just plain flop.
Some travelers through the grove have stopped long enough to drop a note in my mailbox or make a suggestion in the guest book, but I know others have probably left quietly without finding what they were searching for.
No more: Now, you can make your vote count on the OakGrove Opinion Poll! After your visit, please stop by and answer a few multiple-choice questions. It only takes a few minutes, and your input is greatly appreciated to help us make this site even better!
2/19/00: I've wished for years that someone would make a movie from Marion Zimmer Bradley's book, The Mists of Avalon, and have even heard scuttlebutt about it over the past couple of years in the form of rumors passing through the Pagan community. I'm happy to say that it now looks like reality, as it has been announced that Mists will become a 4-hour miniseries on TNT, to air sometime in 2001.
We celebrated a big birthday here at the grove on February 15; Silverwing turned 11. We stuffed ourselves with cake and ice cream, and "ooh'd" and "ahh'd" as she opened her presents, which included music and video game CD's, her first "real" 35mm camera, and her very first Pagan book, Silver Ravenwolf's Teen Witch.
More cause for celebration: Last night I opened my e-mail and found a very nice web site award, our second. It's now proudly displayed along with the grove's first award on our new Awards Page!
2/10/00: We often neglect to count our blessings, and forget the plights of others. Lately I've seen many suffering from accident or illness, and have had to add far too many posts to the prayercall page. One story that has touched me personally is the ordeal presently being undergone by a young mother in Mobile, AL, Iris Bacchus. I've never met Iris, and probably never will. Iris isn't even Pagan; she's Christian. But one night I was browsing a religion forum and her desperate cry for help appeared. Since then I've come to know her through email with her family, and by news updates posted on the forum. I'd like anyone browsing this site to visit the prayercall page and take a moment to send a prayer or healing energy to Iris, as well as the others whose requests are posted.
2/8/00: The Summerland is a little brighter today
as the Lady and Lord have welcomed Stewart Farrar back into Their arms.
Stewart, noted Pagan author, passed on February 7, 2000, surrounded by friends and family in his home.
A published author for some 30 years, Stewart had to his credit numerous fantasy titles, as well as radio and television plays. He is perhaps best-known for his non-fiction works, especially "The Witches Bible Compleat."
Much can be written about Stewart's life and accomplishments, but I think it best it comes from friends.
2/7/00: By now most of us have received that dreaded mailing from our good friends at the Internal Revenue Service and are staring at our W-2 forms wondering how to explain itemized deductions for candles, incense and crystals as "charitable contributions" to that nice little old lady with the rope on her glasses down at H&R BLOCK. Well, now we hardworking taxpaying Pagan citizens have someone in our corner to help with our accounting needs: AxxeTaxx and Bookkeeping Service. Don't get me wrong; This is NOT a Pagan owned business, but is run by a Pagan-friendly couple of our acquaintence. Check out their website or drop 'em an email, and be sure to tell them Oakdancer sent you!
Now that we've gotten THAT nasty subject out of the way ("Eww... Oak said the 'T' word!...) here's some good news for Pagan students in need of a little financial help: The Blessed Bee online Pagan shop (Not affiliated with The Blessed Bee Family Newsletter) is giving back to the Pagan community with a scholarship program for Pagan students! Qualified applicants can receive a minimum stipend of $50 per month during the course of the school year (9 months). The scholarship is open to students following a Pagan spiritual path who are continuing their education beyond high school. It will also be open to currently enrolled students in baccalaureate or trade school programs. Click here for more information!
2/3/00: I've just been having WAY too much fun lately!
Besides making some long-needed updates on the "Festivals"
pages, I'm using my home PC to look for extraterrestrial life forms. No,
ol' Oak hasn't gone nuts, at least not completely; I've just downloaded
the coolest screensaver going and while we're not web surfing or working
on the site, our PC is crunching numbers for the Search for Extraterrestrial
Intelligence at Home (SETI@Home) project. SETI@home is a scientific
experiment that uses Internet-connected computers in the Search for
Extraterrestrial Intelligence. You can participate by running a free program that downloads and analyzes radio telescope data. As of this writing, this project involves 1,679,190 personal computers and has amassed a whopping 175,827.85 *YEARS* (No, that is NOT a misprint!) of CPU time, making this the biggest computer project in the history of the world! To find out more about this worldwide endeavor, go to http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/.
1/29/00: Update on Shari Eicher
For those who missed it, on January 10, 2000, Shari Eicher, a Scotland County, NC 11th grade English teacher was suspended indefinitely with pay because of her Wiccan beliefs as well as questions about a website maintained by her and her husband, Richard. When this story became public, the Pagan community responded with an amazing outpouring of support for Ms. Eicher, and this matter has now been settled to the satisfaction of the couple. The following is an open letter from Richard Eicher:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Please re-post and forward this announcement to any and everyone you know who who may have been taking action on behalf of Willow in North Carolina.
The situation regarding Rev. Shari 'Willow' Eicher is resolved! This evening (January 27th) the matter was concluded by a vote of the Scotland County Board of Education with the acceptance of an agreement by both parties.
The formal press release follows along with some additional information not provided therein that I am at liberty to release:
The Scotland County Board of Education (SCBOE) and Mrs. Eicher have come to the following agreement regarding Mrs. Eicher's Employment with the Scotland County Schools.
1) Ms. Eicher has been associated, either knowingly or unknowingly, in name only, with a website that contains pictures that, by some community member's standards, might appeal to prurient interest;
2) Ms. Eicher's effectiveness in the classroom has been undermined at the present time by media and community attention;
3) Both the Board and Ms. Eicher agree that it is in the best interest of her students and school community that Ms. Eicher not return to the classroom;
4) SCBOE has not infringed on Ms. Eicher's civil rights, including without limitation her right to religious freedom, neither has Ms. Eicher proselytized her religious beliefs to her students, peers, or community;
5) Neither party will make any other statement, now or in the future, regarding this matter to the media or any other person except to say that this matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of the Board and Ms. Eicher.
OK, that is the formal statement. But what can I tell you beyond this? Nothing regarding the specifics of the case, but I CAN tell you about going forward.
Willow retains her teaching credentials as well as full record of her performance and copies of all performance evaluations 'at least at standard' and showing most performance ratings at 'above standard' or 'exemplary.' She also maintains full credit for her additional activities regarding Public Education in North Carolina including participation in a State BOE PRAXIS exam review committee.
Willow has ALREADY RECEIVED an unofficial offer of employment in a neighboring school district. This offer is 'unofficial' because it came directly from a sitting board member, but her immediate application and presentation of her portfolio is requested.
We will be more than able to continue our professional lives in a comfortable manner.
And this just in: Willow and Obsydyan are planning to acquire 10-20 acres of land for purposes of a permanent home for both ourselves and as a permanent residence for WillowFyre Coven. We expect this acquisition to take place near the time of the start of the 2000-01 school year.
So folks, the community did indeed stand together and win this one! It is wonderful to know that as the focus of specific issues change that we can all stay in touch and keep our efforts focused on the relevant points whether it be Religious Rights, Freedom of Speech, or any of our other freedoms.
We cannot begin to thank all of those who helped us enough.
Of course Rev. Wren Walker and the staff of The Witches Voice for their
frequent updating and posting of information, to Pagans in Action Council
for Truth (PACT), and especially to PACT National Co-Directors Selena and
Kat who, in the midst of their own personal trials continued to direct
action, post updates, communicate with media outlets, etc. For Lady K.
and her family as well as to Jon & Tay at PACENC for their unending
research on our behalf, and of course to the community as a whole! We received literally THOUSANDS of e-mails, letters and phone calls of support from all over the WORLD on this issue from every type of Pagan, and many outside our community who understand the issues we face and offered their support as well.
This was not a pleasant experience for us, and Willow and I both hope that no one ever has to go through anything resembling our personal recent stresses. HOWEVER, if anyone does, we stand ready to provide the same aid that was so graciously given to us. Our legal reference library is much improved and we stand prepared to assist those in distress.
Now, in conclusion let me add these VERY ESSENTIAL points:
1. Please end the massive ongoing public education campaign
that has been launched in
SUPPORT OF WILLOW. The matter is now resolved and we THANK YOU for your ongoing efforts.
2. There are other issues here in Scotland County North Carolina that I personally will continue focusing on and would appreciate any assistance the larger community may wish to consider. These issues are:
A. The personal involvement of a County Commissioner in recent events here that violate both their own authority and the legal rights and responsibilities of District Administrators.
B. The vote by the Scotland County Commissioners to post the Ten Commandments in Public Schools on January 10th (The same day this all started)
C. The apparent clear violation of the Equal Access Act in the recognition of a new student group at Scotland County High School. The group is sponsored by a group outside the school (that is strike 1) and non-students are present at all meetings (strike 2) to make sure the group is administered properly (strike 3). Please be sure to check the archives of the Laurinburg Exchange from January 24th for the full story on this issue http://www.laurinburgexchange.com
And again THANK YOU ALL for your wonderful support through this! We could not have done it without you!
Rev. Richard 'Obsydyan' Eicher
Co-Founder, Priest & Scribe of WillowFyre Coven
National Parliamentarian of PACT
Another Update: Back in October I told you about a situation in Walker County, AL in which Kandace Smith, a Christian student, was forbidden to wear her cross necklace outside her clothes. This ruling is being challenged in Federal Court. Meanwhile, Walker County officials have temporarily lifted the ban pending settlement of Ms. Smith's lawsuit. You can find the original story at http://www.freedomforum.org/religion/1999/10/6algoldcross.asp.
1/14/00: A controversy's been brewing in Knoxville, Tennessee over one of those "Adopt a Highway" signs. You know, the ones where a group volunteers to pick up roadside litter and gets their group recognized for their efforts? Well, this time the group in question is Knoxville Area Pagans and Wiccans (KAPOW). Their signs have been repeatedly vandalized and several people have inquired about having the signs removed altogether. For more information please see the story and photos of the signs at the KAPOW website, and also read the January 11, 2000 editorial by Knoxville News-Sentinel columnist David Hunter.