Many people have commented or emailed me to offer their support and assistance with regard to the difficulty I’m having being recognized as clergy. I cannot thank everyone enough; simply knowing that I’m not alone makes a tremendous difference, and the information I’m getting is helping me get a better picture of the general situation about this issue in Virginia.
I want to keep everyone updated, but I’m not going to have news immediately. So what’s the best way to stay in touch with people who want to know about this issue and might be interested in helping in the future? I’ll obviously be posting about it here, but I expect this will take some time (see below), and I’ll also be posting about plenty of other things.
So what’s better? An email list? A Twitter hashtag? Tell me what you want in comments and I’ll do my best to make it happen.
Because this is going to take time. And I’m going to need help – including your help.
As my dear friend Hecate has brilliantly explained, this is not a simple matter, so the first reason it’s taking time is that I really need legal advice. I have requests in with the ACLU and AU, but they get a lot of requests. The ACLU says it usually takes “several weeks” to get back to people about possible advice.
In the meantime, several people have urged me to simply go to a jurisdiction that is known to be more accepting of Pagan credentials. I am seriously considering that option; if I had a couple who wanted me to officiate at their wedding immediately, I would certainly do that, and I understand why many people would take that easier path.
But, as Hecate said, this time it’s personal. Arlington is my home jurisdiction; it’s where I live, and where I do a lot of my ministry, and where I hope to do more ministry in the future. Here in Arlington is one of the places where there are – finally – pentacles on military headstones. I don’t see why I should have to go somewhere else, and I might be just stubborn enough to stand on principle on this issue.
As another dear friend has pointed out, rights that are recognized or not based on where you go or who you ask aren’t really rights; they’re privileges granted or withheld at the whim of those with power.
And perhaps I have some advantages that will allow me to challenge this where other Pagans and Wiccans haven’t: I don’t have a job to lose; I don’t have kids to be bullied in school or taken away in a custody battle; I may have the time and energy for this. If I can stand up to this, and I can find people willing to help me, then putting those advantages to work trying to make sure that Pagans get equal treatment under law may be a way to give back.
None of this means that I’m spoiling for a fight. I sincerely hope this can be resolved without litigation. If this is a misunderstanding, let’s correct it. If it is the case that Arlington county applies its rules in ways that are significantly different from other counties and discriminate against minority religions, let’s see if we can get the rules changed. This is where things like public awareness and letter-writing and so on can be vital, where you – you as an individual – can really make a difference.
But it’s going to take time. Shortly after the refusal, I went to Theodore Roosevelt Island, one of my favorite places in the DC area, and a place I consider my “home” park, my favorite place to be in a more natural setting, to ground and breathe and watch the river and feel the sun. And suddenly I saw an animal I’d never seen there before: a turtle.
I laughed, and I sighed a little, and I looked up at the sky and down at the ground, and said “Alright, I hear you. You’re telling me this is going to take time.” That’s not really what I wanted to hear right then, but nature and my deities tend to tell me what I need to hear, rather than what I want to hear.
So this 4th of July I’m sitting at Columbia‘s feet contemplating what may be a long journey. Like so many other things she symbolizes, freedom of religion is a beautiful promise that we have to work out here in messy reality. In her “shining city on a swamp” we build dreams of justice on the imperfect foundation of law, created as it is through often ugly but still vitally important politcs. It’s a difficult process, and it will take time, and it will take help.
You tell me: what’s the best way to stay in touch so that we can walk this path together?