Friday, May 2, 2014

Spiritual Discrimination Still Exists

I'm a witch. No, not in the adjective sense, but rather the literal one. It's less a religious title than it is a certain set of inborn characteristics mixed with a propensity toward nature and the non-physical realms and energies of existence. Energy is something we all possess, and it is what gives us life and takes it away. This much even the brightest scientists know, but witches already knew it without the need for an explanation.

Some witches prefer to be called Pagan, Heathen, Wiccan or Shaman, or simply labeled nothing at all, because their spirituality has no labels; no pretenses. It is a lifestyle in which the devotee strives to achieve peace and positivity in nature, within themselves, and within the lives of other human beings.

Pretty tame, right? Well apparently, according to a law Front Royal (and who knows where else), it's a fucking crime. Ugh. Here we go.

A friend posted this story about an area woman, Priestess Maya White Sparks, who after being asked to hold tarot readings by a Main Street shop one afternoon had police called on her by some neighboring business (I'm looking at you, Christian store) saying her display was "inappropriate".



Attached is a photo of Maya in an Ancestor's Ritual at Spiral Grove's Witches' Faire, 2009 by Jack Evans.Stephens City, Virginia – April, 2014 Priestess Maya White Sparks was banned from working in a shop on Main Street in Front Royal, VA. The reason: people in the shop, and from other shops on the street, told the shop owner that she was “not appropriate” for Main Street—and the shop owner felt she must honor this biased sampling of public opinion.

What did they find so inappropriate? Maya is a Tarot Card Reader of 28 years experience who was invited to read the cards once a month in the back room of the shop in question. She placed her sign out front, making sure to follow city guidelines for the placement of a sandwich-board sign on the sidewalk. The day she so disturbed the folks on Main Street, she did one reading for someone who enthusiastically said that they found the experience helpful. Some of the day she sat alone on a bench in front of the shop, wearing colorful garb.

In a Letter to the Editor submitted to the "Northern Virginia Daily," Maya wrote,

“Perhaps those folks on Main Street are not aware that Tarot Reading is a spiritual service that I provide as a Priestess of Nature Spirituality. Because a reading is a spiritual consultation, I believe I have the same right to be present on Main Street as the Christian store down the block that is filled with all the signs and symbols of that faith tradition. Perhaps those folks on Main Street do not understand that I have a constitutional right to practice my faith. Although they did not tar and feather me and run me out of town, their social pressure (a form of hate speech?) resulted in preventing me from providing a service to those down on Main Street who do believe in the value of divination. I feel that my potential clients and I are victims of religious discrimination. I challenge the spiritual leaders of area Christian congregations who believe in interfaith understanding to expand their tolerance to all non-Christian faith traditions. We Pagans won’t ask you to go so far as to love us, as Jesus did; however, we do ask for respect of our right to practice our faith.”

Since the Municipal Code of Front Royal, VA carries the law below, Maya is fortunate no one chose to prosecute her.

“110-17 FORTUNETELLING OR PRACTICING MAGIC ART
A. It shall be unlawful for any company of gypsies or other strolling company or person to receive compensation or reward for pretending to tell fortunes or to practice any so-called "magic art."
B. Every person violating this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined not less than five hundred dollars ($500.) or confined in jail not less than one (1) nor more than six (6) months, or by both such fine and imprisonment.”



Priestess Maya was far kinder and less inflammatory in her opinion letter than I would've been in such a situation.

For example, the metalhead in me would be compelled to waltz right over to the store I suspect had the "issue" and just confront them then and there while loudly reminding them the litany of things I find "inappropriate" with them and their doctrines.

Yet the witch in me (and the logical part of my brain) reminds me that fighting a situation such as this must be handled with tact and gentility to result in a positive and peaceful resolution. Maya has been a great example of what all us spiritual types strive to emulate - someone who counters religious discrimination or wrongful persecution with confidence, kindness, and grace; all the while still maintaining your feet firmly in the ground.

...but seriously, can I just say fuck whoever found a tarot reading to be fucking inappropriate? ...No? Damnit.

Anyway, beyond that is this fucking law that apparently exists in goddess knows how many places. "Gypsies"? "Strolling Company"? "Magic art"? When the fuck was this law written, 1878?

I'm fairly certain this law is unconstitutional on many levels considering a) gypsies are a recognized "ethnic group" so to speak, but to refer to them as "gypsies" and not "Romanis" or Travellers" is pretty much in Britain what using a derogatory term for a minority is here in the states (and hopefully lots of other places) and b) divination (or "magic art" as they so artfully put it) is an integral part of both interfaith spirituality as well as for specific legit government-recognized religion (such as Wicca and other Pagan religions) and should therefore be protected by your right to religious freedom. Ha ha, just kidding, only if you're a Christian. Fucking lawmakers.

Sigh. As much as we can hope and work towards moving forward, things like this that make us feel five steps behind really suck.

Still, they did make a fatal error in the actual wording of the law... it says if one is "pretending" to tell fortunes.

I'm willing to bet she wasn't pretending at all.

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