But more than perhaps any other religion, people judge all Wiccans and Witches by the vocal ones who make statements to the media, like in this article.
We have some very serious battles for equal rights going on right now. You'd have to have been on an Alaskan cruise for the past few weeks to not have heard about the controversy in Indiana over "religious freedom" laws that would essentially permit discrimination by people who could refuse to serve others, such as homosexuals, citing their religious beliefs.
One Wiccan High Priest (HP) decided to look on the bright side of these laws. Despite calling them "horrible", he says that it would allow the tenets of Wicca to govern behavior in Indiana, and would provide the opportunity for Wiccans there to:
- Marry a horse ("love is the law" so "whatever we want to do with marriage we can do")
- Refuse drug tests ("natural" substances like "herbs" can be used at officially sanctioned ceremonies; the "body is a temple" that we don't have to "give a piece of")
- Dance naked on the Indiana capitol's steps under a full moon ("The Charge of the Goddess" allows this practice)
People in America (seem to) understand that there are different sects of Christianity. So when a Christian who runs an establishment says they won't serve a particular group because of their religious beliefs, we don't tar all Christians with the "bigot" brush. We seem to get that the indvidual does not speak for all Christians, but is expressing their personal spiritual beliefs, which we are free to agree or disagree with.
Unfortunately, Wicca has not been given that luxury yet. Yes, I believe we're a growing spiritual path in the United States; I don't think we're the 5th largest, but we are growing quickly. We don't have an overall hierarchy, and many Wiccans wouldn't recognize one if we tried because our beliefs differ so much from person to person. Add all these facts to the common stereotypes of Wicca and Witchcraft, and we're just asking for trouble.
Bottom line: People assume that this HP speaks for all Wiccans, and of course, he doesn't.
Hubert H. Humphrey once said, "The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously." When you talk about marrying horses, what do you expect?
This situation also reminds me of a protest rally going on in Washington, DC, a number of years ago, and a protest march was underway. Way in the back, once almost all the participants had walked by, was a lone man with a sign that said FREE BANGLADESH. While I truly can't recall the reason for the rally, it definitely was NOT about Bangladesh. But there he was, carrying his sign with a group of unrelated protesters.
Indiana has changed the law, which is fantastic news. Ultimately that protects all Indiana citizens from discrimination, which I strongly support. And if I look at it from this HP's perspective, maybe his statement was strategic, that he said some of the most ridiculous things possible to show Indiana lawmakers how crazy things could get if the law actually went through. Seeing anybody dancing naked on the steps of a government building under the full moon would be pretty bizarre indeed.
In the end, though, this HP is doing essentially the same thing as the FREE BANGLADESH protester at the rally: Taking the opportunity to dive into a political issue and try to twist the conversation to a topic of his choosing. Yes, the argument could be made that this fight affects us as Wiccans and Witches, and it does in the sense that any group could be targets of discrimination. But all this article seems to do is perpetuate the idea that Wiccans and Witches are crazy, since we obviously think about marrying livestock. [headdesk]
(NOTE: For the record, the Commonwealth of Virginia has not authorized inter-species weddings, so if you're planning to marry your horse here, at least as of the date of this blog, thanks for thinking of me but I won't be able to help you out. Even if you got that far, making the case to your accountant for joint human-equine filing might be a challenge, even if the horse is wealthy and paying taxes, which wasn't an obligation for non-human mammals the last time I checked, although it might be open to debate.)