A Look at Modern Day Religious Discrimination

I assume at least some of you have read or at least heard about this little decision out of Canada regarding providing Wiccan and witch prison inmates with spiritual council. Essentially what happened was the federal prison system agency posted a job opening for a Wiccan priest or priestess to set up a chapel and offer spiritual guidance. When the decision reached the desk of the public safety minister, he pulled the plug on the process, stating that his office had not been noticed of the posting and that they needed to review whether hiring a Wiccan priestess would be a wise use of taxpayer dollars.

Several bloggers in my sphere have already touched briefly on this, but I wanted to tackle it as well. I want to preface the discussion by saying that I’m not Canadian, and I’m not well versed about what’s happening socially and economically there. I am Wiccan though, so have a vested interest in anything related to the generic form of my faith.

So at this point in time, based on the information made available in the article, the corrections agency for the British Columbia, which is where the in-question prison is located, has several other demonization ministers on the payroll already. Each ministry’s time is broken down in terms of hours per week its people are there. Roman Catholic services average about five hours a week, Buddhist chaplaincy about 11.25, and—this is interesting—they lump Muslim and Sikh council together as averaging 14.46 hours a week. Now, I’m no expert on either Islam or Sikhism, but a quick search reveals that they are different religions. So before we even get into the details of what was proposed in terms of Wiccan guidance for prisoners, we’re already getting mixed messages about how they treat religion. Honestly, I wonder if this was just poor reporting (especially since the writer spelled Buddhist “Buddist” and Samhain “Sanheim”) but if we cannot even distinguish between two different organized religions in our reporting, how can we expect that anything accurate for a more personalized faith like Wicca will find its way to the light?

Now, the time proposed for Wiccan chaplaincy would average 16.66 hours a week. Did you guys do a double take too? Unbelievably, we Wiccans are still fighting the notion we are devil worshippers, and mainstream Christianity associates 666 with the devil. I believe this number was selected and publicized deliberately to play on that notion. And it worked. More than one of the commenters posted their observations—16.66 hours a week, not aligned with the devil, but using 666? Couldn’t be more clear to me. This just serves to stir up old ideas that should have been laid to rest well and firmly a long time ago. But it gets the public’s attention, gets people stirred up. Look, they’re trying to offer spiritual council to the devil worshippers in prison.

This leaves me with two questions. Was this entire thing some kind of publicity stunt, or is it the result of ignorance and irrational fear? Any one of us Wiccans reading the article can tell the journalist is ill-informed—she employs terms that makes Wicca sound like a fad organized religion. At one point, she throws in there that some of the inmates identified themselves as being Wiccans going back more than two decades, as if being Wiccan for an extended period of time is somehow abnormal.

The bigger question here is this—why are people still afraid of Wiccans? They judge us, condemn us in their god’s name, discriminate against us, and for what? We haven’t harmed them, haven’t shoved our religious convictions into their wombs or plastered images of our Mother across their media. Why do they feel the need to eradicate us, in our small quiet corners of the world?

There are a lot of reasons, but most of them come back to a lack of decency and mutual respect. Like racism, like sexism, this fear is about power. It’s a divide and conquer tactic. It’s us vs. them. We’re so busy fighting with each other that we’re not aware of the bigger picture.



About Ayslyn'sCorner

I am an eclectic Pagan bordering on atheist who has made her way through a number of different spiritual spaces. You might wonder what a person self-identifying as an atheist has to discuss in a religion/spiritual context – and, well, so do I. That’s one of the things I aim to explore on Ayslyn's Corner. Check out Ayslyn's Corner at http://www.ayslynscorner.wordpress.com Check out Invisible Ink Blog at http://www.whitneycarter.wordpress.com Check out wombs in rebellion at http://wombsinrebellion.wordpress.com/
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21 Responses to A Look at Modern Day Religious Discrimination

  1. byronycoffin says:

    Ayslyn, it is I Byrony and I have a story for you. Last night I went out with my Wiccan Mentors who both have Doctorate Degrees and both have way more time in the Religion than I do. Both are Wiccan’s and proud of it but careful. I was in a coven with them and I was proud of that and I told people and others in the coven were very offended because they were in fear for their safety. Now I must say that you are right, most people are ill informed. Most probably she is just trying to stir the pot. I feel that people in prision should be taken care of just because someone makes a mistake does not mean they should be persecuted due to religion. I bet that no one understands this. Every week a Catholic Priest turns the body of Christ into a piece of Bread and Wine into the blood of Christ. Please understand that this is magic. Even though it is not considered as such. I am a former Catholic. and this is magic in my eyes. The Chalice and everything else is magic. Maybe in Canada they should lump the Wiccan’s in with the Catholic’s like the Islams and the other religion you mentioned, and we can have magic we never talk about but perform and 16.66 hours to do it in. Brightest Blessings. Byrony

  2. yepirategunn says:

    Blatant discrimination from the Canadians. Very interesting read, thanks.

  3. raven's witch says:

    i understand what you are saying,even E-bay is refusing to have wicca/witch items. in my ‘history of civilization’ class (begining-1500’s) it would seem everybody was happily minding their own business and worshiping in their own way until the christians came along and decided that their way was the only way.

    • Ebay won’t allow Wiccan items? That’s new to me. I haven’t been on ebay in a while, but I used to buy things labeled with “Wicca” and “witch” and “pagan” years ago.

      It’s interesting that you mention Christians coming along and deciding their way is the only way. I feel like this approach at its core is about not respecting other faiths, but respect is something Christians preach.

      • raven's witch says:

        i read about ebay on another pagan/wicca blog or some site like that. i’ve done a lot of thinking and soul searching since i decided to follow this path and now i’m really seeing how judgmental christians are. thing is i’m more comfortable and sure of this path than i was as a christian…

        • I think that is a situation many newly dedicated Wiccans find themselves in, because so many children nowadays are raised with Christianity. It’s not something we choose for ourselves, it’s something mindless we do because our parents do and we don’t have to think about it.

      • LC Aisling says:

        Ebay condemned practices sold through them that offer “spiritual” healing and castins spells on somebody else’s behalf. Items sold through them are still there. It’s just the “will pray for your healing” services is what they began fighting against, things that don’t bring results measurable by hand. Even Christian prays fall under that rule, so it’s not just pagans that got kicked. The problem was they took money for the service, yet if the customer didn’t feel better, they wanted money back, yet the serviceman didn’t want to give it back, because they had done the spell/ prayed for the man. Too many conning going on to sort out services that actually worked. So it wasn’t so much against certain religion as it was conning people, who were desperate enough to trust anyone.

  4. It's a Wiccan Life says:

    I’m Canadian and haven’t heard of this yet. I guess I better start watching t.v and getting on the computer more. As for what raven witch is saying, it was mainly Western European civilization that brought over the Christian way of life and forced the Indians, (for the most part they were in habit of the land first), off of the land and dominated them and forced them to abide by the rule of God and Jesus. For a religion that preaches peace, kindness, and no to murder, war and violence overall, they sure did take alot of lives and did so in the up most bloody way. All in the name of God. And our religion is deemed “satanic”? NEARLY ALL of the wars involved a sect of Christianity. Fighting with other religions and fighting basicly with themselves. To force God’s name down all of our throats. Funny thing is they then turn around and tell us to be nice to thy neighbour.
    I thought that this was interesting: If you compared the ways and life of the Indians/Aboriginals, with Wicca you’ll see that we share some things in common.

    • I totally agree, and honestly that’s one of the reasons I left organized Christianity–that duality of ideals that condones hypocrisy. Yet most Christians do not understand to violence that’s been done in their god’s name, and when you try to tell them about it, they always pull the lie that Wiccans are into human and animal sacrifice.

  5. Ottabelle says:

    I find it interesting they have different faiths at all. Where I am, in America’s bible belt, you get some form of non denominational Christian to serve the needs of everyone. But, since other faiths are such a minority and a lot of the hospitals are backed by religious institutions, i see why they do that. Doesn’t make it right.

    I think the chaplains are supposed to be versed on other religions but I doubt they are.

    If this isn’t a ploy, I think its very progressive. Because most people don’t have the religious understanding that they should, the fact they planned to have a priestess at all astounds me.

    Then again, like i said, I’m from the bible belt.

    • I was born and raised on the edge of the Bible belt, so I understand what you’re saying. Being exposed to anything other than Bible-beating Christianity is a strange feeling, but at the same time, that makes it difficult for people who chose differently than others to come out of the closet. I don’t think I agree with the method being employed where you are though, having Christian ministers and then lumping everything else together. That still sends the wrong message about faith and religion.

  6. raven's witch says:

    i have to tell someone about what happened last night and you don’t have a email adrs. up so here goes… i read that a person should ask permission from the goddess before using their name as a magickal name, so i thought uh oh!. then i thought okay so how do i do that? then i was like well, i’ll just ask plain and simple as if asking anyone else. i just asked ‘ goddess Morrigan is it okay that i use your name as my magickal name? it was soooo weird at the same time that i was thinking about how stupid i feel, i had a tingling and sort of warmish feeling come over me, i was a little unnerved but at the same time i realized i was not in fear of the feeling!! so i have been searching with every search term / wording i could think of to find out if that’s good or not. the stuff i found was just not really right until i found a hubs page that described meditating and feeling a tingle in answer from their goddess i think. so i keep replaying that over and over in my head but i know i was NOT imagining it at all. so now i feel that i can teach myself this and do it right. sorry i’m all excited and rambling! no one else to tell this to, in person anyways.

    • So sorry it took me so long to get back to you, especially regarding something so exciting! I definitely would not disregard the tingling warmth you felt, or second guess yourself. I talk to the Mother like that sometimes too, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it if you feel comfortable with it. Since you didn’t feel threatened or upset by the sensation, you should indeed attribute it to your patron goddess giving you Her blessing and consent, and that’s so exciting! I’m happy for you, and curious to know if you’ve still got any of that feeling lingering around.

      As to no email address being up, I just fixed that. It’s on the About page now. 🙂 Blessed be, my sister

  7. “The bigger question here is this—why are people still afraid of Wiccans? They judge us, condemn us in their god’s name, discriminate against us, and for what? We haven’t harmed them, haven’t shoved our religious convictions into their wombs or plastered images of our Mother across their media. Why do they feel the need to eradicate us, in our small quiet corners of the world?”

    Vic Toews (the intervening minister) is a well-known fundamentalist hypocrite who hates everyone who is not exactly like him. I suspect he simply thought that he could get away with bullying Wiccans.

    I apologise on behalf of all Canadians; if it’s any consolation, it’s like mos of us voted for this government anyways…

    • Your apology is well received, but please don’t think I was bashing Canadian people because that wasn’t my intent at all. I find my own country far more judgmental, and would be quicker to bash us than our northern neighbors. I just wanted to comment on the broader understanding, or lack thereof, of Wicca and Paganism. Thanks for stopping by and commenting though, a more insider perspective is much appreciated.

  8. Hi Ayslyn,

    I was looking for some way to thank you for “liking” my post on “to be the goddess” on my blog, so I’ll do that here first. Thanks.

    I’m not a Wiccan, not much of anything with a label these days, but I’ve read a good deal about Wicca and have a great respect for it as a very modern, progressive and evolving spiritual craft. Speaking from the outside, I’d say there was still a lot of ignorance about it, a lot of confusion with the symbols you use, which are still associated with something much darker. There’s such a lot of ignorance and bigotry out there, I can understand many Wiccans wanting to keep their heads down, but also why so many should think why the hell should we? It’s supposed to be a free country after all! Mainstream media aren’t helping either, but then they’re not renowned for their subtlety, so it seems to fall to good people like yourself, through your blogs, to spread the message. I’m only nominally Christian, and fell away from the church aged 11 (C of E), and I for one am quite happy to put anyone straight regarding the nature of what it is that you do.

    Anyway. You have a great blog here, and do keep it up.



    • Michael,

      Thank you for your comments and insights. I did really enjoy your “To be the Goddess” post, regardless of how you identify yourself. I can respect not using a label, because in a way a label itself is restricting. I appreciate your comments about there still being a lot of ignorance and blind hatred in the world for Wicca as well, because it’s important for Wiccans to remember. We build our own safe havens and get used to being safe, and then when we step outside that haven, we’re surprised and in danger because we’re not prepared.

      Goddess Bless! )o(

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