Posted by: sweeneyblog | March 13, 2015

Local Wiccan Church Weighs in on Georgia Religious Bill

When Joshua McKoon, a Republican Senator in the Georgia Legislature, proposed the “Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act”, he probably wasn’t expecting comment from the Pagan community.

Sen. Josh McKoon

Sen. Josh McKoon

His bill (SB129), which just passed their Senate and now heads to the House, would direct the government to allow the free exercise of Religion unless there was a “compelling governmental interest” not to. This includes, ” the right to act or refuse to act in a manner that is substantially motivated by a sincerely held religious belief.”

This bill, like many copycat versions around the nation, is aimed at allowing government officials to discriminate against LGBT members. McKoon attempted to pass a similar version last year, along with a measure that would strip drivers licenses from from immigrant women fleeing abusive spouses, earning him national recognition as the “cruelest Republican in Georgia.”

In an attempt to highlight how this religious freedom bill applies to all faiths, not just McKoon’s, the Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) weighed in on the bill, offering their thoughts the measure.  The ATC is the largest Wiccan church (Wicca is a branch of modern Paganism) in North America. They are based out of Index, WA and my wife and I are part of their congregation.

In a letter to the Georgia State Legislature, the ATC outlined some possible impacts,

This new bill will create sweeping changes that will open the doors for the Wiccans within Georgian communities to worship, work, and LIVE their religion to its fullest. The first course of action will be to itemize line by line, with bill precedents, the new rights of the Wiccans in state.[15-23]

The Stone Circle at the ATC

The Stone Circle at the ATC

1: Multi-Partner Wiccan relationships in Georgia (known communally as Polyamorous relationships) will now have legal right to marry. [43-49] Marriage is a religious institution. A uniting of souls before the almighty. It is also a way to legitimize heirs. Many Wiccans live in multi-partner households, and until now have been unable to realize their religious right to marry the partners they are in love with.

Many of these partnerships have children from multiple partners all living under the same roof. SB 129 has now opened the way for those children to all be under family insurance/health plans, as outlined in lines [22-23]. And if lines [34-35] hold true to their intent, then the least restrictive means of enforcing this change, is a simple revision to existing policy.

They go on to outline three other key areas where Wiccans can assert their religious rights, including the growing of herbs and the rights not to submit parts of their bodies to the government, exempting them from breathalyzers, blood tests, urine tests, etc.

This is sweeping news that opens many doors for our brothers and sisters of the Craft. It will be the burden of the government to institute the appropriate policy changes to infrastructure, and the training needed to properly uphold the new rights that Wiccans hold within the new truly religiously free state of Georgia.

The story has been circulated a bit in the pagan community (see here) and a Georgian columnist picked it up (here). I called Sen. McKoon but have not gotten any response yet.

This just goes to show that bills proposed to protect those “asserting religious freedom” often forget that there are hundreds of faiths in the United States, and just as many interpretations of religious freedom.

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Responses

  1. Fer chrissakes, do I have to join a church now to be a pagan? Pretty soon I will have to join some sort of cult just to be called a “dirty hippie!”

  2. Interesting you see the right to act on deeply held religious beliefs as discriminatory to one community and enhancing freedom for another… As is too often the case, you pick and choose based on your own paradigm… if it doesn’t fit your cause, it’s discrimination… if it does, it’s freedom enhancing. That is always the problem when government tries to pass any law supporting or suppressing religion…

    • I think you miss my point. Because the same law can be used for two wildly different purposes, it is a clear example why mixing faith and government is a bad idea.

      • Agreed…. But you do disdain the religious rights of one group in the one case while upholding the religious rights of another group in the second case…

  3. Walter, you don’t have to join any cult for me to call you a dirty hippie… a simple request will do.

  4. Riley,

    What ever happened to your focus on Bellingham, Whatcom county and Olympia?

    How is this Wiccan topic more important than Ericksen watering down oil train safety legislation, the lack of progress on education funding, little movement on the transportation package, the water damage to the court house, traffic congestion by Fred Meyer, the Irish development company that the Port hired, Lummi water rights in the Nooksack river, etc.

    Tom Gilmore.

    • Tom, did you see my article yesterday on Sen. Ericksen’s efforts to stymie alternative energy? Or the article before that on the Whatcom Charter Review? Or the article before that breaking the news that Pete Kremen is retiring from the County Council? Or the article before that on Ericksen’s anti-climate change efforts?
      I am one writer. I work full-time. I pick and choose which topics to cover. Is this story “more important” than some of the issues you mention? I don’t think that’s the point. It is what I wanted to share with my readers.

      • “Sen. Ericksen’s efforts to stymie alternative energy”?

        Doug is simply trying to cut back on some of the “alternative energy” BOONDOGGLES that are being foisted on the public by the RADICAL FAR-LEFT ENVIRONMENTAL WACKO EXTREMISTS like Walter A. K. A. “dirty hippie” (his words) Haugen.

      • And how, pray tell, do I have the power to “foist boondoggles?” You have to be elected or on the public payroll to be able to “foist boondoggles.” You know, people like Doug Ericksen and Gary Jensen.

  5. There are some issues that affect local people no matter where we live. The Wiccan letter from Index Washington is both a funny and serious reminder of the importance of separation of church and state. Polyamory is not the funny part of the letter. I myself am Polyamorous, not based on religious philosophy. The funny part is that religious people, Christians in this case, trying to legislate themselves more freedom, find that those attempts boomerang back in ways they surely do not intend.

  6. Walter,

    I believe Kevin Ranker is an elected official.

    • Wayne – San Juan County is not my beat. I am primarily interested in the Ferndale Foisters of Boondoggles – like Mutchler, Jensen, Ericksen, and Knapp.

      • Oh, and I forgot Bill Elfo, who is foisting the county jail boondoggle on Ferndale. Gee Wayne, you don’t seem to see the boondoggles right under your nose.

      • And you don’t see the cabbages under your nose.

      • Nice dodge!

  7. Of course that “compelling governmental interest” negates any added value to individual freedoms of any kind,
    just as it always has.
    Laws against discrimination and polygamy and invasion of privacy
    pretty much dictate how far religiosity can advance against society as a whole.


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