_AMER Intelligence_ Alliance of Magical and Earth Religions Issue: Annual Meeting, 1993 --
Alliance of Magical and Earth Religions
Issue: Annual Meeting, 1993
Jonesboro Occult Shop Owners Fighting Discrimination
On June 10, 1993, Terry and Amanda Riley, two Jonesboro, Arkansas
Wiccans leased a building from a friend of theirs to open an
occult/Wiccan bookstore. They were reasonably certain that the
landlord knew this was going to be an occult bookstore and had no
idea of the ruckus that was to follow.
The bookstore, called Magic Moon, opened to the public on June
21, 1993. It is apparently the first such store in Arkansas to
openly state it is an occult bookstore. All other stores which
sell occult related supplies are called "novelty" stores and
carry other items as well.
Two days later on June 23, 1993 the owner Ruben Griffin, flanked
by two ministers from the Wood Springs Church of the Nazarene
(Mr. Griffin's church) came into the store and informed the
Rileys that their month-to-month lease would not be renewed
because he wanted to demolish the building. The Rileys found this
very hard to believe as Mr. Griffin had just put several thousand
dollars into renovating the building. They consulted an attorney
who only managed to get the eviction date moved back to August
Meanwhile, a group of local ministers, supposedly representing
all the ministers in Jonesboro, gave a press conference in which
they denounced the Rileys as dangerous Satan worshippers, and
appealed to the landlords of Jonesboro urging them not to rent to
The Rileys responded by holding their own press conference in
which a religion scholar from the University of Arkansas publicly
stated that Wicca and Satanism are two totally separate religions.
The Rileys also organized a protest march on Sunday, August 1,
1993. AMER President Brad Hicks, Public Information Officer Mike
Fix, and Treasurer Wendi Clawson personally attended and marched
with the Jonesboro crowd. AMER estimated approximately 200
Wiccans, Pagans and supporters marched two and a half miles
through the main commercial district of Jonesboro to the city
courthouse where a brief rally was held. Marchers came from
Memphis, Tennessee, Springfield, St. Louis, and throughout
In route to downtown, the marchers were met by a small
counter-demonstration outside the Central Baptist Church which
was clearly out-numbered by the marchers and the curious
The Jonesboro Police Department is especially to be commended for
their professionalism, hospitality and hard work. When the
Wal-Mart manager announced that the protesters could not park on
his lot, as had been originally planned, the Jonesboro police
helped many of the marchers find alternative parking at the
Jonesboro High School. Four squad cars accompanied the marchers
and at one point the police formed a "human chain" to shield the
marchers from any threat of violence while marching through the
counter-demonstrators and hecklers at the churches.
The press turned out en masse for the march with as many as 20
different reporters and two TV stations, as well as the
Associated Press having representatives there for the march.
Television coverage was reported as far away as Georgia.
While the march attracted much attention to their cause,
unfortunately it did very little to help the Rileys rental
On the advice of their attorney, the Rileys peacefully closed
Magic Moon on August 10, 1993. Unfortunately, to date all
attempts to find another place to rent have failed. The Rileys
estimate they have been turned down by at least 32 prospective
Since the closing of the store, some local ministers have waged
an ongoing propaganda campaign against Witchcraft in general, and
the Rileys in particular. To this end, Ben Alexander, a self
proclaimed "expert" on the occult, was brought in for a two-day
seminar during which he denounced Witchcraft as Satanism. This
further fueled public outrage over the occult in Jonesboro, which
had already been stirred up by claims of the alleged "Satanic"
murders of three young boys in nearby West Memphis, Arkansas in
However, Newsweek, in its August 23, 1993 issue ran a full page
article about the situation in Jonesboro which was very favorable
to the Rileys. To date, most of the press coverage regarding this
incident has been very favorable to the Rileys.
The Rileys have filed a civil lawsuit against four of the local
ministers from the press conference for conspiracy to deny them
the right to operate a business. Although Mr. Griffin says he
ended the Rileys lease for business reasons, the Rileys suspect
he was pressured by church leaders and intend to call him as a
witness in the case.
The Rileys state they want to stay in Jonesboro and continue
their business and educate the community about the Craft. To that
end they are asking for financial assistance in order to continue
the legal battle against the Jonesboro ministers.
You can send donations to:
The Magic Moon Legal Fund
Lake City, AR 72437
Media Tide Turning Against Ritual Abuse Claims (part 2)
In 1988, when Geraldo Rivera's TV special, "Exploring Satan's
Underground" was aired, he also devoted an entire program of his
regular talk show to the topic of "Satanic breeders" - women who
claim that they were ritually raped in order to produce children
for ritual sacrifice.
The studio audience's reaction was to accept what the show
participants were saying unquestioningly. In response to the one
and only skeptical guest on the show, a man who had spent years
investigating such claims, one audience member forcefully
expressed her outrage that anyone would disbelieve these women,
and said in effect, "why would anyone lie about such a thing?"
Why indeed. Apparently she and lots of other people in the
audience had never had to deal with a schizophrenic, a
pathological liar, or a person with Munchausen's Syndrome. The
audience's reaction to the skeptic's perfectly logical and
reasonable arguments was overwhelmingly hostile.
Now, come forward in time to January 1993. An installment of the
Maury Povich show, which airs in the afternoon on ABC is
addressing the same subject, Satanic ritual abuse. In stark
contrast to Geraldo's personal crusade against "the minions of
Satan," Povich states at the outset, "This is not a show about
Satan, I don't do shows about Satan, I don't /like/ shows about
The first guest, a woman who calls herself "Aubry," [sic] claimed
to have been Satanically ritually abused for many years by
members of a Satanic cult to which her parents belonged, and of
which her grandfather was the high priest. She described how,
when she was only 14 years old, she was given drugs to induce
labor, whereupon she delivered a nonviable 4 or 5 month fetus.
What was done with the fetus she didn't say. She further claimed
that, over the years that she was under the cult's domination,
she gave birth to five children, of which only one is probably
still alive and being raised by one of the cult's members.
She also said that she had no memory of any of these events until
she went into psychotherapy to deal with terrible headaches which
had been incurable by medical treatments. Once she began to
remember the terrible events of her involvement with the cult,
the headaches went away.
The next guest was a psychotherapist named Mary Lewis. who
practices in the Chicago area, and who specializes in cases of
ritual abuse. She claimed that half of her patients are victims
of ritual abuse and that she believes that they are all telling
the truth. When Povich asked her why the guilty parties aren't
punished for abusing these people, she responded that it was
because no one believes them. She also cited the existence of a
new Illinois state law on ritual abuse as proof of the reality of
The third guest had a very different story to tell. She was
identified as "Elizabeth," and said that once upon a time she had
believed many of the same things as Aubry, and then some. She
said that she believed that she too had been involved in a
Satanic cult in which she personally had ritually sacrificed
infants, had drunk their blood, and eaten the afterbirth. All of
these details were revealed during therapy sessions, which
sometimes involved hypnosis as well as drugs such as amytal.
Eventually, Elizabeth came to doubt the truth of these
revelations, and the more she doubted, the higher the dose of
medication her therapist would prescribe. "You are in denial,"
the therapist told her. Elizabeth said that her therapist was
"pretty much like a guru to me, and it literally got to the point
where ... I would have believed just about anything that she put
into my mind." Finally, despite the best efforts of her
therapist, she recanted her belief in the ritual abuse and
stopped seeing the therapist. She also claimed to know a number
of other women who have had the same experience.
Mary Lewis maintained that she never uses such techniques as
those described by Elizabeth, but never did say what techniques
she does use with her patients. Aubry, for her part, expressed
sympathy, but maintained that her experiences were genuine and
The guest who received the greatest amount of audience sympathy
was a woman named Linda, who along with her husband has been
accused of ritual abuse by their own daughter. In the course of
relating her situation, she was often on the verge of tears and
tightly clenched Elizabeth's hand.
As the details of her story emerged, once again the involvement
of a psychotherapist was revealed. At the recommendation of the
therapist, her daughter had gone to court to prevent either Linda
or her husband from having any contact with a grandchild who was
in the daughter's custody. Her own daughter told the police that
if the grandparents had any access to the child that they would
kill it. The daughter is in hiding and refuses to speak to her
The final guest was Dr. Richard Ofshe, Ph.D. who, like the token
skeptic on Geraldo, has devoted a considerable amount of time to
studying the ritual abuse phenomenon. Dr. Ofshe was extremely
critical of certain members of the therapy community, who he
accused of engaging in highly questionable practices which he
considered the "greatest psychological and psychiatric quackery
of the twentieth century."
He was seconded in this opinion by a member of the audience, a
Dr. Halpran, who is an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry
at Mt. Sinai University School of Medicine in New York City. Dr
Halpran expressed the view that ritual abuse therapy is a very
harmful fad which is destroying families.
The most surprising thing about this show was the difference in
audience reaction from that of the Geraldo show. Although there
were some people who expressed sympathy for Aubry and were
inclined to believe her, the overall reaction of the audience,
especially when one of the skeptics made a good point, was the
exact opposite of the Geraldo audience. The majority of the
audience seemed to be highly skeptical of the claims of ritual
abuse. In fact, at one point Povich asked Mary Lewis if she had
ever had any of her patients lie to her, and when she replied,
"What are you asking me?" the audience roared with laughter.
It would appear that the tide has turned on this issue. The
reckless "crying wolf" on the part of the "anti-Satanic" crusaders
has finally engendered a healthy skepticism from a public weary
of having their credulity stretched to the breaking point by
fanatics who consistently fail to produce any credible evidence
to support their fantastic claims.
Like the equally ridiculous UFO scare of the 1950s, the Satanism
scare appears to have overreached itself and is beginning to
crumble under the ponderous weight of its own unsubstantiated
It is regrettable that it has taken so many years for the
opposing point of view to get the media attention that it justly
deserves. If this had occurred in 1988, then perhaps a great deal
of hysteria and hardship might have been avoided.
Recent Supreme Court Rulings Bring Good and Bad News
In the past few months, the Supreme Court of the United States
has handed down final rulings in four cases related to freedom of
religion, one of which explicitly dealt with what some consider
an "occult" religion, Santeria. In the Santeria case, Church of
Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, Florida, the Court's ruling
included both good news and bad news for magical and earth-
centered religious practitioners.
The good news first: the Supreme Court struck down all of the
ordinances that banned Santerian religious practices in Hialeah,
Florida, as unconstitutional. The bad news: Oregon v. Smith still
The Santeria case began in 1987 when a Santerian group in
Hialeah, Florida, near Miami, acquired a site for a church and
applied for the necessary permits. The Hialeah city council,
appalled that a group that they considered "Satanic" would he
opening a church and worse, that they would be practicing animal
sacrifice, passed a series of four ordinances which outlawed
animal sacrifice. The Santerians sued the city, claiming that the
ordinances violated their freedom of religion. They lost, and
then lost on appeal to the state supreme court of Florida, but
just recently won on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
However, the court ruling stressed that they were striking down
these ordinances specifically because the history of the laws
showed clearly that they were targeted against a specific
religion, leaving open the question of whether or not they will
uphold anti-sacrifice laws already on the books in Los Angeles
and San Francisco. Their reasoning shows clearly that the Smith
ruling is still in force.
In Employment Division of Oregon v. Smith, et al, the Court had
previously ruled that laws prohibiting a religious practice are
only unconstitutional if they specifically target one religion;
that any law of "general applicability" supersedes the First
Amendment's protection of the free exercise of religion. Many who
watched the Hialeah case hoped that the Court would use this case
to reverse the Smith ruling, restoring the previous test whereby
laws that stood in the way of a religious practice were only
upheld if the government could show a "compelling interest" in
enforcement. Unfortunately the Court declined to do so, upholding
Smith. (See the article on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,
elsewhere in this article.)
In three other separate cases related to religion, the Supreme
- School graduation ceremonies may include public prayer if it is
requested by the students themselves. (Jones v. Clear Creek
Independent School District)
- On June 7th, the Court ruled unanimously that if a school
permits its facilities to be used after hours by any groups, then
they may not prohibit religious groups. The Court ruled that this
was a freedom of speech issue; to prohibit only religious speech
would set up government as an opponent of religion and give
unfair advantage to "opponents" of religion. (Lamb's Chapel v.
Center Moriches Union Free School District)
- On June 18th, the Court ruled by a 5-4 vote that school
districts may use taxpayer money to pay for some services for
students at religious and parochial schools, in a case that asked
whether or not a school district could provide sign language
interpreters for deaf students in a Catholic school. Despite the
fact that such interpreters will be used in teaching the school's
religious doctrines, the Court ruled that such aid was an
assistance to the handicapped students, not to the school or to
the religion. The ruling explicitly left two questions
unanswered: whether or not school districts may not be required
to provide such assistance to religious schools, and whether or
not the Court considers other forms of taxpayer assistance to
religious schools, such as vouchers, to be constitutional.
(Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District)
Taken together, these three rulings have the effect of narrowing,
if not completely eliminating, the 1971 Lemon v. Kurtzman ruling
that had been used to prevent government from endorsing any
particular religion, or religion in general.
Observers note that many of the decisions involving separation of
church and state have been decided by narrow margins. It is
possible, now that Judge Ruth Ginsberg has been confirmed to
replace retiring Justice Byron White, that the balance will
shift. Justice White has consistently ruled against strict
separation of church and state, but Judge Ginsberg is considered
to be more in favor of such strict separation.
Religious Freedom Restoration Act Advances
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed in the full House of
Representatives on May 11, 1993 and now is out of committee in
the Senate and is due to be considered by the full Senate
sometime after October 22, 1993. The Act, (now Senate Bill 5.578)
is an attempt by Congress to reverse part of the Supreme Court's
ruling in Oregon v. Smith and needs only a final vote in the
Senate to pass. President Clinton has already indicated that he
will sign it into law if it passes Congress.
In the 1990 Smith ruling, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the
majority, overturned prior Supreme Court rulings that had held
that in order to prohibit a religious practice, a law had to
serve a "compelling interest" -- in layman's terms, the state had
to show that if it didn't ban that religious practice, no one
would be safe. Since Justice Scalia's ruling on Smith, that
standard has been replaced with a "general applicability"
standard -- any law that has the effect of banning a religious
practice is OK so long as the law doesn't single out one religion
For the past several years, some members of Congress have been
attempting to pass a Religious Freedom Restoration Act which
would restore the "compelling interest" test and permit citizens
whose religious freedom has been infringed upon by a law to sue
for damages. In the past it has run into opposition by abortion
opponents (including then-President George Bush), who believed
that it would permit abortion on religious grounds; they appear
to have withdrawn their opposition, persuaded by arguments
showing that the "compelling interest" test had no such effect
before. The only current opposition that the bill faces is from
Wyoming's Republican Senator Alan Simpson, claiming that the bill
would place an insupportable burden on prison administrators. As
with the abortion argument, this wasn't the effect that the
compelling interest standard had before, so his argument has
carried little weight. Other Senators, citing post-Smith
decisions against the Amish, the Hmong, and store-front churches,
are now backing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
President Clinton has already expressed support for the act, and
is expected to sign it if it passes the Senate.
New Electronic Mail "Connections" Service for Wiccans
AMER has often been asked to try to find contacts in Wiccan,
Neopagan, or other groups for individuals who are isolated or
living in a new area. Although we have always been happy to try
to help, AMER does not have members or contacts everywhere, and
it is often difficult for us to find this information.
A new electronic mail service may make that job a lot simpler.
It's called WICCADR, an electronic "mailing list" run by a group
in New Hampshire.
Bryan Haught, the list owner, describes WICCADR as a "moderated
referral list for people seeking contacts in the craft and
earth-religion community. We exist primarily to put people in
touch with local and national groups, and not to give specific
answers to doctrinal questions. Email contact with student
groups, national societies, and anti-defamation activists is
Chris Carlisle, AMER's vice president and electronic mail
liaison, has subscribed to the list and hopes to be able to find
contacts for members and others. Carlisle also plans to make our
introductory pamphlet, "What is AMER," available to anyone who
asks for it.
Anyone who would like to subscribe should send mail directly to
the list at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the word
"Subscribe" in the message subject. In the message body, describe
your situation /briefly/, including what references you have
checked and what kind of published information you might need.
WICCADR is accessible via BITNET, Internet, and commercial
electronic mail services such as MCI Mail and CompuServe.
Silver Raven Wolf Joins AMER Advisory Board
Silver Ravenwolf, famous for her involvement in the Wiccan/Pagan
Press Alliance (WPPA) and her tireless Pagan right work in the
area of Pagan rights, has joined Lilith Aquino, Zsusana Budapest,
Lone Elk, Robert Mathieson, Paul Suliin, Mike Nichols, Edred
Thorsen, Michael Humphrey, and Don Wildgrube as a member of the
AMER advisory board.
As reported in the December issue, the Advisory Board was set up
to be a national network of sources with access to various
religious paths who would be in a position to notify AMER if a
situation arose where it could be of assistance, and to advise
AMER on matters of policy.
AMER Monthly Meeting Location Changes
As of the August, 1993 meeting, AMER's monthly Board of Directors
Meeting location changed from Benton Hall on the University of
Missouri, St. Louis campus to the University City Library, 6701
Delmar, University City, MO 63130. If you need directions you can
call the Library at 727-3150.
AMER wishes to offer its sincerest thanks to Public Information
Officer Michael Fix who graciously donated his Geology Lab for
the Board Meetings these past years.
_AMER Intelligence_ is published irregularly by and for the
members of the Alliance for Magical and Earth Religions, edited
and laid out by Wendi Clawson and designed by J. Brad Hicks, with
the "Media Tide Turning Against Claims o Ritual Abuse" series is
written by Michael Fix. Direct all inquiries to AMER; P.O. Box
16551, Clayton; MCl 63105.
E-mail to AMER may be directed c/o its electronic mail liaison,
Chris Carlisle. Her internet address is C24884CC@wuvmd.bitnet or
/* end of file */
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