_AMER Intelligence_ Alliance of Magical and Earth Religions Issue: Annual Meeting, 1993 --

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_AMER Intelligence_ 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 10, 1993. 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. 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 northeastern Arkansas. 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 bystanders. 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 situation. 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 landlords. 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 May, 1993. 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 910 Ladd Lake City, AR 72437 (501) 237-8118 ----- 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 Satan." 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 problem. 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 not planted. 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 parents. 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 allegations. 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 stands. 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 Court ruled: - 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 by name. 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 welcome." 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 wiccadr%nhstrat@virgin.mv.com. 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 C24884CC@wuvmd.wustl.edu. /* end of file */


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