A federal appeals court has ruled against a Wiccan priestess from
Virginia and her bid to be among religious leaders who give an
invocation when the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors meets.
What is your opinion of this decision, and what about the ACLU’s
claim that it smacks of preferring one religion over another?
We could stop this controversy of who is eligible and who is not
eligible to “lead prayers” at the beginning of governmental councils,
commissions and other such bodies by simply abandoning this archaic
practice. If the principle of separation of church and state has any
validity, it seems to me that there is no good reason for
governmental bodies to have “opening prayers.” If asked to
participate in such a charade, I would say no. And, by the way, in
more than five years I have lived in Glendale, I have never been
asked to do this.
If I were asked, I would say no. It would not be because prayer
would not be helpful and/or useful, but because prayer at such
meetings is superfluous. Few people seem to pay much attention to the
person leading the prayers in the first place. In the second place,
everyone seems to be watching and waiting to see what kind of
ecumenical “mistake” the person praying might make. Will he or she
mention Jesus? Will he or she be too specific -- not allowing for
non-Christian viewpoints? Will he or she be exclusive?
I would suggest that we let government officials work out their
agendas on the basis of good old-fashioned ethics. Opening prayers
are absolutely unnecessary. Eliminating them would help us reaffirm
the principle of separation of church and state.
I don’t see a logical place for a Wiccan priestess, a Catholic
priest, a Baptist minister, a Unity minister, or any other
representative of any church to open governmental meetings.
If the government officials need this kind of prayer for them to
do their jobs, we have elected the wrong people. Good government
officials will make decisions on principle and will never need
someone like me or any other minister or priest to lead them in the
right direction. They will already know the way to make correct
decisions on behalf of the people they are serving.
The practice of “opening prayers” is an old custom, an old
tradition, that needs scrapping at every level -- local, state and
Let’s encourage each government official to pray, if he or she
feels it necessary, in his or her own way. And above all, encourage
each government official to act on principle!
THE REV. THOMAS E.
Unity Church of the Valley
Our nation is becoming more and more secular, and I anticipate
issues of this type to occur more and more frequently. Christianity,
however, is becoming viewed as a silent majority, with fundamentalism
on the right and liberalism on the left. I believe the board of
supervisors has the right to be selective in whom it invites to do
There are several good books referencing criteria for what
constitutes a “religion” and what may suggest a “cult” organization.
This issue deserves a gathering of information so that informed
decisions can be made. My personal concern with anyone offering an
invocation is, “To whom are they praying?”
THE REV. ALICE
Director of Bereavement
Support and Services,
Regarding the Wiccan priestess from Virginia: Certainly she should
be allowed to participate in any invocation given among the
supervisors in Chesterfield County.
We live in a pluralistic society. We have opened the door to
religious inclusion, involvement and participation. She chooses to
participate in a nontraditional way. Yet, to others, conservative
Bible-believing religion is nontraditional. Once you open the door to
public religion, you must keep it open to everyone, no matter the
preference. That is the nature of freedom. The beauty and power of
freedom lies in the element of trust.
There is an old saying to the effect that what is good for the
goose is good for the gander. I believe that is the situation we are
seeing in Virginia.
If Christians are going to be allowed to pray before the meeting
of a certain board of supervisors, and if Jews are going to be
allowed to pray, and if (fill in the blank) are going to be allowed
to pray, how can a Wiccan priestess be denied the same opportunity? I
believe the ACLU is right when it claims that the federal appeals
court’s decision to deny her the opportunity to pray smacks of
preferring one religion over another.
You and I may smile at the concept of a witch or Wiccan priestess,
but the fact remains that to allow one or two or three religions to
offer prayers but not the “different” faith means that the government
is deciding which faith is “OK” and which faith is not “OK.” Once
again, I am amazed and in awe of our founding fathers for their very
brilliant forming of a government that shall make no law respecting
or enforcing a state religion. Most of the country may be nominally
Christian, but that fact does not mean we get to restrict or ban
other forms of religious expression. If that Virginia board of
supervisors is going to allow Christians to pray, then I believe it
must allow the Wiccans to pray as well.
As Voltaire said in the 18th century, and I’m paraphrasing here: I
may disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the
death your right to say it. So, not only freedom of religion is
involved here, but also freedom of speech.
Let’s hear it for the 1st amendment!
THE REV. SKIP LINDEMAN
Congregational Church of the
United Church of Christ
La Canada Flintridge
Every community must set at least some restrictions on which
religious groups should be invited to participate in public
For example, would representatives from a religious group that
condones the sexual abuse of children as part of its practice (and
such groups exist) be allowed to give the invocation? Not on your
life, and rightfully so.
If Ms. Simpson is a “separation of church and stater” as she says,
why would she even want to lead in a religious activity at a
government meeting? In doing so, she is violating her own beliefs.
She herself says that this belief is “what was driving me all along,”
(“Wiccan loses appeal in Virginia prayer lawsuit,” Associated Press).
If this is true, then her motives in this matter are highly
questionable. Does she honestly want her religion to be fairly
included, or is the real aim to force the courts to eliminate the
public expression of any faith, including Judeo-Christian prayer?
The courts are right not to let special-interest groups legally
bully the public, especially in smaller communities that cannot match
the resources available to groups like the ACLU.
So which groups should participate in invocations? Those who earn
the right to be heard through love, not those who force others to
hear through legalities; those who forgo their rights in order to
serve others, not those who force others to respect their rights.
This is the example that Jesus Christ set for us all.
PASTOR JON BARTA
Valley Baptist Church
This situation demonstrates why it’s a bad idea to have public
invocations precede government meetings. With the huge variety of
faiths practiced in America, it’s particularly difficult to choose
which beliefs get the implied state sanction. Excluding Wicca because
it isn’t within the Judeo-Christian tradition clearly favors certain
religions over others and violates the U.S. Constitution.
The Chesterfield County, Virginia determination of allowable
faiths apparently also excludes Hinduism, Buddhism and the religion
practiced by the indigenous inhabitants of Virginia. Perhaps the
supervisors were uncomfortable with a woman leading the prayer, and
it’s sexism as well as religious bias.
Not being familiar with Wicca, I did some investigation and found
that it predates Christianity. Current practitioners cite roots in
early Celtic pagan Earth-based practices. A Hunter God and Fertility
Goddess are emphasized in some Wiccan groups, while others worship a
single deity with female and male components. Other Wiccans consider
themselves polytheists and honor many ancient gods such as Pan and
Diana. Some Wiccans consider all of the above to be symbolic, and are
All flavors of Wicca honor the Earth and nature and practice a
balanced, peaceful, harmonious way of life. Their basic tenet is
Archeological evidence of Paleolithic Wiccan societies is slight.
The early Christian Church in Europe seems to have destroyed their
temples and art work much like the Catholic Church did with ancient
Native American religious works.
Some people mistake Wicca for Satanism, but there is no