On behalf of area witches and pagans, I warned Buncombe County commissioners that their practice of inviting primarily monotheistic male ministers to pray prior to meetings was exclusionary, unconstitutional and lawsuit-worthy. It was insensitive to the great diversity of beliefs Ashevilleans have: Buddhist, Jewish, Voudon, you name it.
This practice was no oversight, but rather a concerted, prejudicial policy that effectively disenfranchised a vast number of voters and, if it is continued, it could result in another costly, avoidable legal loss similar to the county's failed Parkside case last year.
Pastor Jerry Young has bemoaned the loss of "our" historical "privilege." Rev. J. Wendell Runion agrees: "If we put 'In God we trust' on our money, we can surely say a prayer before our county commissioners' meeting."
I feel compassion for those who've enjoyed easy cachet by acting as religious intercessors for the high and mighty. Perhaps they sincerely fear losing face or political power. But such judgmental statements reflect a lack of appreciation for America's time-honored separation of church and state, and fly in the face of Asheville's nationwide spiritual renown. …
The state ACLU rep says it doesn't work to let faiths take turns invoking deities. So we're facing either hearing a nonsectarian prayer that expresses no belief in a specific religion or deity, or having a moment of silence at the meetings.
The Power to Be Silent is one of the four traditional abilities accorded witches, and sacred to the Northern Element of Earth, itself associated with mundane matters. Most faiths allow for quiet contemplation, as well as those that reject religion altogether. The right and need of private thought is possibly one of the few things everyone holds dear.
Beyond the rhetoric this issue has evoked, this debate seems part of the general trend toward unity. Given the choice we now face, and given the noise, rush and dilemmas we all daily endure, perhaps the more preferable of the two is to agree to share a moment of rare reflection. Perhaps doing so will promote peace in all those assembled to address issues of common concern.
Regardless of how it all shakes out, one thing seems clear: All Buncombe citizens deserve equanimity from their elected officials, as well as from any board that wields political power.
— Dixie Deerman, aka Lady Passion,
High Priestess of Coven Oldenwilde