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Wicca and Modern Day Recognition

Wicca and Modern Day Recognition


Gerald Gardner's Witchcraft Today

Wicca and Modern Day Recognition

In the United States, a number of legal decisions have improved and validated the status of Wiccans in that country, especially Dettmer v. Landon in 1985. However, in the general social environment, there is a lack of recognition and aceptance from a majority of politicians and Christian organisations.

According to the traditional history of Wicca as given by Gerald Gardner, Wicca is a survival of the European witch-cult that was persecuted during the witch trials (sometimes called the Burning Times). Since then theories of an organised pan-European witch-cult have been largely discredited, but it is still common for Wiccans to feel solidarity with the victims of the witch trials.

There still exists the misconception that Wicca is a form of Satanism, despite important differences between these religions. Due to negative connotations associated with witchcraft, many Wiccans continue the traditional practice of secrecy, concealing their faith for fear of persecution. Revealing oneself as Wiccan to family, friends or colleagues is often termed "coming out of the broom-closet".

Some have asserted that Wicca is simply an off-shoot of the New Age movement, a claim which is fiercely denied by Wiccans and also by historians such as Ronald Hutton, who noted that Wicca not only predates the New Age movement but also differs in its general world view.


Religious discrimination against Neopagans

Related to Wicca: According to Gerald Gardner, who popularised Wicca in the twentieth century, the religion is a survival of a European witch-cult that was persecuted during the witch trials (sometimes called the Burning Times), and the strong element of secrecy that traditionally surrounds the religion was adopted as a reaction to that persecution. Since then, Margaret Murray's theory of an organised pan-European witch-cult has been discredited, and doubts raised about the age of Wicca; many Wiccans no longer claim this historical lineage. However, it is still common for Wiccans to feel solidarity with the victims of the witch trials and, being witches, to consider the witch-craze to have been a persecution against their faith.

There has been confusion that Wicca is a form of Satanism, despite important differences between these religions. Due to negative connotations associated with witchcraft, many Wiccans continue the traditional practice of secrecy, concealing their faith for fear of persecution. Revealing oneself as Wiccan to family, friends or colleagues is often termed "coming out of the broom-closet".

Wiccans have also experienced difficulties in administering and receiving prison ministry, although not in the UK of recent times.[18] In 1985, as a result of Dettmer v. Landon [617 F. Supp. 592 (D.C. Va 1985)], the District Court of Virginia ruled that Wicca is a legally recognised religion and is afforded all the benefits accorded to it by law. This was affirmed a year later by Judge John D. Butzner, Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [Dettmer v. Landon, 799 F. 2d 929 (4th Cir. 1986)]. Nevertheless, Wiccans are sometimes still stigmatised in America, and many remain secretive about their beliefs. In September 1985, Jesse Helms introduced legislation designed to take away the tax-exempt status of Wiccan religious institutions. This ultimately died with the close of the 99th session of Congress in December 1986.

Also in 1985, conservative legislators in the United States introduced three pieces of legislation designed to take away the tax-exempt status of Wiccans. The first one was House Resolution (H.R.) 3389, introduced on 19 September 1985 by Congressman Robert S. Walker (R-Pennsylvania), which would have amended to the United States Internal Revenue Code that any organisation which promotes witchcraft would not be exempt from taxation. On the other side of Congress, Senator Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina ) added Amendment 705 to H.R. 3036, "The Treasury, Postal, and General Government Appropriations Bill for 1986", which similarly stated that organisations promoting witchcraft would not be eligible for tax-exempt status. After being ignored for a time, it was attached to H.R. 3036 by a unanimous voice vote of the senators. Congressman Richard T. Schulze (R-Pennsylvania) introduced substantially the same amendment to the Tax Reform Bill of 1985. When the budget subcommittee met on 30 October, the Helms Amendment was thrown out as it was not considered germane to the bill. Following this, Schulze withdrew his amendment from the Tax Reform Bill, leaving only H.R. 3389, the Walker Bill. Joe Barton (R-Texas) was attracted to become a co-sponsor of this bill on 14 November 1985. The Ways and Means Committee set aside the bill and quietly ignored it, and the bill was allowed to die with the close of the 99th session of Congress in December 1986.

In 2002, Cynthia Simpson of Chesterfield County, Virginia submitted an application to be invited to lead prayer at the local Board of Supervisors meetings, but in a response was told that because the views of Wicca were not "consistent with the Judeo-Christian tradition," her application had been denied. After the Board reviewed and affirmed their policy, Simpson took the case to the U.S. District Court of Virginia, which held that the Board had violated the Establishment Clause by advancing limited sets of beliefs. The Board appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2005 reversed the ruling based in part on the Board having modified its policy, directing clerics to avoid invoking the name of Jesus. On October 11, 2005, the United States Supreme Court rejected an appeal by Simpson, effectively ending the debate.

 



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