Category Archives: discrimination

Local Pagan Leaders to be Live on Radio 12-19-2011

Rev. Cathy Rankin, President of Church of the Spiral Tree and Rev. Charissa Iskiwitch, HPs, Lead Chaplain for the CST Pagan Prison Ministry and Member-at-large for CST, organizer of North Georgia Solitaries and the Pagan Assistance Fund are doing a radio interview tomorrow at 8:30 AM EST on the Community Voice in Carrollton, GA. Newstalk AM 1330 WLBB.

Hopefully there will be discussion of recent events they have been involved with, namely the Turner family discrimination issue with the Bowdon Elementary School and the efforts of the Pagan Assistance Fund to aid members of our community in need. Those of us who live outside of the station’s broadcast area can listen live online at http://tunein.com/radio/News-Talk-AM-1330-s30554/

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Final Thoughts on the Turner Discrimination Case

With the positive results from this situation still fresh the Task Force has issued these final thoughts:

“A Week in Bowdon, Georgia: Our Final Thoughts

In the wake of frustration, unity often rises. Out of the hands of chaos, humanity can shine. We found both to be true this week. The power of solidarity and the compassion of humanity broke free from a very unfortunate situation in the small, rural town of Bowdon, Georgia; where a Pagan child allegedly experienced religious discrimination.

“I have worked on many religious freedom cases with Lady Liberty League since its founding in 1985. Never before have I seen a Task Force come together so quickly with so many different organizations involved. It was truly historic for our community,” notes Reverend Selena Fox, founder of the Lady Liberty League.

The Bowdon situation attracted the attention of both local and national Pagan organizations; all of whom simultaneously came together to assess and manage the problem as a single Task Force. Locally, these groups included Dogwood Local Council, North Georgia Solitaries, Pagan Assistance Fund, and The Church of the Spiral Tree. Nationally, the organizations involved were Covenant of the Goddess (National), Lady Liberty League and Circle Sanctuary.

“Many of us had known of each other but had never worked together. We are not only representatives of different organizations, we are also from different Pagan traditions, or denominations, as it were. And we managed to work together to affect change,” added Lady Arsinoe, First Officer of Dogwood Local Council, local affiliate of Covenant of the Goddess.

And the work did pay off. On December 12, Carroll County School System officials and concerned School personnel met with the Turner Family, accompanied by members of the Task Force. The meeting lasted over 3 hours with much discussion and collaboration; after which, all parties felt satisfied with the results. In a statement issued on Dec 13th, the School Administration offered their apologies for the actions or lack of actions that led to this unfortunate point. And, within the privacy of the meeting, various school personnel expressed similar apologies directly to the family.

Moreover, the School Administration demonstrated a sincere willingness to work with the Turners going
forward and to put systems in place to alleviate many of their concerns. Unfortunately, we are not at liberty to disclose the details of these actions because of the involvement of minors. Such private information is normally reserved for approved school personnel and primary caregivers, in this case, Ms. Turner.

However, we can say with confidence that, as a Pagan community, we have made significant steps forward in the education of our educators.

“In all my Civil Rights work within school systems, I have never seen an administration willingly to work toward a peaceful solution and then, collaborate on a joint statement. As Pagans, we need to fully understand and appreciate the magnitude of this aspect of the Bowdon case,” adds Selena Fox.

While these steps alone will not prevent future cases of religious discrimination, they are small steps on our path to freedom and full acceptance. And a small step forward is the beginning of the journey to understanding.

As the Turner children return to school, resume classes and reunite with friends, our thriving Georgia Pagan community will continue to offer them needed support. Both North Georgia Solitaries and The Church of the Spiral Tree have extended their hands of friendship and spiritual strength during this Yule season and beyond.

“I’ve found in my work through NGS…that there are many really good organizations in Georgia. I think the general public would be surprised to know how many of us are in this area,” remarked Lady Charissa of NGS, on the Turner Family Support fan page.

Dogwood Local Council, local affiliate of the Covenant of the Goddess, is making plans to provide their services to the Carroll County School System as an educational resource for future questions concerning Pagan students. And, Lady Liberty League and Circle Sanctuary will continue to monitor the Bowdon
situation as the transitions are made into the New Year.

Over the past week, we, the Task Force, have been absolutely amazed at the coming together of the local, national and international Pagan community through the Turner Family Support fan page. At this time of peace and unity, we thank each and every one of you for showing your support in whatever way was possible. The demonstration of solidarity and cooperation was historic and will not be forgotten. In addition, on last night’s Pagan Warrior Radio, Stephanie Turner, the child’s mother, personally thanked the entire Pagan community as well as the Task Force for all of our efforts.

Over the next few months, please continue to send your energy to the Turners and to all those victims of religious discrimination within our schools. In addition, send your positive energy toward the effective change in religious discrimination cases, so that we may all grow together.

While the strides we made this week will not universally end the problem, the demonstration of solidarity across traditions, geographical boundaries and organizations may have just begun a new chapter in our history. And, furthermore, this unification resulted in one of the most positive of gifts that we could give to ourselves – an open door to educate those people who educate the next generation. Not only is this is a gift for our community today but, more importantly, it is a gift for the community of tomorrow.

Blessed Be and Yuletide Blessings!

Circle Sanctuary, The Church of the Spiral Tree, Covenant of the Goddess, Dogwood Local Council, Lady Liberty League, North Georgia Solitaries

Text written by Miraselena, PIO of Dogwood local Council, Covenant of the Goddess”

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Turner family Discrimination Update December 13, 2011

On December 13th this very positive update was released from all parties involved in this situation including the school system:

“Statement from Bowdon Elementary School, Carroll County School District, and members of the Turner Family Support Task Force as represented by Lady Liberty League, North Georgia Solitaries, Covenant of the Goddess, Dogwood Local Council, and Circle Sanctuary:

The Turner Family, Task Force, and School District wants Bowdon School to be a positive, supportive environment which fosters the emotional and educational growth of all students.

With education, cooperation, and open dialogue, all things are possible.

At times, a lack of life experience and/or other circumstances can make it difficult to perceive how words and actions might cause offense or upset. The parties involved acknowledge that words and deeds can be hurtful even without the intent of making them so.

In an effort to reach a positive and collaborative resolution to recent events, an alliance of the parties involved has come to pass which will set the stage for future education for school staff, students, and parents on the topic of equality and respect for all students and families in the Carroll County School System.

First, a sincere apology for recent events and misunderstandings has been given by School Administration and accepted by the family.

Second, the Bowdon Elementary School guidance Counselor will educate staff and students about honoring and accepting the differences that make us individuals.

Third, procedures have been put in place to ensure classroom activities don’t alienate students. As part of this, the administration and teachers will have yearly training about the District’s Code of Ethics and the responsibilities of each staff member to preserve the integrity of every students’ rights.

We appreciate the hard work and open dialogue of all the parties involved to create this positive resolution. The Turner children will return to school. The Carroll County School District will continue to strive to be a place that fosters the emotional and educational growth of all students regardless of religion, race, national origin, gender or disability.”

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December 12th 2011 update on Turner discrimination

The task force working on resolving the religious freedom issues involving the Turner family and their school system has issued this update:

“Over the past week, a Task Force has been arduously working with the Turner family to assess the situation and generate a clear plan of action. Included on the Turner Family Support Task Force are a variety of professionals, Pagan clergy and other advisors who have committed much time and energy to standing with the Turners in their time of need.

The North Georgia Solitaries have welcomed the Turners into their Yule celebrations and continue to provide the much needed community support through volunteerism and the Pagan Assistance Fund. The Lady Liberty League, Circle Sanctuary and Covenant of the Goddess (Dogwood Local Council) have been relentlessly coordinating efforts to provide advice and guided action; all of which will hopefully lead to a peaceful resolution and a future of fair and equal treatment in the school and school system.

However, the Task Force and the Turners are not alone in this struggle, as is shown by the immense demonstration of Pagan solidarity through the Turner Family Support Facebook page, phone calls to the lead organizations and a variety of other postings on the internet. The countless comments and heartfelt words of support have generated an immeasurable bounty of strength from which the family is able to draw.

And, the support is not limited to the Pagan community nor to Georgia or to the USA. The Task Force has heard from a number of non-Pagans who are concerned about the Turners situation and from members of the  international Pagan community. The results have been unexpected and awe-inspiring.

This support, your support, has now become a vital part of the struggle toward tolerance – for this case and into the future. And, at this time of year- a time of peace, giving and togetherness – we ask that all of you continue to stand together with each other, the Turners and the Task Force by continuing these efforts. The Task Force will provide updates as the process progresses.

Please send your prayers, your energy, and your personal messages through the Facebook page. They are being read by the Turners throughout each day. And, secondly, if you would like to contribute funds to help alleviate the financial burdens that have been placed on the family, please make your donations via the Pagan Assistance Fund, operated by the North Georgia Solitaries through the Church of the Spiral Tree. Donations are tax-deductible and  will be used to offset a variety of expenses such as gas, child care, home-schooling supplies, and other related family expenses as they arise.

It is often said that “A little bit, goes a long way” – whether that be a dollar, a prayer or a words of peace. The Turner family is grateful for all of it.”

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Turner Family discrimination update

A story of apparent religious discrimination against a Pagan child was recently reported at http://atlanta.indymedia.org/local/children-have-rights-too

Towards the end of October the Turner family was getting very excited for Halloween, or for them Samhain. For them it is not just a time to get free candy and dress up for a night, but rather it is a holiday to give thanks and to remember ancenstors for the lives they lived. Samhain fell on a Monday, and like any other religious holiday, Christopher did not attend school. The next day Christopher’s teacher, Mrs. Ross, pulled him out of class and proceeded to drill him about Paganism, ending the conversation with “Paganism is not a religion.” “

Many Pagans and supportive members of other faiths spread the story. Many also reached out to help. The current state of affairs is outlined in a joint public statement from the North GA Solitaires, the Covenant of the Goddess national chapter, their local council Dogwood Local Council, the Lady Liberty League, and Circle Sanctuary:

After concerns spread about some problems with accommodating Pagan students needs at Bowdon Elementary School (BES), there was an overwhelming show of community support for the Turner family of Carroll County in western Georgia, USA. Many local Pagans and associated organizations reached out to assist the Turners by providing emotional support and offering practical advice. The Turners have been deeply touched by this out-pouring of spirit and wish to express their sincerest gratitude.

In addition, a Task Force of local and national Pagan organizations have come together to help resolve issues between the Turners and BES. The Task Force also hopes to provide the school with Pagan accommodation information and materials with the hopes of avoiding misunderstandings and other problems in the future. Represented in this group are the North Georgia Solitaries (NGS), both the local and national chapters of the Covenant of the Goddess, Circle Sanctuary and Lady Liberty League.

 Currently, Carroll County Schools, led by the assistant superintendent, has expressed an active interest in resolving the current tensions and is planning to meet with Ms. Turner. The family and the Task Force are requesting that those with concerns about their situation do not directly contact the school or its employees. It is important that everyone involved have the maximum space needed to focus on resolving this conflict in a positive way. However, all concerned individuals are welcome to show their support for the Turners through the Turner Family Support Facebook fan page or through the simple use of prayers and energy toward a peaceful resolution and healing.”

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