Pray Naked For Freedom

“And ye shall be free from slavery; and as a sign that ye be really free, ye shall be naked in your rites…” –”Charge of the Goddess,” Doreen Valiente

Stupid is happening out there.  You may have heard. Arizona just passed a law that would legalize the kind of Jim Crow discrimination which was the subject of many a famous protest a few decades ago, “on religious grounds.”  My home state of Georgia, along with a few others, is contemplating similar legislation.  The intent is to allow businesses to refuse to serve gay people and not be sued for it, but the scope is far more wide-reaching than that.  The language restricts any state action that would “burden” practice of religion without a “compelling state interest” and allows people to use religious belief as a defense in court “whether or not the state is party to the case.”  (That’s the part that protects people from being sued for discrimination).   This will undermine all civil protections by blocking civil redress.  Your employer has intrusive opinions about whether or not you should be married?  They can fire you.  Walk into a restaurant wearing Pagan jewelry?  A waiter could refuse to serve you on the grounds that they believe you to be possessed by demons.  Because Jesus.

Whether or not those are mainstream Christian beliefs (I am aware that they are not) isn’t relevant; all they would have to show is that their belief was “sincere.”  And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a whole lot of crazy out there taking refuge under the umbrella of “religious belief,” some of it quite vicious.  Generally speaking, my position is that people are free to believe whatever they wish, but laws and secular institutions (not to mention social mores) are there to temper absolute freedom of conscience with a bit of consensus about what we, as humans in a particular locus in space and time, think is appropriate behavior.  As a Pagan, I don’t get to exercise absolute religious freedom; sometimes I am constrained by the law or the inertia of my society either to act or not act in ways I disagree with for reasons rooted in my spiritual understanding of the world.  I accept this state of affairs, for the most part, because I understand that the law also protects me in important ways that relying on people’s individual consciences may not.  This legislation throws a monkey wrench in all of that, to a degree which I am sure the authors of the law did not sufficiently contemplate.

I think we should show them.  Because one of the advantages of being a religious weirdo is that you sometimes do stuff that other people find a bit strange, not to say off-putting.  Such as taking your clothes off in ritual.  There’s also a saying, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Male Naturist, Ross Back Sands, Northumberland, UK – by Surefire, CC license 3.0

If those laws pass,* as soon as they go into effect, I suggest that people gather from far and near on the next full moon at the state capital or other public location of your choice, cast a circle, read out the “Charge of the Goddess,” and take off their clothes.  Chant a bit; “We All Come From the Goddess” is a classic that lots of people already know, but if you know all the words to “We Won’t Wait Any Longer,” then by all means.

It doesn’t just have to be Wiccans, either.  A Wiccan can clearly claim common practice and the Charge as justification; but pretty much any Pagan could assert that nudity laws are based on Christian notions of original sin and body shame which we explicitly reject.  Other religious groups are allowed to pray in public buildings without seriously modifying their practice; why not us?   Or just show up in support and keep your clothes on; we would probably need people to run interference, as well as someone to talk to the press after our heroes are dragged away.  Because, let’s be clear, they will be.  This is civil disobedience; have legal support arranged ahead of time. Also bail money.

I am unsure at this writing whether I am serious or not, but it does have the advantage that it would rivet everyone’s attention.  (Managing that attention to get your point across is actually the tricky part).  I’m inclined just to quote Thoreau here and leave you to work it out for yourself, but that’s probably expecting too much.  Why am I suggesting this?  Because these laws are aimed at making it legal to discriminate, and everyone’s liberties are therefore in danger.  But also, they are expressly aimed at denying basic respect and dignity to LGBT people using religion as a justification, and boy am I sick and tired of that nonsense.  I keep saying and saying and saying until I am blue in the face that that is your religion, bucko, and if we were really talking about religious freedom here I would be able to marry a same-sex couple in any state I pleased.  Many a Christian has pointed out that the theological basis for those arguments are pretty thin, and I wish them well on that.  But naked Pagans praying in public would make the point vividly, stunningly, and absolutely unforgettably that we don’t all share the same religious values, and between praying naked and “values” which foster hatred and bigotry, naked Pagans are the ones on the side of the angels.  These laws are not about “religious freedom.”  They are just about making it legal to treat people like dirt.

Plus it would be really, really, really funny.

“Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them?” –Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau

*The Arizona law has passed the legislature but there is some doubt if the governor will sign it; she has vetoed a similar law in the past.

About Sara Amis

Sara Amis writes fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and rants. She is a Faery initiate who kicks it old-school, a member of Hellbender Coven, and has many opinions. Her work has appeared in Datura, Jabberwocky, Lilith Queen of the Desert, Witches and Pagans, Moon Milk Review, A Mantle of Stars, and her blog, the Consequence of Chance. Her poem series The Sophia Leaves Text Messages was published as an artist's book by Papaveria Press. She teaches Tarot and magic sometimes.

  • http://aheathenspath.wordpress.com Lucius Helsen

    Actually, it’s not as much a Jim Crow as you think. See, this law would permit Christians to deny services to gays without legal repercussions, true. It would also allow a Muslim butcher to be protected from being forced to serve non-Halal meat, a Jewish bakery from being forced to break kosher laws, and a Pagan store owner from being forced to aid Christians in anti-Pagan activities.

    See, it works like this. A Pagan owns a printing store, a West Borough Baptist comes in to that store and wants to buy something, say a dozen signs saying “GOD HATES FAGS”. The Pagan refuses service to the WBB member on the grounds that their religion finds the actions of the WBB member to be morally abhorrent. Without this law, the WBB member then has the legal right to sue that Pagan store and its owner to the point where the pagan is forced out of business for standing up for what they believe. In this case, defending the rights of Pagans and Homosexuals against the protestor who would see such rights denied.

    Without the protection of such a law, the Pagan, Muslim, Jew, Christian, or any religious person, can be coerced to violate their conscience and culture with the threat of legal action and economic ruin, regardless of what that action is and how abhorrent it is to that person. It is easy to say a Christian should be forced to service a Homosexual in their business. Is it as easy for you to say that a Pagan should be forced to do the same to a Christian, and be a part of forcing that Christian’s views on the world?

    • http://www.patheos.com/Pagan Christine Kraemer

      To be honest? I’m more comfortable with potentially having to go to court because I followed my conscience. Then the courts can decide whether religious freedom is at stake in that particular instance.

      The potential to abuse this law is, in my mind, much too great; it threatens to make minorities of all kinds into second-class citizens.

      • http://aheathenspath.wordpress.com Lucius Helsen

        I get what you’re saying about the abuse of this law making minorities into second class citizens. The problem is though, that not having it does the same. Since I’ve heard about this law I’ve been going over the different implications of what it being there does and doesn’t do. The fact is, that without this bill, it leaves it so that religious people, minority or majority, become second class citizens. Yes, you’re more comfortable with potentially having to go to court because you followed your conscience, and it is good to be willing to stand up for your beliefs like that.

        But think about it. You have to go to court to justify how you live your life, and the choices you make based on a constitutionally protected right, before a judge and a bunch of people who might not only not get your morality, but be openly hostile to it. Not to mention the legal fees. But it basically puts you in the position where you have to justify your right to your faith and living that faith legally, in the face of someone making you do something you find morally objectionable. Someone, I might add, who could have a support set up who will be willing to fund thousand and thousands of dollars against you to prove their point, which means that even if you win, you’re bankrupt and lose everything.

        And if you lose…what does that mean. That you legally do not have the right to live according to your conscience in the eyes of the law. Because the courts aren’t about justice, their about power, money, and laws which can be used and twisted by people to meet their own ends. This is something I’m worried about. Because it makes religious people have to defend their beliefs legally. That might not be an issue for Christians or Muslims, (though the Christian owner of a bakery sued out of business by a Gay couple for not wanting to bake them a cake might disagree) but for Pagans, most of whom are not economically powerful on an individual or group level…it leaves us out in the cold. Having to legally justify your right to practice your religion makes you a second class citizen. It’s bad enough that those Pagans and Heathens in the prison system are having to fight for that right, and look at how often they win, and how often they’re told to “lump it and go to the Christian chaplain.” Do you think our faiths will face any better luck in that exact same court system, especially since anyone can claim that they were discriminated against, even frivolously, for the sake of shutting a Pagan shop down? I don’t have that kind of faith, I’m sorry.

    • http://saracamis.blogspot.com/ Sara Amis

      As Georgia state rep Simone Bell pointed out, this is not about cake. Or placards. LGBT people regularly find it hard to get medical care, especially in rural areas, *already.* There have been incidents of EMTs refusing to treat a patient who was trans. This law would allow health care professionals to refuse treatment or refuse to fill prescriptions because of their religious views.

      The halal or kosher examples don’t apply. You can’t be forced to change HOW you do business, but you can’t refuse to serve someone with the business that you have. A halal butcher refusing to sell to someone who isn’t Muslim would be the applicable comparison…which I don’t see as a hardship.

      Nor is your print shop example valid. The valid comparison would not be a Pagan print shop owner refusing to print something they object to, but refusing to serve Christians as a category. The former is a defensible business choice; the latter is discrimination.

      And even if it WERE valid…if making it less likely that LGBT people will die from lack of adequate health care means I might get in trouble for refusing to print a poster, I’m just fine with that.

      • Pixie5

        You have some good points about medical care. There are enough haters out there that they would not think twice about letting people die as long as they adhere to their “sincerely held religious beliefs”

      • http://aheathenspath.wordpress.com Lucius Helsen

        Except that your healthcare example doesn’t work on this bill either. This bill would have protected business owners from making it a policy not to serve people based on a violation of their religious beliefs. It doesn’t allow employees to violate their employers policy. The EMTs above wouldn’t be covered by this bill because they don’t make the policy of the EMT service. They are in violation of their corporation’s policy (presumably).

        If Chick-Fil-A decided to stop serving Pagans who were open about their religion, this bill would protect. If an employee refused to serve a Pagan in violation of Chick-Fil-A’s policy to serve everyone, then the employ would face action by the company, and be open to private actions (potentially). So examples of employees refusing service are false to what this bill would have been. Only the business and its policy are protected, not those employees that violate the policy in a discriminatory manner.

  • Pixie5

    I think my main concern is how this law would be a gateway to other discrimatory laws. It is already legal to not hire or to fire gay people only because there is no law against it. I am certain that the anti’s will be coming up with the same sort of law to restict rights not only in regards to employment, but housing etc. Soon our civil rights will go down the drain because it gives license to discriminate against anyone, including minorities, women and ironically, Christians, based solely on someone else’s belief system. And anyone can make up a religious belief on the spot if they want.
    Christians are in such a priveleged position that it never occurs to them that they might become victims of these laws themselves. They can’t even get over the fact that they can’t force their religion on school children. They would yell bloody murder if they were discriminated against the way they do to others!

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