woman in forest wearing cow skull

A self-described witch is suing a New York Catholic University for effectively forcing her to resign on account of her Wiccan faith.

A 9-page complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of New York claims 49-year-old Pauline Hoffman, who served as dean of communication for St. Bonaventure University for eight years - the same school she attended as an undergrad -was discriminated against on the basis of sex and religion.

That discrimination allegedly began in 2011. While Hoffman contends that the Catholic university knew about her religious affiliation, they seemed to subscribe to the old adage, "out of sight, out of mind." But after Hoffman told her boss about plans to discuss her Wiccan faith with the student-run television station, things turned south. Hoffman says all she wanted to do was "support the student media They wanted to have a witch's perspective of Halloween."

That innocuous conversation led to a series of alarming discussions with school leadership. Hoffman's complaint contends then-Provost Michael Fischer responded by asking Hoffmann to sign a document "vowing to uphold Catholic values."

The alarm bells were ringing in Hoffman's head already.

"If I were Jewish would I have to sign this?" Hoffman asked.

To which he replied: "If you were Jewish, then I guess not."

"The Pauline Problem"

In another incident, Fischer allegedly warned Hoffman she "might not want to be so overt about being a witch" if she wanted "to move up." She also claims University President Sister Margaret Carney insisted "(I) took a big chance hiring you as a Wiccan."

Hoffmann was eventually denied a promotion and pressured to resign after incoming provost Joe Zimmer was told to "solve the Pauline problem," according to her lawsuit.

Hoffman, an openly practicing Wiccan openly for some 20 years, was shocked. "I was angry. I couldn't believe I was being treated like this. For me, it's a way of living and a way of looking at the world and a way of interacting with other people and a way of finding comfort and peace within myself. It's probably not different from the way other people would describe their own religion."

Hoffman believes that negative stereotypes about Wiccans led to her discrimination. 

"Do I ride a broom or sacrifice animals or worship Satan?" I don't. There are witches who practice black magic, but I'm not one of them. It's a fear of what you don't know."

Many Unclear What Wiccans Worship

woman in forest wearing cow skull For what it's worth, Wiccans may be America's most misunderstood religious group. Wiccans are, for example, not Satan worshippers as many believe. Nor is the religion a set of ancient, pre-Christian beliefs.

Wicca as we know it is in fact rather new. The origins of modern Wicca are tied to Gerald Brousseau Gardner, a British retiree who, in the 1950s, started a movement based on the celebration of magic and the worship of the Goddess-- a female deity. Gardner spent his colorful career primarily abroad in Asia, working as a plant inspector and customs official, amongst other odd jobs. While abroad, Gardner familiarized himself with the writings of Aleister Crowley and other occult writers. Gardner and his followers crafted Wicca into what it is today, a religion based on harmony, spirituality, and a deep connection with nature. Many Wiccans worship the Goddess, a female deity who manifests herself in nature. And most Wiccans adhere to the Wiccan Rede, which states "An it harm none, do what ye will."

Still, many Americans believe myths about Wiccans that simply aren't true. Wicca.com breaks down explicitly what Wicca isn't. Wiccans don't:

  • Worship Satan or consort with demons
  • Sacrifice animals or humans
  • Use the forces of nature or the universe to hex or cast spells on others

Standing For Her Beliefs

Hoffmann, meanwhile, is seeking to be reinstated as dean and reimbursed for lost wages, benefits and medical costs for therapy. She's also taking a stand for anyone else discriminated against for simply following their faith. "I love my job, I love the students, I love what we do. I don't want other people to have to face this kind of discrimination."

But alleged religious discrimination against Wiccans is nothing new. Just a few years ago, Carl DeLuca of Staten Island, New York alleged in a lawsuit that he was "the victim of a continuous pattern of religious discrimination resulting in termination." Per the lawsuit, Deluca says that his coworkers asked his mother if he was a terrorist or a Satanist, and said his religion is a hate crime against Christianity. And a 2012 University of Derby-led study found that there was substantial discrimination against religious minorities, particularly Wiccans, in the UK.

What are your thoughts? Is a Catholic school well within its rights to fire an employee for expressing their Wiccan religion? Or do Wiccans and other pagans deserve the same freedom to practice their faith openly and without prejudice? Are lawsuits like this a slippery slope, or important step for preserving religious freedom?


  1. Gerardo's Avatar Gerardo

    If I were to join a Jewish school as a a teacher it should be very clear to me that I am not supposed to talk or to teach about other religions; when parents send their children to a determined faith school the idea is for them to be educated on the principles and beliefs of such faith and this should be clearly understood by the aspiring faculty member, regardless of his own personal faith or lack of. In other words, keep your mouth shut or be expelled.

    1. Wuzhu's Avatar Wuzhu

      Several problems here. First, the students ARE being educated on the principles and beliefs of their faith. However, those same students also learn about other religions. They have an entire religion department! Second, she wasn't educating anybody about not Catholic principles and beliefs. The students were exploring the meaning and wanted the perspective of a Wiccan. And there happened to be one on staff.

      Another issue: these aren't CHILDREN. It's a UNIVERSITY.

      "In other words, keep your mouth shut or be expelled." Well, students are expelled for violations of behavior codes and not beliefs. But this is firing a person for their beliefs. If a Catholic were fired as dean of a college for not having secular values, you bet Bill Donahue would be on every TV station screaming about anti-Catholic persecution! But, of course, you do find Catholics and Protestants working at secular universities.

      People who tell minorities to 'shut up or else', of course, enjoy silencing people they disagree with.

      1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

        Talk about adding fuel to a fire. The Catholics were the ones who burned us at stakes, myself included in a previous incarnation, believe it or not. I'm Wiccan in this life too. Also, the world is my stage, and I am its greatest actor. When in Rome do as the Romans. I've never been suicidal, and am not a self-defeatist, so to the extent that it's beneficial I go with the flow, wherever I go, short of wearing blackface and singing about my Mammy in a soul cafe. Adding fuel to a fire only makes it worse. So she reaped what she sowed, and regardless of whether or not she wins a lawsuit, hopefully she'll stay clear of Catholic Universities, since she can't seem to keep her mouth shut when it's in her best interest. I've never been in the broom closet, as we say in Wicca, and I've been initiated since I was sixteen, in 1979. [ Initiate means, to begin.] That doesn't mean I go shouting it from rooftops. There is much secrecy in the old religion, also known as the craft of the wise, and for plenty of good reasons. We dont have membership drives,or ever seek new members, and it's not easy to become one of us. We're not talking about a new age cult, or neo-paganism. It still takes a year and a day. So, wear it on your sleeve wherever you go and reap what you sow. Blessed be!

        1. Carrie's Avatar Carrie

          I have searched for your comment here so I could reply. It showed up in my email but not here. I understand what you are saying and I agree. I have been asked (I don't remember how many times) "Are you a practicing Witch?" I always answer ," No, I live and breathe the life of a Witch, there is no practice anymore." I have been a High Priestess for 21 years and a Witch for 48. In Love And Light....

        2. kimberly's Avatar kimberly

          belief is irrelevant. Paranoid delusions even more so. The Salem witch trials originated from teens pretending to be demon possessed. The town of Salem was Puritan. Not Catholic.

          1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

            There were a lot of people mistakenly burned to death as witch he's during the inquisition, but a lot of good people who were witches, members of what we now call elder Wicca, as well as other witches and sorcerers were also burned to death. And most of that was done by order of the Roman Catholic pope. It's still in the books at the Vatican. They never rescinded that order. If the Catholics still had the power they had then it would still be going on. Is Salem the only place you know about. It happened in a lot of places, and not only in this country, but in some parts of Europe as well. Thousands were murdered in the name of God, mistakenly accused of converting with Satan, which is only a christian myth. Witchcraft came first, a polytheistic faith in god and goddess, the masculine and feminine aspects of Divinity, as seen throughout most of nature. The Catholics stole the horns from our horned god, the consort of the Goddess, and God of the hunt, and crowned their evil deity Satan with them, to e against Witchcraft and Paganism, in the early centuries of the church, when Paganism and Christianity were rival religions. Wicca has never sought to convert anyone. We don't care what anyone believes in. We only know Wicca is right for us. Those who have inner callings, and go through a period of training, before they are initiated by only the Goddess herself. Stick to your Bible studies, you don't stand a chance against me on my turf.

          2. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

            Yes, paranoid delusions. That's religion right there!


          3. kimberly's Avatar kimberly

            Lion...once again you show yourself such a lame atheist again by making a leap in logic to a false conclusion. You say religion is a paranoid delusion and on that we agree when it is used by fanatics. However, that says nothing about the existence of God.

          4. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

            You are the master in leaps of logic Kim. Your opinions are as though you sit on the right hand of a god and so know it all, which of course you don’t, and you don’t.


        3. Janis Sommers's Avatar Janis Sommers

          Professor Mary Daly was a Pagan Priestess teaching in the Religion Dept. at Harvard until her death in the late 80's. Out and proud, tenured and Lesbian, Mary published and filmed and publicly defended her right to be who she was. Harvard, a school founded by Puritans, could not get rid of her, and thoughout the years, believe me, they tried. Dean Pauline will win her case.

          1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

            I hope you're right, Janis. She'll be in my prayers. Blessed be!

        4. Angel's Avatar Angel

          Well, first of all Wicca is not the craft of the older ways, it is, for all intents and purposes, a "New Age Cult" it marks the wheel of the year by celebrating a few of the older pagan festivals but for the most part is a product of Gardiner's desire to take a few of the older ways and combine them with neopaganism to create a religion more palatable to modern day pagans. It is however, a religion and as such, should not be discriminated against. A true initiate would be appalled at the injustice of this.

          1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

            Some have read a book, and think they know it all. If we ignore them, they'll go away.

          2. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

            There is neo-paganism, and the new age, but that is far from all of it. When a teacher appears, do not buck horns. Study The Wiccan Mysteries by Raven Grimassi. Then you will know the Wicca and Witchcraft I'm talking about. You can probably get it from Amazon, but if not check out the website of Llewellyn Publications.

          3. Carrie's Avatar Carrie

            I have found Scott Cunningham to be an excellent writer. Another great book is Positive Magic by Marion Weinstein.

          4. kimberly's Avatar kimberly

            Wicca...just another output of the hippy movement. Just because one thinks something is "cool" doesn't make it new.

          5. Bart McIntyre's Avatar Bart McIntyre

            the purpose of having a coven and taking on students is for themselves to eventually leave the coven and start their own. In doing so they add their own to their teaching. The base of their coven is still the same.

        5. Bart McIntyre's Avatar Bart McIntyre

          cant use the burned at stakes when pagans threw Christians to the lions den. As a practicing high priest of the wiccan faith i believe she was done wrong for the fact one should never have to hide a religion or a belief. If she had a third arm growing from the middle of her chest would she be made to hide it because someone got offended. I believe that when and once every religion sees the other as family there will be world peace. Our values are the same as any other religion. We teach to our students the difference between right n wrong and to respect others n their beliefs. One thing i have noticed in my many years id i have never heard a wiccan put down another religion or their beliefs. Everyone is entitled to their own and where they find their peace. Love n Light

      2. Shawn D Grothe's Avatar Shawn D Grothe

        First of all this is not a secular university it is a religious-based university therefore it is run by the church.

    2. Jackson's Avatar Jackson

      I have a moderately simple solution to this problem and many others like it. Allow employers such as universities to discriminate against and deny service to any groups they choose, but revoke their funding from the federal government and revoke their tax-exempt status. Obviously, it goes without being said that all subsidies are included with the previous statement. I believe it to be Saint Bonaventure’s right to be lousy and bigoted with their own money, just not the taxpayer’s money.

    3. Rachel's Avatar Rachel

      I think the issue is more so that she was asked not to discuss or teach her religious views while at work, that working at a catholic school, she needed to at least honor the teachings of their faith. That she took umbrage with that is interesting to me. Why would she choose to work in that environment? Allowing her to teach students her religion would violate doctrine specifically taught through catechism. There are many platforms to promote religious views, there are many places where ideas and beliefs can be shared. If you choose to work for a specific religious organization that has beliefs you feel are diametrically opposed to your own, you should at least be realistic enough to realize that it is very inappropriate to begin pushing your beliefs in that environment. They did not ask her to stop being a wiccan. They asked her to not teach it or promote it at work. She couldn't do that and so resigned. It seems she was a little intolerant of their religious beliefs. To me it looks like someone is enjoying playing a martyr. Maybe she is just in it for the payout, some easy cash pushing the discrimination button in a society as litigious as america is.. But honestly, if I was in her shoes, a Catholic university would be the very last place I would want to work when there are SOOOO many other schools out there. Side note, the amount of intolerance just in the comments under this article here show just how polarizing religion is, and how reactive people are. There have been violent acts in history perpetuated against many different religious groups by many other groups and at times, by governments looking to consolidate power. One would hope that the people who are subscribing to the mailings of the Universal Life Church could be a little more tolerant to each other. I am appalled at the amount of nasty and mean and accusatory comments I have seen here! I don't even feel comfortable saying what religion I belong to, as there seems to be so much snarking and finger pointing going on. If we can't do better, how the hell are we going to help others?

    4. Mildred's Avatar Mildred

      This would be my thought! I would seek employment with a religious organization that I did not believe as they believed!

      1. kimberly's Avatar kimberly

        How far would a Christian get at a Muslim university? Not far. Whether the Catholics are being hypocritical or not is beside the point.

  1. Marcel French's Avatar Marcel French

    Why dose any religion need to have their own school? The very idea of a religion based school is stupid and clearly a Petty excuse for discrimination based on personal religious belief. This is the United States of America we have this thing called freedom of religion and I for one am sick and tired of all these religious extremist uptight good-for-nothings assuming that freedom of religion means freedom for them to force their religious beliefs on whoever they please.

    1. Blanca Thompson's Avatar Blanca Thompson

      That is why in this country we have freedom of religion. Being the case, why applying to work or attend to an school that is already an specific school, why not going to work or attend to an school that teaches your believes; what are you thinking when you want to impose your own believes onto others? We must remember what freedom is. You have the freedom to be what you want to be - you, yourself - why then want to impose onto the freedom that others have? Just think for a moment, in this country you have the freedom to choose who you are, to choose your friends, to choose your schools; why going to places where their believes are contrary to yours and then want to impose yours?

    2. Daniel Bush's Avatar Daniel Bush

      This is an unfortunate statement. In one point you defend freedom of religion which I commend. However, you continue on to chastise that very freedom. No one is forced to go to a certain school. I would have to say that in choosing a religiouse school you have already probably subscribed to that belief structure it is not forced on you. I believe the only issue here is that of ethics. If she was recruiting or teaching her faith in the school setting which is Catholic. She is wrong and her termination is valid. If however she was simply supporting an unbiased representation of the students story on Halloween as she states. I agree she did no wrong and she has a valid argument. We must remember freedom is a two edged blade. Ones freedom to do and believe as they wish is not trumped by by another's ie. a Catholic base education vs outside beliefs. It is a religiouse base school and those enroling or seeking employment are not ignorant of that fact when they "choose" to do so.

    3. Mary's Avatar Mary

      "...Petty excuse for discrimination based on personal beliefs," that's exactly what you are doing as you have expressed in your remarks here, and you sound as if you have zero tolerance for those who you called" good-for-nothings." What would you do if you were put in the same predicament of not being able to gather with others and share your beliefs, and were under severe persecution from people of other beliefs and by your own government and had no protections under any law? Given the historical roots of religious intolerance going back before Christ Jesus came in the flesh to do the will of God his Father, and died on the cross, and was resurrected from the dead, people had to flee and seek a place where they could worship collectively, pray together, sing, dance or express their souls feelings and emotions without being penalized, executed, criticized and scorned, and all that came before them that lead up to seeking their own places of worship where they could learn, share, grow in faith was all churned out of persecution, blood shed death, war, and just plain outright meanness. That's why folks like the Pilgrims fled England and came to this nation that has either forgotten God Jehovah, turned their backs on the Trinity, and/or rejected God's gift to humanity, Christ Jesus. Furthermore, Jesus told his children to go out into the world and preach the gospel, ...and as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely you have received, freely give, (Matthew 10:4-8, KJV). I pray God meets you as God, and opens your spiritual eyes to see Jesus, in Jesus name, amen.

  1. Deb's Avatar Deb

    Deuteronomy 18 says witchcraf-, sorcery are abomination and bring cursed on those who practice it. It is Direct disobedience to God. Sorcery us using drugs to invoke demons to control people. Mind control What she says is whitewash.lies.

    Mary k baxter a Christian was taken to hell by gid to testify to it. She saw witched who did Not expect to be there.

    See video Or her books Divine revelation of hell Divine revelation of heaven

    1prophetspeaks.com 1000 articles

    1. Wuzhu's Avatar Wuzhu

      Did Mary manage to bring back a dictionary? Because you desperately need one!

    2. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

      How would you like to be turned into a toad, lady? Protection magick isn't black magic, and we aren't the ones who turn the other cheek.

      1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

        The world is full of schizophrenics who call themselves prophets. And, in ancient times, when the Bible was being written, the only word used to describe a schizophrenic was prophet.

        1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

          Don’t forget that schizophrenia is not just applicable to prophets, it’s applicable to those who speak to walls, floors and ceilings under the misguided impression they are speaking to someone that’s really there....and is listening to them. And not only that, they believe they’re going to get a reply. Even worse, these people have the right to vote and guide our country!


          1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

            And, what's worse my good man, sometimes they actually hear those replies. I can even recall having heard of one who heard the voice coming from the mouth of a dog, that commanded him to commit murders. However, I don't think the dog was religious, so it probably didn't call itself God.

          2. Martin Vetere's Avatar Martin Vetere

            They are also eligible to become POTUS

          3. kimberly's Avatar kimberly

            yes indeed....zero-bama thought he was god's profit. I remember some clown student yelling "oh god...I got to talk to him!".

    3. Mary's Avatar Mary

      I read sister Mary Kay Baxter's Books, too. I read her testimony about how Jesus carried her to hell to show her that hell was made for the devil and the fallen angels that rose up in rebellion, hatred against God the Father, God's Son, Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Ghost, and satan led an outright mutiny against the God head body. That was very dangerous and outright stupid of the devil who used to walk up and down the coals of fire before God almighty and used to be beautiful until he became full of pride, and thought he could overthrow God, the Holy Trinity. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:18, "And he said unto them, I beheld satan as lightning fall from heaven,"(KJV). We can't go against God's ways, nor God's Word (the written and the Son of God Jesus Christ and say we are part of him. We cannot say we are not evil when we choose to teach something contrary to God's word and say, " there are many pathways to God for we are all the children of God", and the devil knows this truth more than any human being. This is why Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins, pride and rebellion, and even religion. Isn't it written that the religious people in Jesus' time on the earth in his mortal body, paid Judas Iscariot blood money to betray Jesus Christ? After Judas Iscariot completed his assignment from satan, he tried to return the thirty pieces of silver to the religious folks who gave it to him, and they would not receive it back into their treasury because they said, "it was the price of blood." How ironic! Jesus Christ is the truth and the life, and the light. If we choose to deceive ourselves and lead others down the wrong pathway to some other belief, then we will stand before God the true Judge of us all, ( Psalms 1:1-6, 2:1-12, Psalms 16:4,KJV), and give an account of everything we did in our bodies while we had this time allotted to us on earth, and that is what sister Mary kay Baxter was commanded by God to experience,write down in books, and tell "whomsoever will" believe the report of King Jesus and act accordingly. It is the word of God that we are going to be judged by. Please read Mary kay Baxter's account of Hell as Jesus took her to experience it firsthand. God is reaching out to us all, but some people just aren't listening to him. Jesus is soon to return for his Bride, the church, and I am not talking about the brick and mortar building, nor the electronic meetings either. I am talking about in holiness, truth, with love, with all of our minds, and hearts, all of our will, strength, and our neighbors as ourselves. Those who believe that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, was nailed to the cross, shed his blood, and water for our sins and went to hell beat up the devil, took the keys of hell and the grave, lead captivity captive and on the third day rose again and was seen by many people who had witnessed his death. All you have to do is ask God the Father in Jesus name to forgive you of your sins, come into your heart and receive him and he will do it. God is real and his power is real, too. God came to save witches, warlocks, sorcerers, ( like Elymas the sorcerer (Acts 13:5-12, KJV), the adulterers, and fornicators, murderers and even the good and moral sinners for we are all sinners and in need of the true Savior, Jesus Christ who died on the cross, shed his blood and was beaten for us all because God the Holy Father loved the whole world so much that He sent us His only begotten Son, Christ Jesus because we, mankind, cannot save ourselves, (John 3:16, Isaiah 53, KJV). The word of God says, if we try to come up some other way to God other than through His Son, Jesus Christ, and the finished work of Calvary, the same is a thief and a robber, we must come in through The Door, Christ Jesus. This may seem antiquated, backwards, but God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God also said in His word, that as high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are his thoughts above our thoughts, and his ways above our ways, he knows best. God has exalted His word above His own name, and cannot lie ( Psalms 2:7- raised His hand and swore by himself that He is God, and all authority both in heaven and in earth and the Holy Spirit will confirm this affirmation. God is a God of love as so many people say, but he is also a God of judgement and he has gone a long mile to bring people back from the dead to testify of the judgements and goodness of God to us on earth. This is why God said in His word, despise not thou the goodness of the Lord, knoweth thee not that it is God's goodness that leadeth thee to repentance? God has been long suffering and did not destroy us when we committed sin against God and each other. Because He is good and long suffering, and because He knows and experienced cruelty, beatings, sufferings in the worst way for all our sins, He is not willing that any of us perish. So, how can we embrace and teach doctrines and beliefs that are in direct contradiction to what Jesus taught us, and say we love God"? Jesus said, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: and if satan cast out satan, he is divided against himself; how shall his kingdom stand? ( Matthew 12:28,KJV). There is a line of demarcation between those that serve God and those who do not, and the true believers always show up the counterfeit. the Holy spirit can never be fooled nor, compromise with the dark kingdom of satan or god would have allowed the devil to stay in his lost position after the devil rose up against God and is still raging against God today trying to take as many souls to a burning hell with him who reject Jesus Christ and believe satan's lies, it is not a matter of let us all get along. The devil is a liar from the beginning and extremely subtle. Yes, every person can choose whom they will serve, Jesus Christ or the devil, but no one can serve two masters as Jesus told us in His word. We will either cleave to the one and hate the other. The next big move will be the gathering of many religions under one world religion and it should not be, but God forewarned us in His word that this will be before Jesus Christ returns, as it was in the days of Noah so, shall it be when the Son of man returns. Everything we see happening now in the world is not new because history repeats itself, and the same ancient spirits have been around for centuries. Yes, every person has Constitutional rights and the Bill of Rights to believe and worship whatever they want to worship and serve. However, God has given us His laws and rights before mankind gave himself laws and rights. Jesus Christ does not force himself on anyone, and that is why He said, "whomsoever will, let him come and pick up his cross and follow me." The Catholic church who hired the Wiccan have established the tenants of their church doctrine and beliefs although, they hired the Wiccan employee, what the Catholic religious foundation is, was already established as a way of faith and belief, even if the former employee does not practice their beliefs. She should have complied with the wishes of her employer who exists for the reason that they do, and not for the Wiccan's belief in that setting context. Usually, churches and religious schools have the statements of beliefs, and it is made known to all people who choose to attend their services, churches, and schools. The problems arise when people of different faiths and practices try to merge, exist side by side or take over another faith's practices creating conflicts, threats, and violation of First Amendment speech and other rights under the rule of law. However, some people from different beliefs or religion are deliberately going into other religious establishments to challenge their rights to exist and practice their religions using the Constitution, and other laws just to sue them and to bring them down or to make them compromise their beliefs. If the employee who is a Wiccan wants to practice her faith then she is free to do so with like Wiccans in their own settings, not within another faith's employment, that causes confusion and compromise of doctrines. The same should go for people who own businesses and do not believe in homosexuality because it goes against their convictions of faith. Likewise, ministers and clergy should not be banned from exercising their right to meet online or by electronic means. I remember when some people did not want people meeting in person at a person's home for prayer and Bible study meetings, nor ring a church bell in their communities. there has been just too much infringement on everybody's rights in one way or another. Not everyone is going to embrace another person's faith and way of life. They just won't, and we should not expect them to do so, and it should not be forced upon any person who begs to differ, just as long as they are not harassed and bullied or killed for what they choose to believe because that is plainly wrong. There are businesses and establishments who exists to serve people who choose to believe in another spirit, god or religious belief or homosexuality, and they will welcome their business without giving them any strife, but don't go around forcing others to accept your ways or way of thinking by suing them. If this keeps up, everybody will sue and counter sue each other. Forcing people to accept a person's way of life or lifestyle that is contrary to one's own isn't freedom at all. I see it as bullying, harassment, and forcing one's will on another which is domination, and not seeking for peace. If the Catholic church is a private institution, or the Wiccans are a private institution, or any other private religious establishment exist for the sake of their beliefs, then respect their boundaries and go where you are wanted, needed, can get the help and services you seek, and be at peace. Be a peace maker and seek peace. We all have to give an account to God almighty even if you don't believe His word or have another faith. To God the Father, God's Son, Jesus Christ and God the Holy Ghost, three in one be all the glory and praises forever, world without end, amen!!!

      Mary J. D.-P.

    4. Bart McIntyre's Avatar Bart McIntyre

      the verse needed here is judge not less ye be judged. Christ himself spoke the words including the gates of heaven are in every man including wiccan. We just look at it from outside the box and a much earlier date. Blessing be yours and love n light

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    Yet Catholics use incense and candles, all derived from their early roots of paganism. Go figure!


    1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

      Lionheart, if you want Kimberly, she's yours. I don't want her. I don't have any use for her at all. And you can have flugo, too. I wash my hands clean of them. "Out, out damn spot!"

      1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

        They mean well. Kim’s ego and her misguided belief structure gets in the way at times, but that’s very common with those who believe their education surpasses most others. My education (though in aerospace and not as a chemist) is very similar to hers but you won’t see me lauding it to boost my ego in an attempt to impress, it’s just not necessary for this blog and has no relevance.

        As for flugo, he portrays the typical thought structure of deep indoctrination that currently clouds his ability to have freedom of thought and see reason outside of his religion.


        1. kimberly's Avatar kimberly

          Lion...if you would only use soap you might be able to keep a job.

  1. kimberly's Avatar kimberly

    Unlike homosexuality which is not a race nor a religion, wicca can at least be construed as a religion. Albeit not an organized one.

    1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

      You couldn't be more wrong, Kimberly. Although Wicca contains no dogma there is always more to be learned along the Well Worn Path, as we call it. And our traditions (which Christians call denominations (or sects), and the individual groups within them which we call covens, are very organized.

      1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

        All Wiccans are Witches, but not all Witches are Wiccans. And you have to be one of us to know the difference. So it was told to me by my mentor (a natural hereditary Witch and a Gypsy) when I asked him what the difference was, when I was seventeen years old. And with that I was enlightened. Besides being Wiccan, of the elder Wicca, also known as the old religion, I am a natural eclectic solitary, and you may also know me as Raven Apollo. Blessed be your feet that have carried you here, and all the way up. I'm sure you know the rest.

        1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

          I was hoping this comment would be put below Carrie's comment, but can see how most of it can apply here as well. However, the ending was addressed to Carrie, so please post this explanation below the comment it is referring to. Thankyou.

    2. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

      Why are you still stuck on homosexuality Kimberly? That was in another article. We only talk about the article we're on. You're welcome to go back to that article, and stay there indefinitely, or even permanently. You won't be missed by many.

      1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

        P.S. I might go back to that article too, just to further call you on your shit.

        1. kimberly's Avatar kimberly

          I'm enjoying the fellowship of people like you Carl. Its quite illustrative that a drooling and mumu-wearing, frizzy-haired old woman sitting in a basement finger pecking on an old computer while grinning and cackling can rattle your chain. And, I think people enjoy attacking me. There's certainly enough who do which is actually an extremely poor defense to what they claim to be their fundamental philosophy. Anyway, I'm not stuck on gays. The comparison was appropriate to wicca in discerning which is a religion and which is not.

  1. William Waugh's Avatar William Waugh

    I might be going out on a limb here, but common sense would advise not to be immersed in the alternate camp.

    1. kimberly's Avatar kimberly

      You have a point.

    2. Paul's Avatar Paul

      The discrimination idea is insane folks....... she was a DEAN ! What the freak ! She in a short time was employed and rose to one of the highest positions on a University campus . Her attitude was the issue !

      1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

        It sounds magical, doesn't it Paul? Magick is not instantaneous, but a process, although not usually a long and drawn out one. However, you must have the right correspondences for the particular spell, even if you're only using folk magic. And don't forget to psychically sweep the area of your circle first widdershins, then deosil, or vice versa, if you are so inclined, before you go flying around the moon, on esbat nights. Blessed be! And this concludes today's lesson in Wicca 0301. Class dismissed!

  1. revbjbecker's Avatar revbjbecker

    If we, as ministers of the ULC stand for anything, I think it should be for religious tolerance. Some of us are Wicca, for goodness sake! So in answer to the second question, of course Wiccans should be able to practice their religion openly, and work for organizations without being punished for their beliefs. The question of whether it is wise for a non Catholic to work for a Catholic School, or even whether there should be religious schools is moot. Whether a Catholic school is within its rights for firing someone because they practice another religion, clearly not. It's against the law. The questions Ms Hoffmann should perhaps ask herself are, "Does my religion hurt any of these Catholic Students? Does it hurt the College?" If the answer to either of these is yes, then she is breaking her own religious tenant: "An it hurt no one."

    1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

      Are you trying to say "Eight words ye Wiccan Rede fulfill- An' it harm none, Do what ye will "(referring to our higher Will). You might also keep in mind that "With the fool no season spend Or be counted as his friend." And also,"Merry meet an' merry part - Bright the cheeks an' warm the heart." And "Bide the Wiccan Laws ye must in Perfect Love and Perfect Trust." Blessed be!

  1. Laurie Cleveland's Avatar Laurie Cleveland

    I know EXACTLY how this woman feels because I was discriminated against working as an RN up in VT. When she accused me of "trying to recruit" a patient to follow witchcraft, she clearly showed her ignorance and I have subsequently been blackballed in the state of VT--you know the state that promoted everybody's right to live as they choose to live? That state? It has taken me quite a few years and having to redo a BSN that has forced me to look back. In retrospect, I would have given her my 2 week notice and then filed charges with the Board of Nursing and the state for discrimination based on religion. It is my personal belief system and it incorporates more than just earth-based things. The Catholic university where she was fired shouldn't have fired her if she had done nothing wrong. It's also calling the kettle black, because so many of the church's ceremonies are pagan in nature. Let's see, they moved the birthday of Yeshua from the spring/early summer to Christmas to coincide with Yule, which is the winter solltice and they did that to make it more palatble for people to join the church. The censor? Pagan. The water and wine? Pagan. The 2 candles? Pagan. Of course, then there is the controversy surrounding the birth of Jesus and it is interesting because it aligns perfectly with Isis. That's been a debate for centuries really. The church did it's best to totally wipe out and kill anybody who had scriptures that they didn't deem appropriate. Teachings of Jesus that they didn't deem appropriate. Then there was all the BS about Mary Magdalene being a prostitute. Really? It was well known that Peter was jealous of the power that Mary had over him with Jesus. The church was to fall to her and somehow, he managed to wrest it away. Of course, being in the proverbial bed with Constantine, figuatively speaking didn't help. Then we get to the Middle Ages where if you didn't convert, you were killed. Wise women in particular were targeted because they were powerful people within their communities as they were healers and the like. Of course, you had the plague as well, so perhaps killing them all wasn't such a great idea. Christianity went out of it's way to kill or forcibly convert everybody that was in their way and some orders were worse than othrers. Now, the table has turned and they are getting a taste of their own medicine and it's unfair? I am not a bad person. I am a good person. I am a pacifist by nature, but all bets are off if I feel that somebody is attempting to trample on my rights. I've had it with the "kick me" sign! I would suggest that before these idiots cause a mare's nest, they study the Rede. They study Universal Laws. It's called taking responsibility for your actions and it goes far more than The Golden Rule. i hope this woman wins. It's about time. If I had the money, I would go after that VNA and the State of VT for allowing them to gake over the entire state. They control everything and now there is only one place in the entire state that will hire people. That, my friends is called a MONOPOLY and like every single monopoly that we have in this country, they were supposed to be outlawed. A shame really, but it is what it is.

  1. Carrie's Avatar Carrie

    Wicca is one of the fastest growing movements in the world right now. While I am not a Wiccan, I will recognise that it is slowly taking the place of "religion". I am a proud Witch. There is a huge difference because I go by the old ways. The Bible is nothing but shite to me, full of misleading statements, violence, sex of the most perverted kind, and stupid outlandish judgements on the rest of humanity! The harsh desert religions are all filthy abominations, forced down the throats of the rest of the world. The spread of Christianity was filled with genocide and attempted genocide....no one came to the table willingly if they were't born to it. The Burning Time wasn't a purge of witches, it was a power, money and land grab from the women who managed to gain some wealth. Easy to accomplish as the money and property were equally divided between church and state!
    The whole idea of some drug frenzied woman going to hell and seeing "all kinds of witches there" sound like a peyote induced nightmare! We don't follow the Christian god, nor is there any Devil! Most Wiccans and Witches will gladly tell you that we do not have a religion. It is our faith. The difference is that Faith is following the truth of oneself, Religion is blindly following what someone says is truth. Brightest Blessings to all.

  1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

    Although the US government now classifies Wicca as a religion, it was described to me by my Wiccan mentor ( who is now one of my spirit guides) as more than a religion. It is our way of life.

  1. Amber's Avatar Amber

    I would say no., Over all, in the grander scheme of things, it isn't. However there are sects that do shun it, mostly due to either a lack of real education on it or an overload of false information on it. You would be amazed at the crazy you hear from rumor mills that have nothing to do with it.

  1. Wanda's Avatar Wanda

    Hi, I just wanted the say that Love is the answer. We must remember that we are all light and with that comes love. Love for self this earth and others. The university was wrong and this is her journey so what she needs to learn from that experience is what she will receive. We on the other hand should always practice love. Spread love that’s why Jesus died. We all have rights but our morals need to be guided by love.

    1. Bart McIntyre's Avatar Bart McIntyre

      blessings your way wanda. Im with you we should never judge a person on their beliefs but learn from them instead. We might not see eye to eye but i bet you can teach my old soul somethings and i could you. You touched me and to me this is what we are

  1. Rev. KathleenOBrien's Avatar Rev. KathleenOBrien

    I am an ordained interfaith minister not only through ULC but also through The New Seminary (oldest interfaith seminary in the US). I was first baptized in the Christian Church in Indiana. Upon being married I converted to Catholicism. But then I grew up. I am now in addition to the above a Wiccan priestess. I personally find Wicca to be an order of magnitude less hateful and more religious than any "Christian" church or group I have ever attended. I do have an altar in my home with Both the Goddess and the God. What is also an earth-based religion. The pentacle is NOTHING evil. It's five points stand for: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and SPIRIT (the divine). Refer to the article for the statement "do what ye will, and it harm none" . The real problem with many "Christian" churches is that they harm everyone that doesn't believe EXACTLY as they do. I'm not saying all are like this, but looking at the current state of events in the United States and the rise of nationalism and Nazi-ism, the imposition of a small group of people's will upon everyone else because of hatred and bigotry is completely unacceptable to Wiccans. In one of my circles (which is a sacred space just like a church) I Invoke the Goddess for a group of women. Everyone in the room felt the divine healing presence and we use the energy generated to heal ourselves and others. That is what a true Wiccan does. So those of you that hate, STOP. Jesus did not stand for nor represent hatred and bigotry. Many Christian churches have forgotten that fact unfortunately.

  1. william n Hodges's Avatar william n Hodges

    Personally I have never understood why the government has any right to tell anyone who they have to hire.I do not hold for discrimination and would not deal with any company or organization that did discriminate but still I do not understand where hiring in a private enterprise is a government function.

    1. D. Sepic's Avatar D. Sepic

      It's not the government telling a private enterprise who they have to hire, it's the government putting rules in place that tell employers what factors they "cannot" consider when making a decision about employment. Among those factors are race, ethnicity, gender and religious affiliation You may not patronize a business that discriminates, but then again, how would you actually know?

      1. william n Hodges's Avatar william n Hodges

        If i put my money into a business and I stand to lose my business if the employees are not the ones I want serving my customers who is going to compensate me if the business fails.

        An easy example is the Airline industry. In the beginning they could demand certain height and weights for flight attendants and the government got involved and said no they could not do that. Today our airlines have a mottle group of flight attendants many so fat they bang passengers when they walk down the aisle. I put up with that for 7 hours on the way to England on an American flight. The attendant was obese and rather rude when i complained about being bumped. Then I got on a British Airways plane and thought I had gone back 30 years. The crew were all fairly young and in good shape. I know that American would like to discharge this attendant but can not, but I also know I will not fly on American again if possible. Will the government subsidie the fares they will miss for my not using the airline.

        I am so tired of hearing about personal rights in this country and nothing about responsibility. If I put up the money to open a business I should have the final say on who I hire.

    2. Anon's Avatar Anon

      Because otherwise corporations will use their power to discriminate and control. Look up the history of how corporations treated their workers in the United States and other places. Often workers were little more than slaves owned by the company store. This is why the government needs to be involved in policing abusive powers of corporations.

  1. Oh Mo's Avatar Oh Mo

    Does god - or do gods - have a sex/gender? Methinks not, and those who subscribe to the silly notion that any supreme being is anointed with any flavor of genes is, well, silly. He and she are not divine, but It probably is.

    1. Mary's Avatar Mary

      Ifyou really want to know the answers to your questions then ask Him, the God who made the heavens and the earth and who answers by fire, He is God and has all authority over all His creations, and he is going to answer you in the name of His dear Son, Jesus Christ, amen. It is your right and privilege to know.

      1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

        To all those who are now starting to wonder if “any god” really exists, and also to those of you who are concerned and wondering if religious indoctrination could be affecting your thought structure, or judgement, to the point of being mentally affected, please take a look at this answer from Mary.

        Notice that she means well, but can you see how affected she has become. She genuinely believes what she has written. I know it’s scary, but this can be the result of having your mind completely taken over.

        I genuinely wish her well, but I fear it’s too late.


  1. Ed Selby's Avatar Ed Selby

    It comes down a matter of law. I am not familiar with the university in question, but many Catholic universities do have Jewish instructors on staff. Their student bodies are made up of individuals of many faith traditions. I have seen many attend class both as students and instructors with their heads covered. If similar conditions exist at the university in question, and this instructor was treated differently than those of other faith traditions, that is discrimination.

  1. Frank's Avatar Frank

    This professor in all likelihood showed a pattern of behavior over a number of years that was proactive in order to make her point. I've been an educator for 20 years and can tell you with certainty that administration would be delighted just not to have to constantly deal with whatever drama she was creating. I'm sure this has nothing to do with her beliefs and everything to do with forcing her bosses to constantly deal with whatever shenanigans she was up to to draw attention to herself or her cause. They know better than to discriminate, we sit through hours of workshops every year so that there aren't legal issues like this. No one would create work for themselves by actively harassing this person unless she was constantly creating problems they were forced to deal with. Finally, yes they are adults, but young and impressionable, and while I encourage people to explore all spirituality, in my experience the "New Age" stuff involving crystals and all that mumbo jumbo is worth exploring as a cultural phenomenon but philosophically and spiritually a dead end. It's not dangerous except that it's a waste of time, full of inconsistencies and incoherence, disorganized, and ultimately a very self-absorbed and self obsessed path.

    1. WesleyB's Avatar WesleyB

      VERY well stated!

  1. Arron Robinson's Avatar Arron Robinson

    Have to say that it is pretty gutsy, given the historic interaction between Catholic institutions and those they believed where witches, to expect to work for them openly without any repercussions.

    I see a large gulf of difference between working in a public institution, or one that is secular, and one that is part of the Catholic faith. I would expect that if I were to go work for a private school, that I would be held to their ethical framework and policies. I would have no expectation that I would be allowed to openly practice or discuss my faith in such an environment in anything other than a few degrees of distance and the broadest of generalities.

    Sorry, but I think this lawsuit is off-base and that she should have stayed in the shadows.

  1. Rev. CH's Avatar Rev. CH

    The Catholic Church is not a democracy. They've demonstrated that for hundreds of years. I can't imagine why as a person who attended the university, and later worked there, that Ms. Hoffman would not have known paganism would most likely not be accepted. It will be interesting to see how this turns out as it pits her religious freedom against theirs. Many workplaces discourage discussion of politics and religion because they are so disruptive.

  1. Carl Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Elfstrom

    This blog is too addictive. I rode my bicycle a mile to and from Family Dollar where I got forty dollars worth of groceries, a few hours ago, and haven't put them away yet. It was raining too, and I got soaked, but my clothes have since dried. I must tear myself away from this blog!

    1. kimberly's Avatar kimberly

      OMG.....that you shop at Family Dollar says a lot about you Elf. I'm not sure I can tolerate associating myself with anyone who doesn't shop at Kroger's for groceries.

  1. Rev. Dr. Scott Baldwin, DD's Avatar Rev. Dr. Scott Baldwin, DD

    Why someone who is other-than-Judeo-Christian would take a job at a religious school is beyond me. Sure, she may not have had a problem working for a Catholic school, but most religious institutions have a very strong dislike for pagan beliefs. She had to have known at some point it would become a problem. That said, I am not Wiccan, but I do follow a pagan belief system. I also am a proponent of Christianity and defend public displays of the 10 Commandments, the Cross, and sure don't mind prayer in public such as before school events including graduations, as well as at sporting events. People are so easily offended it's sad.

    1. Bart McIntyre's Avatar Bart McIntyre

      A job is a job. Does her religious belief change the fact she is a teacher no matter what school it is. I personally glad she had a chance to teach the young minds no matter what belief they follow.

  1. Father Fred's Avatar Father Fred

    Perhaps I'm missing something, but if I profess to one faith, why would I want employment in an institution of another faith. Isn't this sort of like being a fan of one football team, and you go and sit on the other team's site, and then become shocked when someone makes a comment or treats you shabby?

    I'm sure there is some justification given the "out of sight, out of mind" comment. And excuse the snarkyness, but that same mantra could appliy to a certain's faith's preist profession.

    But I can't help but ask the question; did you really feel that your beliefs would fly in another faiths house? A small part of me feels sometimes people look for trouble as a way to bring attention to themselves.

  1. Kevin Crabtree's Avatar Kevin Crabtree

    it is simple....if you do not believe in a certain religion then DO NOT GET A JOB WORKING FOR THAT RELIGION!!!!

    1. Bart McIntyre's Avatar Bart McIntyre

      she wasn't working for the religion but molding the young minds of tomorrow. Im glad she had a chance to teach and we need more like her. She was teaching without showing her beliefs until a student asked her thoughts on Halloween or as i call is samhain. Religion has nothing to do with her ability to teach. I guess next it will be because she drives a ford she cant work here.

  1. Bill Fox's Avatar Bill Fox

    The Catholic Church did have a policy against witches, based on the Bible. Why does this witch believe she is being discriminated against?

  1. Kodiak's Avatar Kodiak

    Now, if you profess one belief, why would you go to work at a facility that is, just by the name, tells you that they have a belief that does not agree with yours? If I may be so bold, how many employees at the Wiccan national or international headquarters are of other beliefs? Just curious. And... telling your boss what YOU are going to do does go counter to what most employers enjoy. Maybe request first. And good grief, are y'all still on the christians? I'm beginning to think this is just as Intolerant as those pesky christians. I'm still watching for coverage of other faiths that don't choose to conform with everyone else. Why all the anti-christian sentiment? Anyone with an average intelligence can tell you that you cannot change others. You can only change how you react to them. You can rent them space in your head forever. It's not going to change anything but give you a headache. Quit preaching diversity if you only mean diversity that fits with what you think is okay.

  1. James's Avatar James

    That’s like working for a Chevy dealer and telling people they should buy a ford. They would not last long

    1. Bart McIntyre's Avatar Bart McIntyre

      But then if you think the ford is better n safer wouldn't you want the salesman telling you. Be it them getting fired or not. just saying

  1. David's Avatar David

    A Catholic university is a private institution. The constitutional ban on establishment of religion applies to the government and government-funded organizations only. There is plenty of legal precedent. The Wiccan will lose this case.

    1. Bart McIntyre's Avatar Bart McIntyre

      with all the other things the catholic church is going through right now this will be swept under the rug quickly i believe.

  1. I.S. Johnson's Avatar I.S. Johnson

    Good Heavens! Okay first who did Jesus discriminate against? He threw the guys engaging in usury out of the temple, however that was not discrimination it was just good sense. Jesus discriminated against no one he even helped a Roman officer. Is Jesus not the central example of Christianity? He said love those who hate you, yes? Also, we have a First Amendment that says we get religious freedom, correct? So, if you want it to protect your rights to worship it therefore must protect her right to worship because the first restriction will lead to restrictions for all. That would be a bad precedent to set.

    Most of our founding fathers were deists, they believed in a creator being but found the dogma of Catholic and Protestant faiths too restrictive. That is why the first amendment was so important that it was FIRST. I can hear the Dogma barking in many of the prior posts. GET OUT OF THE BOOK AND INTO THE SPIRIT Folks! We are clearly having a better time, as you all seem so angry and we are pretty happy. Is college not for looking into all ideas and finding the ones we feel best about. This is a tempest in a tea cup.

    What is it conservative minds are so afraid the rest of us are going to find that you do not even want us looking? Truth perhaps? Happiness Perhaps? Peace perhaps?

    Faith is nice in all its forms Woo Hoo!

    Hugs and cookies,

    I.S. Johnson

    1. Carrie's Avatar Carrie

      A friendly spirit who speaks to the heart of the matter! My mother spoke very much the same way you do. She was the most Christian person I have ever known, showing love and compassion to all. She told me once that, when she was a child, they used to open their doors to strangers feed the poor and help the sick as "You never know which may be an angel." I realize that these are more uncertain times but when the whole idea of compassion for your fellows is cast aside in favor of "I've got mine." The world is in trouble. To use the teachings of good works is to have a deep inner faith. Religion, in my view, is a quagmire of conflict. Faith is something so very deep and personal that it should be respected. While I am not a Christian, I can and do give the faith my respect. I won't bore you with my own, as it is mine, and a path that makes me very content. I love people and wish they too could show and spread the love for all creature, large and small.

      1. I.S. Johnson's Avatar I.S. Johnson

        Very kind of you Carrie. Love is the cure to hate. The I've got mine screw you mentality is a big part of the trouble our world faces. Each will come around in their own time. I do what I can as life unfolds before me. That is all any one can do.

        Carry on bravely,

        I.S. Johnson

  1. kimberly's Avatar kimberly

    Liberty to pervert is not freedom. It is an affront to those who have the common sense to know right from wrong and work for the good of all.

    1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

      just who are you saying is pervert? kimberly

  1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

    Excerpts from a U.S. District Court Decision recognizing Wicca as a religion

    Overview: David March is an inmate at the Marquette Branch Prison operated by the Michigan Department of Corrections. While in prison, he converted to Wicca. March initiated a suit under 42 U.S.C. g 1983 in a U.S. district court against the prison warden, his administrative assistant and the religious coordinator. They had prevented him from using incense in his rituals. His lawsuit claimed "that the defendants have deprived him of his First Amendment right to freely exercise his religion and his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the laws." The memorandum recognizes:

    Wicca as a legitimate religion,

    that some Wiccans are solitary practitioners and others are part of covens, that there are differences in beliefs among Wiccans and Wiccan traditions as there are in Christianity, that the inmate's 1st and 14th Amendment rights were violated.

    Prisoners retain their First Amendment right to freely practice their religion. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). However, prisoners' constitutional rights may be subjected to reasonable restrictions and limitations. Bell v. Wolfish, 341 U.S. 520, 549-51 (1979). A prison regulation which infringes on a prisoner's constitutional rights is valid if it is reasonably related to legitimate penalogical interests. Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 89 (1987). In Turner, the Supreme Court enumerated four factors to be evaluated in determining the reasonableness of such a prison regulation. Id at 89-90. Applying the Turner factors to this case, the United States Magistrate Judge concluded, in a report and recommendation dated December 1, 1997, that the defendants had indeed acted unreasonably in denying Marsh the incense in his religious ceremonies. The United States Magistrate Judge determined that the institutional security concerns were not legitimate; any concerns about personnel shortage were unfounded; and Marsh's desire to burn incense could be easily accommodated. The parties in the pretrial order have indeed stipulated that it is unreasonable for the plaintiff to be banned from using incense.

    However, there remains the question whether the Free Exercise Clause is applicable to Marsh's case, because the defendants have heretofore said that Marsh does not need the incense to practice Wicca. The Free Exercise Clause only protects beliefs that are "rooted" in Marsh's religious beliefs. Thomas v. Review Ed. of the Indiana Employment Security Div., 450 U.S. 707, 713 (1981); Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 215 (1972). The task of determining what is a religious belief or practice has been described as "difficult" and "delicate." Thomas, 450 U.S. at 714. Courts are not "to question the centrality of particular beliefs or practices to a faith, or the validity of particular litigants' interpretations of those creeds." Hernandez v. Comm 'r Internal Revenue, 490 U.S. 680, 699 (1989); Thomas, 450 U.S. at 716. This Court may only perform the "narrow function" of determining whether Marsh's desired practice of burning incense arises out of his honest conviction that it is required by Wicca. Thomas, 450 U.S. at 716. Whether or not other practitioners of Wicca hold different beliefs is not determinative. Id at 715-716.

  1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

    Excerpts from a U.S. District Court Decision recognizing Wicca as a religion

    The memorandum recognizes:

    Wicca as a legitimate religion,

    continue of the first part

    According to expert testimony, Wicca is a neopagan religion having its roots in pre-Christian Europe. Wicca accepts a number of Deities representing things found in nature. Because they have no permanent, dedicated places of worship, Wiccans create sacred worship space by "casting a circle." In doing this, Wiccans use elements representing air, earth, water, and fire. Incense represents air. Wicca is not a doctrinaire set of beliefs, but is more akin to a set of practices which vary between groups and between individual practitioners. There are more solitary practitioners than group practitioners of Wicca. Marsh is a solitary practitioner.

    It is possible to cast a Wiccan circle without the use of incense. However, many Wiccans believe that incense is necessary to cast a circle. Marsh believes so. As is the case with some other religions, Wicca utilizes incense for other purposes, such as cleansing and promotion of a religious feeling that could include love, protection, and healing. The Court finds that the use of incense does have a role in Wicca, though it is not the sine qua non of the religion for some of its practitioners. The Court further finds that Marsh genuinely believes that the use of incense is essential to his practice of Wicca. That other Wiccans, such as the Church of Wicca, believe otherwise, does not mean that Marsh's beliefs are not protected by the Free Exercise Clause. Thomas, 450 U. S. at 715-716. Therefore, it is clear that the defendants, by denying plaintiff Marsh incense to practice Wicca, have violated his First Amendment free exercise right.

    Additionally, defendants have denied Marsh equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment. Because Marsh does not allege that he is a member of a suspect class, to prevail in his equal protection claim he must prove that (1) persons who are similarly situated are treated differently by the state, and that (2) the government has failed to provide a rational basis for the dissimilar treatment. Hosna v. Groose, 80 F.3d 298, 304 (8th Cir. 1996); see Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc., 473 U.S. 432, 439-442 (1985).

    Native American inmates are permitted to "smudge" sweet grass, sage, and other medical plants in their cells in furtherance of their religious practices. Buddhists are now allowed to burn incense in prison chapels or other designated prison locations. Defendants have not been able to provide any explanation why Marsh as a Wiccan is not similarly situated with those religious adherents. In fact, there is testimony that Wiccan incense could be comprised of the same plant material used by the Native Americans. Finally, the defendants offer no rational basis whatsoever for treating Marsh differently from Native Americans and Buddhists. The defendants have conceded that the ban on Marsh's receiving incense is not reasonably related to any penalogical interest. Hosna, 80 F.3d at 304-05.

    The defendants are under no obligation to provide every religious sect or group in the prison with identical facilities, Cruz, 405 U.S. at 322 n.2; Thompson v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 712 F.2d 1078, 1082 (6th Cir. 1983). Prison officials must be "accorded latitude in the administration of prison affairs." Cruz, 450 U.S. at 321. Nonetheless, in this particular case, it is clear that Marsh was treated differently from similarly situated inmates for no reason at all. Marsh is clearly entitled to an order enjoining the defendants from prohibiting his religious use of incense in the Marquette Branch prison chapel or similar facility, should the plaintiff be transferred to another prison.

    Marsh is also entitled to recover compensatory damages for emotional distress. While the compensatory damages resulting from Marsh's having missed celebrating Holy days since mid-1995 are difficult to ascertain, those damages will be assessed at a total of $300.00. Marsh shall also recover his attorney fees in accordance with 42 U.S.C. 1988. An appropriate judgment will enter.


    Reference: David Marsh, Plaintiff; John Hawley, George Pennell II, and Bob Batchett, Defendants; United States District Court, Western District of Michigan, Northern Division, No. 2:95-cv-285. 1988-JUN-30

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