| Grinchy December Wars
By Christa Landon
America is a capitalist country, and such a
major annual event as the December shopping season needs
recognition. Mass marketers
and large corporations naturally don't want to offend anyone
-- or at least anyone who represents much market share. Thus
the corporate giants have quietly become allies to the ACLU
and other liberal organizations by voluntarily adopting
secular symbols of the holiday which are tolerated by almost
But naturally, not everyone is happy.
year, right after the Halloween Hell House Hatefest, the
season rolls 'round and the Grinches hold their annual
Charles Halff hates Christmas! He argues that Christmas is a Pagan holiday, of this world, and Roman
Catholic. He correctly points out that even the
gift-giving on Dec. 25 is of Pagan origin. He claims
that Biblical doctrine forbids celebrating Christmas.
And of course, he objects to the celebration of Jesus' birth
on Dec. 25 because scholars generally agree that Jesus
wasn't born on that date. (2006, www.sovereigngrace.net)
One might call him the Ubergrinch!
Most Christians don't go that far in their prosecution of
the annual Christmas wars. They mostly complain that
modern American Christmas is more about Kris Kringle than
about the Kristkindle. They fulminate about the
fact that Christmas is too much fun.
For this, they say, there's plenty of blame to go around:
there are other, postmodern Grinches too! They want to
take the Christ out of Christmas because they are concerned
about separation of church and state. Creches at the court
house imply that Christianity is normative in the US.
Such public displays intimidate minorities, including
the 14% of the American populace who are atheists and
agnostic (not to mention the Buddhists, Ba'Hais, and
born-again and again Pagans).
Secular Humanists argue that the only fair alternative would
be the establishment of the highest common denominator by
removal of sectarian symbols from the public sphere.
Acceptable public displays would include Santa, gifts, candy
canes, but not creches, menorrahs, biblical quotations, or
most Christmas carols.
I see their point, but I prefer a win/win solution.
atheists and agnostics argue that if ONE religious symbol is
displayed in public space, then ALL must be permitted.
polytheist, this makes perfect sense to me.
Naturally, pluralism this still offends those who want
freedom of religion only for those who follow Christianity.
is a classic Grinch. He argues that if the secular
humanists aren't stopped, it will be "Always winter but
never Christmas." In his mythos, the secular humanists
are playing the role of Chesterton's White Witch. While he
acknowledges that evergreen trees were sacred to Pagan
winter solstice celebrations, he warns that Christmas trees
may soon be banned because they now symbolize the unending
life that broke in upon this wintry earth with the birth of
Iverson argues, "Ours is not the first society to banish
Christmas. Since the birth of Jesus, there have been
repeated attempts to smother its significance beginning with
the attempt of Herod to murder the child." He then mentions
only one: the Stalinist effort to secularize the holiday by
focusing celebrations on New Year's Day and by introducing
"Grandfather Frost." http://www.lahontanvalleynews.com/
Mr. Iverson, and company:
Christmas is in no danger from secular forces.
However, Christmas HAS been banned many times by
Christians, for religious reasons. The Puritans
banned Christmas for everyone by force of law. The
Jehovah's Witnesses still do among their own. Early
Christians opposed celebrating ANYONE'S birthday, because
such celebration is a Pagan custom.
In the Dark Ages, Pope Gregory cleverly ordered Christian
missionaries to adopt and reframe any Pagan traditions
which the people would not forsake. This strategy worked
to create a nominally Christian Europe which cherished
some embarrassingly fictitious saints, and most old
Christmas traditions which cannot be found in the Gospel
year the Christmas wars recur, as an opportunity for the
Grinchly to appropriate the social commons and condemn
everyone who celebrates differently. Before you
fulminate against your neighbors, secular or
sanctimonious, please do your homework!
Most modern Pagans smile and say "Merry Christmas and Glad
Yule." We're happy
to share our tree, and gifts, and feasting.
you don't want 'em, you can't have any!
same token, feel free to express your religious feelings,
as long as you support our having the same freedom.
Whether you want to keep the Christ in Christmas, the Ch
in Chanukah, or the Happy in Holidays,
| Summer & Winter
Solstice 2007: A
modest Pagan Proposal
by Lowell McFarland
DISCLAIMER: None of the information contained herein
should be construed as legal advice, nor am I or Tuan Today
engaged in the practice of law. If you need legal advice,
or legal clarification of issues presented below, please
seek the advice of independent legal counsel. The following
are only my personal opinions.
There are permanent Solstice sites around the world, on
Indian reservations and at the University of Massachusetts
Fascinating information about Solstice sites is at:
Additionally, there seems to be renewed interest in local
Pagan groups participating in the two annual Solstices by
considering erecting a small Solstice display where local
authorities permit Christian crèches and Jewish menorahs to
be erected on public lands (parks, city hall, schools,
On review, the process seems to be doable by most all Pagan
groups with a little persistence and a little money.
Atheists have succeeded in putting up Solstice signs in
several locations over several years.
I have talked to several local authorities and the National
Park Service (for the Washington DC Ellipse where the
National Christmas Tree and National Chanukah Menorah were
displayed) about potential Pagan Solstice displays along
side Christian and Jewish displays. Of course, you must
check with your local authorities and a local lawyer, but
generic requirements seemed to me to be the same:
There seemed to be no systemic objection to a Solstice
display near Christian and Jewish displays by the
authorities (to be verified locally);
A permit was mandatory and might take months to get. It
normally would specify everything including the erection
date and removal dates;
The Solstice display must be sponsored by a local Pagan
group with a hierarchy, a named chief officer, a postal
address and a listed telephone number;
The design of the Solstice display must be approved for
safety and to meet the uniform requirements of the local
site (The Washington DC Ellipse allows for a forty foot
menorah). Otherwise, several local authorities said that
there was a maximum height of eight (8) feet.
Electricity, batteries, propane, guy wires, etc., are all
The construction and removal group must be approved by the
There are sometimes provisions for restoring the public lawn
to pre display condition or paying local authorities to have
An insurance policy may be required to indemnify the local
authority from any lawsuits or accidents related to the
Having done commercial photography across the US (with
generators, platforms, closing streets, etc.,), these
generic requirements seem to be almost standard and
And having been partially involved with the Maes Howe and
Newgrange (single time) Solstice broadcasts, and knowing the
years of planning and costs, local Pagan Solstice displays
across America in 2007 should be almost easy.
The first item is to identify a local public property where
there is a Christian crèche and a Jewish menorah. Christmas
trees seem to sometimes count and sometimes don't. Large
candy canes, reindeers, Santas in a bubble don't count from
what I have heard. Private property, churches, synagogues,
home fronts, etc., don't count.
Second, talk to the local authorities with your groups bona
fides and indicate that you plan to officially request a
permit for Solstice displays to be erected around June 21st
and December 21st, 2007.
Further steps may require a lawyer, but should be done
pleasantly but firmly.
It might be best to really start out simple and then make a
bigger and better Solstice display as the years go by.
Supposedly, the large National Chanukah Menorah on the
Ellipse (now at forty feet and with the US Army band), was
first erected as a simple small menorah by a small New York
City Jewish group who applied for the permit:
A very simple design, a "lollipop Solstice", could be easily
constructed from an umbrella pole, an umbrella water weight,
some guy wires, two plastic decorator suns and some battery
operated lights. Because of rampant vandalism and possibly
anti-Pagan activities, a duplicate Solstice sign should be
ready just in case. As there are many new and waterproof
battery operated strings of lights, many more designs are
possible including wire globes and Celtic spirals.
Seeking permits for the Summer Solstice of June 21st, 2007
was suggested to let all legal and practical matters come to
a head so that they are all resolved for Winter Solstice on
December 21st. National Pagan organizations and national
donations for material and legal fees may be important for
this Pagan step forward.
"Tuan MacCarrill/MacParthalon, Forever the Celtic story!"
Lowell McFarland <firstname.lastname@example.org>
| National Council ofChurches Uses Ecumenical Clout to Successfully Negotiate with Taco
Press Release from the National Council of Churches, USA
June 1, 2005
Louisville -- The executive board of the National Council
of Churches USA has called on fast food chains to follow
the lead of Taco Bell to guarantee the human rights of
farm workers in their supply chains.
"Four years ago farm workers from Immokalee Florida
stepped forward in faith, believing that together as
consumers, corporations, and workers we could create a
better way of doing business that builds human
well-being," said Bishop Thomas J. Hoyt, Jr., President of
Workers picking tomatoes for Taco Bell are seeing a
significant increase in their wages and the promise of
improved working conditions because of the March agreement
between the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and Yum
"And today we are seeing the first fruits of our efforts,"
Hoyt said. "But in truth, this is only the first step. We
now look to McDonald's, Burger King and Subway to walk
with the CIW and their allies into a new future, so that
the human rights of farm workers throughout the fast-food
industry will be similarly ensured."
The executive board
commended the CIW and Taco Bell for reaching the
precedent-setting agreement that will improve wages and
working conditions for farm workers. The agreement ended
an almost four year consumer boycott of Taco Bell, which
the NCC supported since November of 2003.
"We commend the CIW for the principled and non-violent
campaign it led, which drew the world's attention to the
grave abuses endured by farm workers in this country and
our ability as consumers and major corporations to help
put an end to exploitation," said The Rev. Dr. Robert
Edgar, NCC General
"We are particularly pleased that Yum Brands is taking a
leadership role in promoting this kind of model throughout
the fast-food industry," Edgar said. "It is time for
other major buyers to follow Taco Bell's lead. Taco Bell
has demonstrated that change is possible."
"The NCC publicly calls upon McDonald's, Burger King, and
Subway to support the socially responsible purchasing
principles established in this agreement and to meet with
the CIW to ensure the highest standards of human rights in
their own supply chains," Edgar said.
Farm workers picking tomatoes in Florida are earning 40-45
cents for every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they pick and
have an annual median income of $7,500, according to the
Department of Labor.
The CIW-Yum Brands agreement established the first-ever
direct, ongoing payment by a fast-food industry leader to
farm workers in its supply chain to address sub-standard
farm labor wages (increasing workers wages from 40 cents
to around 72 cents per bucket of tomatoes picked).
It also established
an enforceable Code of Conduct for agricultural suppliers
in the fast-food industry, guaranteed by CIW involvement
in the monitoring of suppliers, and market incentives for
agricultural suppliers willing to respect their workers'
rights, even when those rights are not guaranteed by law.
Contact: NCC News.
Leslie Tune, 202-544-2350, email@example.com;
Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2252, firstname.lastname@example.org
Commentary by Christa Landon
Council of [Christian] Churches (NCC) used its ecumenical power to support the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in its
struggle for the human rights of farm workers.
The Pagan Institute commends NCC for their efforts.
And, of course, we urge Pagan folks to reward Taco Bell for
heeding their dall.
BUT, we Pagans could -- and
should -- do more.
The NCC doesn't include in its membership
Jews, Muslims, or UUs, and certainly won't include Pagans.
It's an ecumenical group, combining Christians, not an
HOWEVER, there ARE other ways in which Pagans can
participate in interfaith efforts.
Why should we do so?
Any regular reader of PAGAN INSTITUTE REPORT will
recognize that many of our own civil rights problems are due
to general public ignorance of who we are and what we care
Even the most religiously liberal have often written off our
movement as only interested in
entertaining fantasies and our own most narrow interests. I
have always countered that by pointing out the sales of
books by anti-racist Pagans like Starhawk.
So why doesn't social justice activism have a bigger
presence in the public imagination? There are lots of
reasons why Pagans who are social justice activists often
leave their pentagrams hidden when they do so.
Sometimes it would only support the claims of the Radical
Religious Right; for example, they claim that abortions are
human sacrifices performed by witches to increase demonic
power (I'm NOT making this up!)
On the other hand, there's a place for making it known that
our Pagan faith moves us to do charity and seek social
justice for ALL.
Collaborating on common goals is probably the most effective
educate Christians about the values and virtues which Pagans
and Christians hold in common.
And I can think of no
better way for us to get -- and earn -- the respect our
clergy want from their Christian peers.