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Updates: Sacred Paths Center, James Arthur Ray, The Winnemem Wintu, and Harry Potter

This Sunday, I have updates on some previously reported stories.

Sacred Paths Center’s Fiscal Crisis: As I reported on FridaySacred Paths Center, a Pagan community center serving the Minneapolis-St. Paul area (aka “Paganistan”), sent out a message that they were in dire fiscal straits and needed over 7000 dollars immediately if they were to avoid closure. Now one of the SPC’s board members, CJ Stone, has been interviewed by PNC-Minnesota about the situation.

“We were working from a membership model. A Pagan Community Center has been the dream of several Twin Cities groups, working for the past thirteen years. You would think if the idea of a Pagan Community Center, supported by members, was possible, it would have happened by now. Thirteen years is a long time. When Teisha (Center Executive Director) said , “We have a problem, we have to solve it”, we finally asked, “Are we even using the right model?”

The answer is NO. We have already gotten the members we are likely to get. Even with a tremendous response, say 500 members, it would be barely enough. We just can’t do it. We made the mistake thinking the members would support it. We learned you can’t support a Pagan Community Center just on membership, at least not without years of work to build it up. We just have a month. We need some big donations now, to get off the membership model as a primary source of income, and continue. Then we can get on to better retail, more targeted retail, better service to our teachers and students. Finding a community that needs what we have got, and then serving it clearly and directly.”

The SPC board has estimated that they have to raise $7,500 immediately, and $12,000 by the end of July to remain open and viable for the longer term. So far 20% of their goal has been raised, this includes matching funds from an anonymous donor. We’ll keep you posted on this story as it develops.

James Arthur Ray Aftermath: After the negligent homicide convictions for New Age guru James Arthur Ray, Mitch Horowitz, author of “Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation,” ponders whether we should regulate retreats and rituals. While Horowitz acknowledges that Ray-inspired regulations “could be valuable,” he ultimately opposes government intervention.

The public should be alert to such situations—but not at the expense of the free exercise of spiritual experiment that has long characterized our religious culture. When considering crackdowns on ersatz sweat lodges or extreme rites, Americans ought to take guidance from what Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson wrote in 1944: “The price of freedom of religion . . . is that we must put up with, and even pay for, a good deal of rubbish.”

Horowitz endorses better education, something the new not-for-profit organization, SEEK, (Self-help Empowerment through Education and Knowledge), endeavors to do. Meanwhile, the story of Ray’s deadly sweat lodge ritual doesn’t seem to be going away, the Guardian just did a lengthy write-up about Ray, anti-Ray activists (and cult observers) are not letting him slip out of the spotlight, and you can bet there will be appeals once he’s been sentenced.

Winnemem Wintu Postpone Coming of Age Ceremony: Back in April I mentioned that the Winnemem Wintu Tribe in Northern California was coordinating a petition drive to close a small section of the McCloud River so they can hold their coming-of-age ceremony in peace. In previous years a “voluntary closure” was ignored by local power-boaters who shouted racist and threatening epithets at the Tribe. Now, the Winnemem Wintu have decided to postpone this year’s coming of age ceremony because the US Forest Service refuses to enforce a mandatory closure.

“For more than five years, we’ve asked the Forest Service to enforce a mandatory river closure for the ceremony’s four days in order to give us the peace and privacy we need for a good ceremony. They have continually refused to honor this request, even though it is within their power to close the river. Because Marisa is the young woman training to be the next leader, our Chief decided the risk was too great and the indignity of holding a ceremony without complete privacy could no longer be tolerated.”

The Winnemem are planning to try again for a mandatory closure next year, and are considering filing a complaint with the United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. You can keep up with this story by following the tribe’s Facebook page, and their blog dedicated to this issue.

Harry Potter and Witchcraft: Over the years I’ve looked at conservative Christian responses to the ever-popular Harry Potter books and movies. How they “glamorize the power of evil,” inspiring opposition that bordered on parody. Even the Bush administration worried over the demonic powers of Harry. But it looks like the great battles over Harry Potter seducing children into the practice of Witchcraft have finally burnt out, with former critics starting to admit they might have overreacted a bit.

“William Brown, president of Cedarville University, an evangelical college east of Dayton in Greene County, agreed that Christians’ opinions of Harry Potter have changed. “The world did not come apart and children did not immediately become witches and warlocks because of Harry Potter,” he said.”

That’s a big admission from an evangelical heavyweight. It really shows how the oxygen has gone out of this issue (author JK Rowling essentially admitting it’s a Christian allegory probably helped). Not that there won’t continue to be those who find it evil, but the Harry Potter culture war may finally be ending.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

 


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