The Legal Situation for Pagans and Other Minority Beliefs


Paganism is being developed and reconstructed 'on the hoof'. As young pagans mature and their life experience brings up new questions of offspring, old age and death, the bulk of pagans take up a position on new issues slowly and are falling into a stance by default. There is still no definitive perspective on pagan rights coming from the self-styled pagan leaders of today even though I have been pressing for it as a first measure for a decade. When pagans try to reflect their world-view by publishing, say, Pagan Colouring Books, or Genuine Fairy Tale Books for children as an antidote to the disgustingly biased un-PC Christian fairy tale books which continue the religious discrimination of centuries, they can fall into the trap of dancing to the fundies' own tune. Unless Pagan Books for children are unequivocal about their intentions they WILL be used to confirm the fundies' claims that the intention of paganism is to recruit other peoples' children into covens. Look what a rumpus they made over the Harry Potter books simply because of the stereotypical occult caricatures! I remind readers that it is only five years since the leader of one of this country's most well-known children's charities said that he believed some pagans and satanists sacrificed children in their rites! Church historians by-and-large still base their 'official stance' towards paganism on the admissions extracted from The Inquisition's victims under torture. They really do believe that Pagans and Satanists sacrificed children because that's what THEIR history books say. In 1994 another leader of a child-welfare charity claimed on TV that witches kill children, render their fat into candles to be used at the Sabbat and make necklaces of the finger bones of babies. If you are one of those easy-going occultists who think these people are idiots who will not be listened to I will point out that the first person which I mentioned above is massively influential, has the ear of the Prime Minister and virtually controls the direction and substance of leading edge social work in the U.K. The second acted as an 'expert' in the Satanic Abuse Cases during 1989/90 and continues to lecture on the subject in the U.K. to police officers, social workers, MPs etc, as well as continuing to liaise with other child-welfare groups throughout Europe. Now, we realise that books on Paganism which are meant for children are usually produced by Pagan Parents for Pagan offspring and are usually NOT meant as a missionary project for non-pagans but unless this position is categorically and unequivocally stated somewhere in the books or advertisements for them and unless the publishers have already thought out a system of control which prevents non-pagan minors from obtaining them without some parental control, it will be seen clearly as a form of recruitment. As will any organisation which sets itself up to inform children about the genuine aspects of paganism or w ho wishes to help children get into contact with like-minded peers. Many of the people who write Pagan kids' books appear to know little of their responsibilities and seemingly know even less of the LEGAL implications of what they are doing.

Often they are Crypto Christians who have NOT been listening to what the SAFF has been successfully predicting because our forthright statements offend their Christian Inner Core! It is these people who parody the methods which the Xists use with their children on the assumption that, because they mean no harm, their good intentions will suffice. They thus play into the hands of the fundies who are cynical opportunists. In response to the rise in the Pagan birth-rate, pagan publications which feature sections for kids of pagan parents are likely to increase. Publishing child-related pagan information is invariably done without any qualification or discussion of the religious rights and responsibilities of children or their parents. For instance, in practice Children are rarely if ever asked to obtain their parents permission before contributing. Thus these publications may breach the rights of parents in international law and play into the hands of the fundies. Of co urse pagans will retort that we have a RIGHT to teach our children about Paganism. I concur, WE DO, and it is also our DUTY to do so, but that is not the point. Any fundie troublemaker can use this informal situation as 'evidence' of child recruitment into Paganism. When the fundies wanted to start the satanic child abuse panic in 1989 they had no real evidence of crimes because Satanic Abuse did not exist. Instead they surveyed the growth in activity in Paganism (which had by and large previously gone un-noticed) and misrepresented it as 'Satanic'. . They cobbled together an infamous 'dossier' of supposedly child-related Satanic and Pagan links which was simply suspicion and inuendo. To their eternal shame these witch-hunters were helped by some Pagan informers, notably the self-styled 'Witch-Mother' Beth Gurevitch who provided an insiders view whilst assisting Dianne Core, (Childwatch supremo) and her parliamentary agent Geoffrey Dickens MP! . The subsequent data was presented to gove rnment departments as 'proof' that Witches were involved in recruiting children for Satanic Abuse. All hearsay rubbish and disinformation of course. Ten years ago the greatest influx of people into Paganism was from the youth culture and very few of them had children. Our defensive stance became primarily 'We do not allow anyone to join a coven until they are over 18' but today, when there are an estimated 250,000 pagans in the U.K. this is simply not sufficient. The fundies' child recruitment claim was the foundation stone of their campaign to suppress occultism and witchcraft. This is EXACTLY what they were trying to make the Social Services believe during the SRAM and is also the reason why Geoffrey Dickens tried to bring in laws to restrict paganism to over 18s. Untrue accusations of the recruitment of children for abusive purposes were a fundamental feature of EVERY major case of persecution over the past decade, including the Bridge of Dreams and S.A. fire bombings. The well-meaning pagans who reach out to children within our own community obviously have no idea that their activities are being logged by the Satan Hunters. Have they any idea of the dangers to their own kids by being seen by social services as prospective satanic abuse organisers? The fundies have sleepers on virtually EVERY occult magazine mailing list, ready to turn an off-hand remark into proof of a Satanic Conspiracy - and unwise, unthoughtful, undiscerning pagans who think naively that a 'good purpose' is evidence enough of intent are giving them every help to do it

. The Plastic Pagans think they are performing in a Vacuum. Nothing could be further from the truth. So what can we do? To not pursue our beliefs is to actually capitulate to the fundies. Very true, and THAT is why SAFF advice is all important, because we are familiar with the state of play and how these people think. The purpose of the SAFF is to catch the problems at the leading edge of these arguments based upon ten years of backbreaking research - and come up with satisfactory answers and legal disclaimers which avoid giving the fundies a leg up to crush us, whilst at the same time EXERCISING OUR PAGAN RIGHTS TO THE FULL. Usually such an approach, because it is based on Right Thinking, actually indicates a solution and can benefit Paganism greatly - as in this instance. So here is the official SAFF view. In international law (based on the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on human rights - part of which is shortly to be amended into B ritish statute Law). It is the right of every child [in the U.K. child technically means anyone under 17 years but in reality due to overlapping responsibilities in law it means anyone under the age of majority - that is; under 18 years] to be brought up in the belief and culture WHICH ITS PARENTS CHOOSE FOR IT. That means it is ILLEGAL in international law (and certainly immoral) for ANY group, person or organisation to try and lure a child away from its PARENTS' beliefs. On this point in particular the SAFF has fought and won campaigns to press the DHSS to ensure that pagan children in Hospital or who are taken into care have the facilities for pursuing their parents religion and can observe special festival dates and diets. (this to avoid them being surreptitiously indoctrinated by missionaries and turned into involuntary victim impostors). Of course this law is good. It works FOR us in that whilst we are not supposed to lure non-Pagan children (who wants to anyw ay?), neither are missionaries from other faiths allowed to interfere with the beliefs we have chosen for our own children. Pagan Parents independently have EVERY right to bring up their own children as Pagans. This very important distinction is conspicuous by its absence in most pagan books and magazines and the people at the P.F. and Minor Arcana do not appear to know of it as it DIRECTLY affects what they appear to be trying to achieve - a pagan information dissemination point for children. By qualification any child who is of Pagan Parents will not need an outside organisation to make contacts for them because they will occur naturally in the normal course of their parents' worship with others. Any other method of them making contact breaches their parents' rights. It is not the job of the P.F. or Minor Arcana or any other outside group to interfere with or take over the religious instruction from Pagan Parents ( or parents of other beliefs) without their pe rmission. In short these people are entirely out of order if they do not already have rules in place to recognise and respect parents' rights. If Pagan Parents wanted their help they would presumably ask for it.

It is obviously time for a proper debate on this subject amongst pagans generally because present contradictions are legion and there is no reason to allow the situation to develop detrimentally. For example, whilst exacerbating critics of paganism by open-door policies of this kind, many pagans contrarily give away their innate rights by the oft stated self-imposed rule that no under-18s are allowed into the circle. Why ever not? Parents have the right under international law to involve THEIR OWN offspring in ANY religious activity or worship which is necessary for the pursuit of their religious beliefs, either alone or in company with others. The only caveat to this is where such observances breach the laws of the land, or harm the child and this is why Dickens and his fundie cohorts went to such great lengths to slander the religion of Paganism with bogus claims of child abuse. If they had succeeded in establishing that child-abuse was a concomitant part of Paganism they could have LEGALLY suppressed YOUR right to pass your religious beliefs on to your offspring and nothing in European or International human rights law would have protected you. In other words Pagan parents have every right to practice their religion with THEIR children from the day they are born onwards AND SHOULD BE URGED TO DO SO in order to recognise and keep both the faith and that right alive. The usual short-sighted retort that 'we never have anyone in the circle unless the are 18 years old or over' actually gives away rights we hold and plays into the hands of the fundies by tacitly agreeing not to involve OUR OWN offspring in our religion, whilst they are completely free to missionise to non-Christian children in school and indoctrinate their own offspring anytime they like. Worse, implicit in this arrangement is the idea that paganism is somehow inherently harmful! The SAFF has plenty of evidence that weird forms of Christianity harm childre n and adults far more frequently than Paganism ever could but this is the wrong argument to use. Whilst acknowledging and reinforcing the Christians' right to teach their offspring about Christianity, Pagans must demand the right to teach their own children Paganism. It is absolutely ridiculous that the average pagan is so woefully ignorant of these issues and does not often know how to respond to these situations. SAFF research recommends the following three point response as being the most appropriate position for Pagans.


(1) There is nothing inherently harmful in Pagan ceremonies and liturgy.

2: Pagans do not allow children to attend any ceremonies unless they are the offspring of participants.

3: Pagans respect the wishes and opinions of all non-Pagan parents and do not permit outsiders access to activities until they are over 18 and can legally make the choice for themselves.

This neatly and cleanly overcomes ALL objections, legal, moral and fundamentalist. At the same time it reserves and underlines your rights as a Pagan. It allows for research into Pagan history and beliefs by children with the safeguard that this cannot lead to further involvement without parental approval and is therefore actually more responsible than the freedoms demanded by Christians for their own beliefs where they will often pro-actively try to convert non-christian children under the mistaken belief that they have a right to do so. A reworked version of this three point response is equally applicable to most other occult paths.

Whenever I see children mentioned or services advertised or recommended for them within the Craft these cautions are not usually given by editors who should know better. To ignore these problems is to jeopardise Pagan rights and that works against our best interests. Being well-meaning is not enough because the fundie agitators are lying in wait to seize every opportunity to suppress our beliefs and they have ALREADY proven a number of underhand tactics successful. Like the tobacconists who were arrested for selling cigarettes to under 16s after the fundies arranged for some of their own children to pose as under-age smokers and entrap tobacconists into supplying them. They use similar entrapment tactics on Video shops. Sending Christian agitators' kids in to try to rent adult films and then forcing police action. Often these campaigns have the full backing and cooperation of the police to start with.

Having to constantly live within a society which religiously discriminates against us means that foresight is the safest way to ensure that we do not in future lose the rights we now take for granted. Remember that we enjoy these parental rights based on test cases which have been applied to orthodox religions elsewhere. We presume when accessing them that Paganism would be judged a religion by our government (the S.A.F.F. have done work to substantiate this ) if a test case occurred. However it is NOT certain and so we must take care. They who do not remember the past are condemned to suffer a repeat of it. Remember! Dickens and his cronies in Parliament attempted to get an amendment to the 1990 Criminal Justice bill to make the attendance of minors at Pagan ceremonies illegal. I saw what this would mean and I knew what these agitators were after. Imagine it being a criminal act for you to celebrate the goddess with your kids - at home or anywhere else? One slip of the tongue at school and your kids are in care and Dad is in a hostel under social services licence. I fought tooth and nail to scotch that evil amendment and I won a reprieve on a technicality. It cost me a fortune in mailings and effort. I was the one who had my finger on the pulse so that Dickens couldn't slip the amendment in unchallenged. Once established in law it would have been the thin end of the wedge towards suppressing paganism with draconian sectarian laws. Sometime or other Pagans have got to WISE UP and begin to think before they act. Consider this; when Dickens' amendment failed he vowed to represent it under another guise. Anubis claimed him before he could do so but his backers are STILL there, and still as active behind the scenes. Now they are stronger and richer. Little if anything has changed. Don't drop your Guard.

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