On February 10, 1975, a small, dusky woman with a mysterious European accent was arrested by an undercover police officer in Los Angeles, California for violation of municipal code 43.30, a  local law deeming fortune telling and “occult” practices illegal unless practiced in the context of a recognized religious tradition.  To the Honorable Judge Michael T. Sauer, a noted Christian conservative, this case brought before him on April 10th, 1975 was simply one concerning the violation of a Los Angeles municipal code.  To the defendant, Zsusana Budapest, a radical feminist and Neo-Pagan, as well as the protesters arranged in the streets outside the courtroom, this trial was not simply a legal matter, but rather an act of legal persecution.  Little did Judge Sauer know at the time, he was presiding over a case that would later become noted as the last witch trial in America.  [1]In a statement released to the media, Budapest stated:
            “I am fighting for the religious freedom of all women. As long as there is a white male blue-eyed god in the heavens women bend their knees to, there will be a white male moral authority on Earth who will tell her what to do, and what to feel, and how to pray.
I am a witch, worshiping a free goddess who has no traffic with men. Diana, the goddess of the wild. The lesbian goddess. She who rules over women’s mysteries. She who is oracular. She who is the soul of nature.
My coven is the Susan B. Anthony Coven Number One. We are a feminist religious group, consciously reclaiming the goddess religion for modern wimmin today. We have started corporations and we think this arrest is a result of the authorities’ ire against women trying to create their religious beliefs.”[2]
Unfortunately, Budapest’s trial was not the last brought upon Neo-Paganism in America. Despite the increasing public presence of their sociopolitical efforts, many Neo-Pagans continue to find themselves in the courtrooms where they are confronted with private legal matters and challenges to many aspects of their daily lives.  In lieu of this, however, many Neo-Pagans have found themselves entering American courtrooms as representatives of Neo-Paganisms, viewing their trials, much like Budapest, as opportunities to overcome oppression and ignorance.  More specifically, many Neo-Pagans enter the courtroom with two objectives in mind: first, to fulfill their personal legal agendas, and second, to utilize their time in court as a forum to educate the court, as well as the general public, on Neo-Pagan faith.  In their dual struggle to educate the public and for religious legitimacy, American Neo-Pagans have generated a body of literature and developed numerous tactics to manipulate the judicial system to their advantage, hoping to secure their legal rights and raise public consciousness.
To more fully understand the behavior of American Neo-Pagans in the legal system, there must first be an examination of who American Neo-Pagans are, as well as the beliefs that define their faith and religious traditions.  However, as a group, American Neo-Pagans are hard to fix with defining traits.  American Neo-Paganism is a religion of individuals. While communities are formed, most Neo-Pagans operate under their own guidelines. This is a faith that encourages all practitioners to become their own priests or priestesses.  The inability to catalog the general attitudes, beliefs, and practices of the American Neo-Pagan movement remains a stumbling block to their study.  However, efforts to understand who they are can be achieved by examining the commonalities that bind them as a community.
Five identifiable traits can be associated with American Neo-Pagans.  While Neo-Pagans may disagree on many aspects of their faith, these five aspects are common throughout the movement.  First, Paganism aims to draw out humanity’s innate divinity. Second, it abolishes the Western distinction between magic and religion. Third, Paganism is a set of mystery religions that are based on experience rather than revealed through an individual or hierarchy. Fourth, the essence of Paganism lies in the creative power of ritual. Fifth, it is protean and eclectic.[3] [i]
In addition to these five factors, there are several additional factors that allow scholars to understand who American Neo-Pagans are.  More specifically, Pagans are described as coming from professional and educated backgrounds.[4] Many live simply and quietly.[5] The jobs they take fulfill traditional roles of healer, protector, teacher, caregiver, and inventor.[6] Surprisingly, many Pagans work in the sciences, presumably given their reverence for the natural world, and thus a fascination with the natural sciences. An interview with a working class Marxist leaning Pagan reveals the duality of Neo-Pagan lives. Work, bills, and responsibilities are the real world. Rituals offer an escape from the real world, a time to recover and explore the self. Only recently have politics become a larger part of the movement.[7] While earlier Pagans were self-identified as either non-political or self-focused, modern Pagans are more socially conscious. They seek equal rights under the constitution, and many work to establish Pagan organizations as tax exempt groups.  Overall, Neo-Pagans are not afraid to mobilize against threats to their faith.  Other issues faced are the development of an actual Pagan clergy and the establishment of organizations to further the growth of the movement.[8]
Despite Neo-Paganism’s vocal nature, the religion has not gained much attention in academia.  Most of the scholars who study the movement do so outside the realm of peer reviewed, professional scholarship.   Neo-Pagan scholarship is frequently generated by the Neo-Pagan movement itself.  The vast majority of these works are published as instructional pieces that claim to offer the secrets to success if the magical system found within is utilized.  These works are devoid of serious scholarship and do little to improve the movement.  Further, many of these works are responsible for the comical view of Neo-Pagans in the general population.
Mixed into these self-help publications are works considered to be classics in the Neo-Pagan community that are currently undergoing historical evaluation.  The historiography is caught in a maelstrom of fact, faith, and faulty scholarship. Numerous interpretations of the history of Neo-Paganism exist. Margaret Murray’s work is earliest presented and is one of the most debated topics in the Craft still to this day. Murray argued that witchcraft is a surviving ancient pre-Christian religion from Europe. The major issue with Murray’s work is that it is not only questionable academically, but has been cited as truth in many of the earliest book on Neo-Paganism and Wicca. Gardener[9] and Buckland both held to her work with steadfast devotion. Murray’s work is a great piece of folklore but not something to base a faith upon.[10]  Most notably, her mention of the  “burning times,” the name given to the witch trials of medieval and renaissance Europe, has caused many Neo-Pagans to see any form of legal persecution as such. Additionally, Murray’s statistics of witches killed during this era is considered over blown by modern scholars.  Works such as the White Goddess have not fared well over the  decades having been proven historically inaccurate by several scholars.[11]  Mircea Eliade’s work links witchcraft in Europe with the beliefs of Indian and Tibetan religious practitioners. According to her, the witchcraft is a misunderstanding or various religious and social rituals practiced by sects of Italians and Romanians.[12] Her beliefs are not widely accepted by academics, yet many Neo-Pagans cling to this outdated history and its images of Neo-Pagans as targets of systemic religious oppression.[ii]
When Neo-Paganism does appear in a professional academic format the movement appears as a footnote in a study concerning environmentalism or the Feminist movements.  There is very little academic discussion about the movement itself. In fact, many scholars approach the movement as a threat to Christianity, writing studies that cast Neo-Paganism as a threat to the status quo.[13] The three major works on the American Neo-Pagan movement are Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon, Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon, and Sarah Pike’s Earthly Bodies Magical Selves.  Each of these works explores a different angle of Neo-Paganism, citing it as a viable religious movement.
Hutton‘s work focuses on the history of the Neo-Pagan movement. His research denies a link to pre-Christian faiths.  According to Hutton, the first Neo-Pagans were Victorian era English artists and thinkers who were distraught over the rise of industry. They personified the English country-side, using deities from Roman, Greek, and Egyptian mythologies.  While developed as a partner to Christianity, the metaphor soon became faith.  Hutton calls Neo-Paganism a postmodern faith, yet recognizes that it is a valid belief structure.  The chief stumbling block to a widespread acceptance of Neo-Paganism comes from the challenges that the faith presents to traditional established religions.
            Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler was, to many, the first look at the American Neo-Pagan community.  Before Drawing Down the Moon, many Pagans faced discrimination and fear from their neighbors. Loss of jobs, friends, and in extreme cases children, were common consequences of being “outed.”[14]  Adler’s investigation into the secret lives of Pagans shows that they are not evil worshipers of Satan, child molesters, or corrupting the innocent, as they are commonly perceived.  Adler’s work provides an overview of the entire movement, and has been a staple of the movement and its study for nearly forty years. Her work represents the first academic work to explore the Neo-Pagan movement as a legitimate social phenomenon.
One academic who explores the link between Neo-Paganism and American traditions is Sarah Pike.   Pike explores the relationship between Neo-Pagans and Christians, as well as the relationship between festival spaces and the local communities. According to Pike, Americans have a fear of Satanism, in many ways Satan and his followers have become so called “bogey men,” shadowy figures that hide in the woods and tempt Christian children away from Christ and into a world of drugs, sex, and darkness. Seeking reasons for the shifting morality of America, American Christianity has created satanic scapegoats out of Neo-Pagans. Angry at poverty, divorce, and a general lack of control, many American Christians link Neo-Pagans with media images of satanic rights.
Pike further argues that many fundamentalist judges see their role as that of moral defender, combining their faith and their powers in the law.  She questions their use of murky language in family courts to judge individuals based on their religious interpretations of motherhood and family.  This is what marks a difference between the legal cases concerning Neo-Pagans of the 1960’s versus those of later decades.  When a family or a community is struck with tragedy, child abuses, or crime, it is easier to blame some faceless “other” than it is to accept that the true cause of events might be local.[15]  This was especially common during the Satanic Panic, a moral panic that began in the 1980s and lasted until the late 1990s.  Many of the court cases of the 1960’s to the 1980’s were attempts to legitimize American Neo-Pagansim as a religion.  This came at a time when many Neo-Pagans were not politically motivated, particularly as Neo-Pagans and the Neo-Pagansim engaged in a great deal of self-reflection.  Caught up in the American Counter Culture[??1], many saw Neo-Paganism as part of a wider cultural interest in environmentalism, feminism, and moral freedom.[16]
When did Neo-Paganism become recognized as a religion?  Currently, there is no defining case that establishes any branch of Neo-Paganism as legitimate sect, and to date, the United States Supreme Court has yet to hear any cases that would legitimize the Neo-Pagan faith. Despite this, there are several state and federal cases that have been found favorable to the various spiritual traditions of Neo-Paganism. Those cases that have resulted in legal recognition of Neo-Paganism concerned the recognition of various subsets of the Neo-Pagan faith.  In these cases, specific groups, rather than the movement as a whole, were under scrutiny, and therefore were individually evaluated and determined with regards to whether the religious standards set forth by the United States Supreme Court were met.  [17]  What should be patently obvious here is that courts can and do routinely determine what is, as well as what is not, a religion for purposes of the First Amendment.
As a minority religion, American Neo-Pagans often suffer at the hands of the larger American population; however, unlike other minority religions, such as Mormonism, Jehova’s Witnesses, and Judaism, Neo-Pagans must defend their religious status.  The most common forms of abuse are simply acts of ignorance.  Most Neo-Pagans can expect to have an encounter with the “average American” concerning their religion.  These interactions often come about as a result of displaying religious jewelry or accouterments. Such instances are not only uncomfortable and demoralizing, but many have ended up in court. [18]
While Neo-Paganism as a whole has yet to be recognized, several cases exist that recognize Wicca as a legitimate religion.[iii]  State and Federal courts have specifically considered Wicca as deserving of First Amendment protection. The hallmark federal case wasin 1985, when Herbert Dettmer, a 29 year-old inmate incarcerated at the Powhatan Correctional Center in State Farm, Virginia, claimed that his First Amendment rights were being violated by prison officials.  Dettmer, a practicing witch and member of the Church of Wicca, was denied access to religious worship materials (in this case salt, sulfur, a white robe, and ritual knife, candles, incense, and kitchen timer).   The results of the trial granted that Wicca was an actual religion and that Dettmer was required to have access to religious materials that were allowed to all other faiths.  This denied him the unsupervised use of a knife, robe, and timer, but allowed him to utilize incense and candles.[19] The United States Supreme Court has asserted: “…we have often stated the principle that the First Amendment forbids an official purpose to disapprove of a particular religion or of religion in general.”[20]  It should be noted, however, that the courts which have considered Wicca have frequently used the term synonymously with Witchcraft.  Until the Dettmet case, no distinction between the two has been made. Thus, it can be asserted that modern Wicca/Witchcraft enjoys First Amendment protection, deeming the Church of Wicca , a particular Neo-Pagan organization, worthy of religious status. [21]
The Dettmer and Budapest trials share similar traits.  Both sought to challenge laws that prevented the practice of a Neo-Pagan faith, and each were considered  landmark cases, establishing legal precedent in the standing of Neo-Paganism as a valid religion.  During these cases, individuals such as Gavin and Yvonne Frost,  as well as organizations such as Circle Sanctuary, were active in the legal system. Through their efforts an established method of educating judges, lawyers, and juries about Neo-Paganism was developed..[22]  Though the First Amendment challenges characterizing the 1960s and 1970s were less common by the 1980s, they all but disappearing in the1990s.  Initial strides of the Neo-Pagan movement were the result of several factors in American society, such as the moral crisis known as the “Satanic Panic”, economic issues, and a growing number of Neo-Pagans having children. During the Satanic Panic, Americans became hypervigilant for signs of Satanic activity, and the American media, especially daytime talk shows, presented Satanism as a rampant danger to communities.  As a result, Neo-Pagans often found themselves to be targets of overly aware neighbors who confused their religious activities for Satanic rituals, and who viewed them not as citizens deserving of their First Amendment rights, but rather as social threats. While many earlier Neo-Pagans were entering courtrooms willingly to challenge the barriers to their religious practices, after the Satanic Panic, many found themselves in courts, defending their beliefs.
 During the Satanic Panic, Neo-Pagans faced physical, economic, and emotional harm at the hands of neighbors and local police.  The Zaleski’s trial shows to what extent local authorities are willing to go to fight supposed Satanic influences in their communities. The Zaleski’s were sued by the City of Palm Bay, Florida for holding religious services in a residential area.  [23]  The local authorities were called by a neighbor who complained of loud noises and illegal street side parking. Upon arriving, the police were met by neighbors who complained of suspicious activities, missing pets, and strange robed figures.    The suspicious activities were a birthday for the Zaleski’s young son, a party consisting of less than ten individuals, yoga classes, and a barbecue, all of which are innocent activities, engaged in by many Americans on a daily basis.  This is a common complaint among Neo-Pagans who often feel that their Christian neighbors are constantly vigilant for Satanists.
During the trial the Zaleskis’s religion religion emerged as a notable factor.  Charges of sacrifice, bloodletting, and Satanic rituals were brought up by city lawyers.  The Zaleski’s had to defend against charges of child abuse and the murder of neighborhood pets.  City officials, working on accusations offered by neighbors, brought the stereotypes up in court, while stating that the unorthodox nature of the Zaleski’s religion had nothing to do with the violation of zoning laws.  As a result of this lawsuit and the counter suit by the Zaleskis’s, they faced charges of vandalism and members of their coven were threatened with the loss of employment, as well as their parental rights.  Worried about the threats to their family and what would happen if they lost their trial, the Zaleski’s contacted the wider Neo-Pagan community for assistance.  Gavin and Yvonne Frost came to their aid, offering their experience and tactics in defending and explaining Neo-Paganism in American courtrooms.  The Frosts’ strategy is to treat all legal matters as cases of religious persecution and as violations of the First Amendment.  They argue that all such cases must be tried at the federal level, removing the case from the biased lower court.  They also brought a large amount of material, explaining what Neo-Paganism was and how their beliefs were linked to earlier legal cases such as the Dettmer case.[24]  While their religious writings are controversial in the Neo-Pagan community, their legal work is praised   In the end, though the Zaleskis’s were victorious against the city, the loss of money, loss of security, and media attention were more than the family wished to deal with.[25]
Another aspect of the Satanic Panic era was Neo-Pagan parenting and family practices, many of which were too brought before the courts.  As Neo-Paganism grew in popularity, adherents began to have families.  The goals of the movement shifted from individual self-expression to the establishment of a faith.  The previous decades of legal legitimacy were the result of individuals going to court for their own rights, often with the larger movement in mind.  However, the following generation of Neo-Pagans looked to establish more than individual rights.  This generation was concerned with the growth and spread of the faith.  One key aspect to the spread of Neo-Paganism is family.   Neo-Pagan aspects of childhood, motherhood, and parenting would face serious challenges during the rise of Christian fundamentalism and the Satanic Panic.
Neo-Pagans of this later generation also began focusing on their roles as parents.  Neo-Pagan parents value the importance of “magic time”, a special time to spend with children, free from the demands of the day.[26]  Both parents fulfill the roles of teacher and protector, removing the hierarchy found in common parent child relationships.[27]   Neo-Pagans also include their children in the cycle of life, birth, death, and all the biological function in between. These are treated as important and natural.  Children are taught to respect these biological functions and to respect their bodies.  Several publications encourage parents to be open and honest with children about birth and death, claiming that children often feel insulted by being left out of these turning points in life.  Nudity is a common aspect of many Neo-Pagan rituals and festivals.  While controversial to many Americans, Neo-Pagans desexualize nudity and treat it with significant respect. Children are taught to respect the physical differences of others, as they are taught to respect themselves. Guilt and shame, just as physical attacks, are seen as hurtful by Neo-Pagans, and are avoided by parents.  Sexuality is something to be respected and explored.  Pagans do not use fear to enforce sexual norms, but instead speak of and educate their children of the consequences associated with sexual behavior.  Pagans foster open communication concerning sexual practices, number of partners, and sexuality.[28]   [??2]Many Neo-Pagans caution that if children do take part in skyclad (sacred nudity) rituals or have occasion to see other Neo-Pagans skyclad then the parents must be careful, especially in places where anti-Pagan sentiment is strong.  Sometimes the neighbors cannot be trusted [29][iv]
In many cases, Neo-Pagans are at a disadvantage in family courts; however, Neo-Pagan legal experts support the community by providing education and support.  While religion is not officially an issue in child custody cases, most states use the “best interest of the child” standard. According to the statute, religion is only used as a determining factor if a threat is visible to the child.   There is some variation in this clause between states, as some feature language allowing morality to be considered.   However, it should be noted that to remove a child from a home or a parent based solely upon religion is unconstitutional, as “courts have repeatedly held that custody cannot be awarded solely on the basis of the parents’ religious affiliations and that to do so violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution . . . .” [30]  In family courts, the decision of the court is final.  There is no appeals process and many Neo-Pagans fear they will end up at the mercy of a judge who puts religious and personal feelings ahead of legal justice.
            The Wallis case is an example of how a combination of moral panic and abuses of judicial power affected a Neo-Pagan family.  The Wallis family was reported to local authorities by an aunt, a hospitalized psychiatric patient, who  alleged that the Wallis’s were Satanists who engaged in ritual abuses, and were planning to sacrifice one or both children during the next Equinox.  The children, ages two and five, were removed from the Wallis’s home by state police and placed into state custody.  While in state custody, the children were examined for sexual abuse, and only after medical and police investigations showed no signs of abuse were the children returned.  [31]
Issues abound in Neo-Pagan faiths concerning the welfare of children.  To many non-Neo-Pagans, religious practices that included nudity, bladed weapons, alcohol, fire, and hooded individuals speaking in chants bring up frightening images of Satanists.  Many Neo-Pagan books concerning parenting warn parents to exercise caution when including children in religious rituals. Many suggest that parents clearly define their beliefs and provide legal bases for their legitimacy.  What is very evident is that many Neo-Pagans feel that their faith is under siege.  While the exact number of child custody cases is difficult to ascertain, the Neo-Pagan community is constantly discussing situations where their faith is viewed negatively in court. Whether the number of cases is as high as the Neo-Pagan community proclaims, there are still verifiable instances where Neo-Pagans, usually women, have had their religious beliefs used against them in child custody cases.  It is this fear and sense of persecution, grounded in the family, that marks a difference between the Neo-Pagans of the 1960’s and those of the 1990’s and later.
This shift in legal issue and courtroom presentation is best explained through the experiences of Candace Lehrman White, better known as Lady Sintana.  An exploration into how Neo-Pagans utilize courtrooms would not be complete without a discussion of Lady Sintana.  Public Neo-Pagans were rare enough in the 1970s and public Neo-Pagans in the Deep South were rarer still.  Lady Sintana was not only public, she was very active.  Nestled in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, her Victorian style home offered a secure environment for Neo-Pagans and those seeking to learn more about them.[32]  The story of the Ravenwood Church is a microcosm for the larger Neo-Pagan community.
Lady Sintana started the Ravenswood Church in 1975 much to the chagrin of neighbors.   Her home was recognized and zoned as a church by the Atlanta City Council, a proactive step taken by Sintana that would eventually lead to legal issues several decades later.[33]   Her legal troubles in the 1970s were typical of those faced by others.   Much like Budapest’s trial, Sintana ran into difficulty with local ordinances against fortune telling.   During an October holiday event, police raided Sintana’s home and arrested a guest tarot reader for violating anti-fortune telling law, a little known and vaguely worded municipal code that was written nearly a century before the revival of Paganism.  Sintana was arrested for conducting a business without a license, and both women were fined $100.[34]  Furious, Sintana turned to the local papers declaring this was a targeted violation of her civil rights.   Investigation by The Atlanta Journal found that psychic readings, such as those given in Sintana’s home, were commonly used fund-raisers in the area,  pointing out that the Humane Society of Atlanta had held one only a week previous.  The Atlanta Journal also claimed that the fines levied against Sintana and her guest were nearly twice the usual fines levied in these cases.   With media support and a carefully crafted public image, Lady Sintana took her case to the Georgia Supreme Court.  While her case did not result in a repeal of the law, it generated a great deal of local support for herself, as well as the Neo-Pagan community in Georgia. [35]
The 1970’s continued to be full of legal causes for Sintana.  A year to the day of her arrest, firefighters were called to put out a “grass fire” by neighbors.  The fire was a small bonfire behind Sintana’s home used as part of a Samhain celebration.  When firefighters appeared announcing their intention to investigate a fire, Sintana and others asked them to leave, claiming that they were interrupting a religious ceremony.  Tempers flared as firefighters neared the fire.  During the scuffle, one firefighter claimed that Sintana threatened him with a knife.  The police were called, yet no arrests were made.  Once again, Sintana turned to the Atlanta Journal to mobilize the community.   According to Sintana the firefighters were ignorant of her craft and ignored both herself and the off duty police woman Sintana had hired to protect the gathering.    Sintana and others of the Ravenwod Church felt violated.  While there were no legal ramifications to this incident, Sintana still utilized the media to present her faith as a valid religion.  Her work in the late 1970s generated a great deal of public interest in Neo-Paganism and support from the local community. [36]  Many local papers interviewed her concerning her faith and the practices of her church, presenting them with a healthy mix of seriousness and humor. These strides, however, were about to be challenged by the Satanic Panic and local Christian groups.  While the events of the 1970s were often the result of ignorance on the part of civil authorities, the 1980s saw the Ravenwood Church under attack both ideologically and physically.
In 1980s Sintana faced more than legal trouble.  Her home was vandalized and attacked on numerous occasions.  Eventually her status as a church and tax exempt institution came under fire from local officials.   The legal troubles began after a U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave Lady Sintana status as a tax exempt institution.  During the early 1980s Sintana had fought the internal Revenue Service for this classification eventually winning it after nearly a year in court.   After her legal victory was announced in the local papers Chrisitian Ministers began to accuse her and those who attended Ravenwood of several villainous acts.  [??3]
This level of abuse continued through the 1990s.  Sintana became the political target of Georgia State Senator John Parrish, who lead protests against her and the Neo-Pagan movement as a whole. Parrish was clear in his goal of removing Santana and her religion from Georgia.  He ordered investigation into her home, stating “ something is going on behind those doors”. His actions lead to a change in local zoning laws.[37]   More specifically, in 1993 local officials changed the zoning laws concerning churches requiring that all zoned churches set on a minimum of three acres of land[??4].[38]  Sintana’s home rested on little more than a single acre.  The following local officials granted allowances to an Evangelical Christian Church that was on less than half an acre.   After the removal of her status as a church, Sintana’s home was heavily monitored by local authorities and many gatherings were disrupted by police, who considered any gathering at the residence to be in violation of zoning laws.[39]  Sintana again turned to local papers for support and community outreach, using the celebrity[??5] of her recent legal issues to challenge folks to come learn about her religion. Through her efforts, Sintana gained the support of many in her community, who joined with her in voicing their outrage to the city council.[40]
Lady Sintana and the Ravenwood Church continued to struggle with local officials for status as a church.  Despite attacks and lawsuits, Lady Sintana managed to captivate a large Southern community.  Her articles, letters, and escapes filled newspaper pages for the three decades.  While not always successful in her legal issues, Lady Sintana defined what it meant to be a Neo-Pagan in an American courtroom.  Her public demeanor and use of media to generate outreach and outrage amongst her neighbors became standard practice for many Neo-Pagans facing legal troubles.  Much like the Zaleski’s and the Frosts, Sintana managed to fight her battles past the local and into the federal level.  Her experiences represent the changing nature of Neo-Pagans in courtrooms, turning trouble into an opportunity to educate a larger audience.[??6]
While the current state of American Neo-Pagan legal conflicts remains uncertain there is hope.  A case involving an American Neo-Pagan [??7]and his actions with a young woman over the course of eight years came to public light in recent years.   In Island County Washington, Daniel Doherty, a fifty-three year-old carnival worker, plead guilty to First Degree child rape and First Degree child molestation.  According to the case, Doherty frequently raped and molested a young woman over nine years.  He attests that his sexual assaults were part of his practice of Druidry, and served to please the Goddess Epona.  The unnamed victim expressed her outrage at the loss of her childhood, stating; “Nine years. Nine years I should have been a kid… Should have been able to learn to trust and make friends. Should have been able to enjoy life and just be a kid.”  Doherty used religion, coercion, threats, and violence as a means to silence his victim. [41]
Even though the court and the local Neo-Pagan community went to great lengths to state that Doherty’s heinous actions were the result of his own choices and did not represent the beliefs and practices of the Neo-Pagan community, this case still provides fuel for those who have an agenda against Neo-Paganism.   The fact that the court is taking the effort to represent Neo-Paganism in a fair manner, not simply giving into the sensationalism that colored the cases of previous decades, is a unique step[??8]. One can only hope that the negative effects of this case will not damage the overall movement toward legitimacy, which has proven to be a difficult task to accomplish in the face of growing political and religious fundamentalism.
To date, American Neo-Paganism is part of the second largest growing religious category in the United States.[42]   Considering the decline of participation in the traditional American religions, it is particularity galling that faiths such as Neo-Pagansim continue to be largely ignored by academia.  As many Americans shift towards a more secular existence, it would be of interest to explore movements that are growing in terms of size and political power.  As of 2010, Neo-Pagans have been more active in political office and have become a targeted voter group by American political parties.[43] [v] Neo-Pagans have also generated their own news information media, providing windows  into the Neo-Pagan community.
This work is an examination of how a modern faith interacts with the larger American community.    This research is significant because it ties Neo-Paganism to a larger study of minority faiths and legal recognition of religion.  Considering the rapid growth and increased public interest in Neo-Paganism, this faith is deserving of serious academic research.  The field is ripe with questions deserving examination.  Why does Neo-Paganism attract so much criticism?  How are media interpretations of Neo-Paganism presenting the community to the larger world?  Why has a social movement with this much growth been relatively ignored by the academic world?  Scholarly efforts to address these questions will not only give the deserved recognition and attention to Neo-Paganism, but also opens up the possibility of a larger study concerning the fate of minority religions in America, as many other minority religions in the United States are caught in the murky legal ground between legally recognized faith and cult.  As more minority religions, such as that of Neo-Paganism, enter the courtroom, they present challenge to the Christian bias inherent in the establishment clause.[44]  While investigation of the American bias towards non-Christian religious movement has been, there are works that are beginning to explore this bias.

[1]Bobbie Grennier “ Witch Trial” 2008  http://www.witchtrial.net ( accessed 4/20/2010)
[2] Grennier pg 1
[3] Ronald Hutton Triumph of the Moon. (New York/London: Oxford Universtity Press,1999)  pg 420
[4] Ibid  pgs 413
[5] Ibid ,pgs 139
[6] Ibid, pg 3
[7] Margot Adler. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and other Pagans in America. 2006 edition. (New York: Penguin Books 2006.)pg 388-389
[8]Ibid  pgs 401-423
[9] Gerald Gardner, Witchcraft Today (Oxford: Citadel, 1954)
[10] Raymond Buckland, Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft (Llewellyn’s Practical Magick), 2 ed. (St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 2002
[11] Robert Graves, The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth. 2nd ed. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1999.
[12] Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and The Profane: The Nature of Religion (San Diego [Calif.]: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987)
13. Warwick Research Archive Project. ” The Williams Scale of Attitude towards Paganism: Development and Application Among British Pagans” http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/3230/(accessed 10/4/2010)
[14] Adler pgs. 135-137.
[15] Sarah Pike. Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community. (California: University of California Press 2001). Pgs 87-122
[16] Adler, pg375.
[17] Thomas v. Review Board, 450 U.S. 707 (1981); Welsh v. United States, 398 U.S. 333 (1970); United States v. Seeger, 380 U.S. 163 (1965); Torasco v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961); and United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1944).
[18]Boudicca  “Case Abstracts On Freedom  Of Religion  Law”,   http://www.tylwythteg.com/caselaw.html ( Accessed
[19]Dettmer v. Landon, 617 F. Supp. 592 (Dst.Ct. East. Dst. Va. 1985) and affirmed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals at 799 F.2d 929(4th Cir.1986).
[20] 508 U.S. 520 (1993).
[21]  Dettmer vs. Landon.
[23] Marego Athans “ Witch Hunt” http://www.ironoak.org/articles/athans.html ( Accessed 7/03/10)
[24]  Gavin and Yvonne Frost. Interview by Joseph Dickerson. October 30, 2010.
[25] Ed Garland,  “Wiccan Leader Seeks Charges Against Neighbor” Florida Today
[26] Ashleen O’Gaea, Raising Witches: Teaching the Wiccan Faith to Children. (New Jersey: New Page Books 2001). Pg 41
[27] Ibid pgs 66-73
[29] O’Gaea pgs 108-116, 121-126.
[30] Pater v. Pater, 63 Ohio St. 3d, 588 N.E.2d 794 (1992).
[31] Dana D. Eilers  Pagans and the Law. Career Press (March 4, 2009) Pgs 99-125
[32]“House of Ravenstone,” House of RavenStone, http://www.ravenwoodchurch.org/frontpage.html (accessed October 29, 2010).
[33]  Charles Helms Atlanta City Council, “An Ordinance”, November 15, 1975 http://www.ravenwoodchurch.org/History/news6.pdf
[34]Tom Baxter, “Local Ordinance Deals Witches a Bad Hand,” Atlanta Journal, October 31, 1976
[35]. Tom Baxter, “Witches Brewing After Two Arrests,” Atlanta Journal, November 2, 1976.
[36]Tom Baxter and Neil Swann, ‘Witch’ Challenges Firefighters, Atlanta Journal, 1977.
[37] Judy Wells, Shaman’s Drum: Georgian Politician Harasses Wiccan Priestess, Earth Circles, Fall-Winter, 1993, 17.
[38] Theresa Racine, “Variance Denied Local Witch,” Champion, August 18, 1993, 14
[39]  Wells, pg 17
[40] Delpesha Thomas, “Neighbors Split On Zoning Decision,” Atlanta Courier, August 11, 1993.
[42]    “Fastest Growing Religion in America,” http://www.gc.cuny.edu/studies/key_findings.htm
[43]  Jason Pitzl-Waters  “Election News Round-up”http://wildhunt.org/blog/2008/10/pagan-news-of-note.html
[44] Carol Barner-Barry, Contemporary Paganism: Minority Religions in a Majoritarian America (Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pages 25-50.

[i]     Again, these characteristics apply to most Neo-Pagans. The chief critics to these characteristics are Neo-Pagans themselves.  It is questionable if their critiques are based on a rational source of disagreement or a general habit of trying to be undefinable.
[ii]    While the ancient heritage argument has been abandoned by most Neo-Pagans there are a few who continue to claim an unbroken lineage of Pagan practice stretching back to pre-Christian times.   I’m still waiting to see convincing research on this.
[iii]   Many studies use Wicca and Neo-Paganism interchangeably.  This is incorrect.  Wicca is a Neo-Pagan religion and the most popular and public group of the faith.  The cases in this study mainly contain Wiccan protagonists, yet the claims and advances they make for Wicca benefit all Neo-Pagans.  I simply want this distinction made.
[iv]   The inclusion of Neo-Pagan parenting aspects in an important addition.  Many Neo-Pagans have been reported to authorities because of misunderstandings resulting from these parenting practices.   The commonplace o nudity and inclusion in ritual form of magic/prayer are often seen as dangerous and Satanic by the uninformed.
[v]    I was unsure about the bias inherit in these sources. Despite this I included the Wildhunt.  While written by a Neo-Pagan for Neo-Pagans, it dose cover a host of religious news and attempts to be neutral in its reporting.  It has also been active for almost a decade.  Several other Neo-Pagan new blogs were examined but most were  soapboxes for the opinions of the author.   The Wildhunt does an excellent job of keeping opinion out of reporting on many occasions, as long as you do not read the comments section.

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