Prevented from Harassing Wiccans and Pagan
Christians Claim Discrimination
On September 23 2006, several friends and myself drove down the Pagan Pride Day in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The sun was playing peak-a-boo with us all the way down. However, by the time we got to the park the clouds had parted somewhat. It was a beautiful day and we were excited about going to the festival. The parking lot was nearly full. We ended up finding parking spots on opposite ends of the lot for our two vehicles. As we walked to meet each other, we were suddenly confronted by men declaring we were evil and going to hell. Some of them quietly handed out flyers with Christian tracts to pedestrians walking by, but they were also putting them on the windshields. Others weren't so benign. They verbally assaulted people going into the festival, sometimes blocking their path and declaring they were in league with the devil. One man was arrested for using a bullhorn without a permit. Others went around the parking lot, writing down license plate numbers of the cars present. The only reason they would want that information is to harass the vehicle owners later. Granted after a certain point, I stopped being nice to them. I’m a fully dedicate Wiccan Priestess, who goes out of her way to help others and make the world a little better. I resented being called evil and being cursed to damnation by people who knew nothing about me.
We paid our admission with cat food for the local animal rescue group and joined in the festivities. With or without garb, people were enjoying each other’s company, the shopping and the positive energy of the group as a whole. We arrived in time to take a scrying class. After which, our group started breaking off to find our own interests. One of the local animal rescue groups had a few cats and dogs that were available for adoption. Angie commented that they had lost me for a while; she and Kayla went on to shop, while the two others found another class. I talked with the rescue volunteers for a while and scratched a few furry heads before moving on. There was some beautiful hand made crafts, intuitive readers and representatives from some Occult shops in Michigan. I stopped to chat and promote my novels. On the far end was a shop that sold inexpensive daggers and swords; none of them would be really considered weapons, being more decorative than being able to hold a true edge. I found one that was really cute and affordable, so I bought it. One of the SCA groups was teaching the younger children how to fence with patted sparing swords and showing off their own skill with their blades. There were also rituals being performed for the healing of the planet and for the equinox. There were other forms of entertainment, including a magician who did magic along the lines of the Mind Freak.
The atmosphere was relaxed with people laughing, chatting and enjoying the festival. Everyone was having a good time, except for the group of “Christians” who continued to screech how evil we were for not believing in their one true God. If harassing the festival goers in the parking lot was not enough, they were given specific areas in the park where they could spout their bigotry and negativity. Law enforcement kept an obvious presence by standing off to side, close enough to keep the two groups from colliding, but far enough so they wouldn‘t interfere with either group.. Most of the festival patrons ignored the Christians. The more they were disregarded, the louder the Christians became. No one from the festival or from law enforcement made any attempt to silence them. A few people did mock them, but they did not interfere with their free speech. They were able to spew their bigotry and ignorance to their hearts content. As the afternoon passed and the coming storm make its presence more apparent, the Christians disbursed.
You would think that would have been the end of the story, but is not. David Ickes and seven other members of the Worldwide Street Preachers’ Fellowship with the help of the Allied Defense Fun have suited the City of Grand Rapids, claiming their First Amendment Rights were violated by police when they attempted to speak in a public park.
“It is truly disturbing when those charged with upholding the law disregard or do not understand the First Amendment rights of citizens,” said ADF-allied attorney Randall Wenger of the Lancaster, Pa., law firm Clymer & Musser, P.C. “The officers in this situation acted in violation of the Constitution when they chose to silence those who were simply exercising their free speech rights.”
I was there for most of the festival. They were not silenced, just mocked and ignored. They were also prevented from harassing the festival goers by being limited to selected areas in the park. They claim that they did not use amplification equipment, but this is not true. It was the reason the person was arrested.
Ickes and the others claimed they merely wanted to address the festival goers. Their group was able to speak out; they were just prevented from harassing others who walk a different spiritual path. They had the right to speak out. We also had the First Amendment right to mock them and ignore them. They claim their First Amendment right of free speech was violated; however, they were violating our First Amendment right of freedom of religion.
“Religious speech is protected under the First Amendment and cannot be silenced because of a city-imposed permit requirement,” Wenger explained.
This is true, but so is our right not to be Christian and to live our lives free of harassment and intimidation. Ickes and his fellow preachers have the right to believe whatever they wish, but they do not have the right to inflict it on others.
A copy of the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan in World Wide Street Preachers’ Fellowship v. The City of Grand Rapids is available at www.telladf.org/UserDocs/IckesComplaint.pdf. The motion for preliminary injunction may be viewed at www.telladf.org/UserDocs/IckesPIMotion.pdf. The memorandum in support of the motion for preliminary injunction is available at www.telladf.org/UserDocs/IckesPIMemo.pdf.
Theresa Chaze has been described as the woman who plays with dragons, especially the dragons of the mind. She leads her readers to magical realms and others worlds. Her work is based on her philosophy that all peoples can live together in peace as long as we come from respect, not only for ourselves but those who follow different paths or beliefs. Her work has been compared to Marion Zimmer Bradley and Anne McCaffrey with an adult version of Harry Potter mixed in. Theresa Chaze's major works so far include the first two novels of the Dragon Clan Trilogy and a free fantasy ebook called, Sisters, Mother, Daughters. Her screenplay, Never Can Say Good-bye, is one of the 2006 winners of the Gloria Film Festival. She publishes an ezine called, Messages From the Universe, which is available on her site www.theresachaze.com.