Monday, August 06, 2007

Police Abuse: Wiccans Beware--
Your Civil Rights are not guaranteed
Theresa Chaze

Police ignoring civil rights has become a harsh reality for not only Wiccans and Pagans, but also every other minority. No longer does the First Amendment provide freedom of religion, speech, to gather and engage in peaceful demonstration. No longer does the Fourth Amendment guarantee your home, car or business will not be searched without a warrant signed by a judge. Instead, there are a growing number of law enforcement officers who believe they are above the law; they see themselves not as public servants, but public masters who should not be questioned or criticized. Instead, they should be blindly and meekly obeyed. To do otherwise is to risk being harassed, physically attacked and jailed with little cause.
Under the banner of self-defense, police have used traffic stops to justify warrant less searches. Such was the case of a northern Michigan Wiccan Priestess. Returning home from work, she was stopped. The Deputy initially refused to disclose why she was pulled over. Instead, he ordered her from her vehicle and searched it without her consent. In the bottom of her purse, he found a small athame set--the largest knife was under three inches, but it had a double edged blade. He arrested her; however, he refused to notify her of the reason for the stop or the arrest until they reached the jail. At that time, she was informed she was stopped for swerving twice in the several miles he had followed her, but she arrested and charged for felony-concealed weapon for having daggers in her purse. She did not threaten him, nor was she given an opportunity to explain why she had the athames. Several attempts were made a paying her bond, however the deputies on duty misrepresented the facts and she was held for over fifteen hours. During such time, she was denied medication for her asthma and proper nutrition for her hypoglycemia. Instead, the wheels of justice rolled over her civil rights. Although she had a clean record and the officer had a history of alcohol abuse, lying on the stand and violence against women, her court appointed attorney informed her that she would not win in spite of the illegal search and her religious path. In Michigan, double edge knifes, no matter what size are illegal. The attorney’s stance was that nothing else was pertinent to the case. Eventually the case was settled and the charges dropped to much lesser charge. But justice was far from being served.
Physically an athame is usually a double edge blade of varying sized, frequently with a black handle and a dull blade. However, its magical definition is ritual knife that is use only for the direction of energy. It is used in ritual for creating protective circles and calling the elements. Using it for a mundane purpose would contaminate it and make it unsuitable for ritual work until it had been cleansed and reblessed. A Boline is used for cutting and all other ritual needs. Kitchen witches are an exception to this rule; they believe that by using their tools daily increases their connection to them. Whether an athame or Boline, neither are to be used as a physical weapon. To do so would destroy their positive spiritual quality and attract the negative aspects of the universe.
In the case of the northern Michigan Priestess, if it hadn’t been for the illegal search of her purse, the athames wouldn’t have been an issue. They could have not been produce or used to threaten the officer or anyone else without destroying their religious power. The District Attorney’s office was informed of their religious significance; initially they agreed she had a defense under the First Amendment, however their stance changed without reason, claiming the Priestess told the officer they were for self-defense. By sheer definition of her spiritual beliefs, it is obvious that statement was untrue and the officer lied. Yet, even though he violated her First and Fourth Amendment rights, his word would carry more weigh by the court even though he had a history of deceit and violence against women.
Every state has their own laws pertaining to the legalities of what is considered a weapon. Before carrying your religious tools make you know what the specific requirements of your state are. In some cases, it would be wise to obtain a concealed weapons permit if you will be traveling with your Athame and Boline. By going to you can find an abridge listing of knife laws by state. It is only a starting point and should not be considered definitive legal advice.

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