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  • Proposed Bill possible threat to Pagan news

    In a proposed amendment to a media shield law being considered by the Senate,  Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and  Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Il)  appear to define journalists in a way which excludes non-traditional journalists including most Pagan media and journalists. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the amendment, which was written in coordination with traditional news organizations, by a 13-5 vote. It was then sent to the Senate floor where it is expected to pass. It’s fate in the House is less certain.

    The Bill, S. 987: Free Flow of Information Act of 2013, seeks to provide reporters with a limited right to refuse to testify on information gathered or to be forced to reveal sources. The House Bill defines a journalist as someone who “for financial gain or livelihood, is engaged in journalism” while originally the Senate version had a looser definition.  The proposed amendment by Sen. Feinstein and Sen. Durbin requires journalists to meet at least one of these three additional criteria:

    1. working as a “salaried employee, independent contractor, or agent of an entity that disseminates news or information;”
    2. either (a) meeting the prior definition “for any continuous three-month period within the two years prior to the relevant date” or (b) having “substantially contributed, as an author, editor, photographer, or producer, to a significant number of articles, stories, programs, or publications by an entity . . . within two years prior to the relevant date;” or
    3. working as a student journalist “participating in a journalistic publication at an institution of higher education.”

    Requiring that an individual is “salaried”or under a financial contract is problematic for Pagan news organizations as most reporters and contributors are volunteers or are not employed in journalism as their primary source of income. All PNC-News reporters, editors, and contributors are not paid. The Wild Hunt pays its contributors, but it’s a modest amount that could not be considered earning a “livelihood.”

    The second criteria is also a difficult hurdle for Pagan journalists.  The amendment is vague on what comprises an “entity” that reporters need to send their work in to and what a “significant number of articles” within a two year time table means. It’s not clear if Pagan news outlets would be considered an “entity” under this amendment.

    PNC-Minnesota Webmaster and Researcher Heather Biedermann said, “Even if we paid our staff, who in the government decides what is an approved media outlet? To me, this seems like a thinly-veiled attempt to put in place a “government-friendly” group of approved news reporters who are handpicked by some unknown agency to spread their own spin on the news. It also is a backhanded way of discrediting the growing grass-roots news media that we are seeing all around the world. Not only does it discredit, but it also endangers news sites like PNC. Who is to say that this isn’t the beginning of finding ways to limit free speech in general?”

    The effects of the proposed Bill could strip away protections independent news organizations have been slowly gaining on the state level. In November of 2010, PNC-Minnesota published an article relating a rape survivors experience while undergoing an enhanced search by TSA agents.  The article quickly went viral and was republished or linked to by traditional news sources. PNC-Minnesota received a request from the TSA to reveal our source for the article. We refused, citing Minnesota’s shield law and the traditional protections afforded members of the press and backed by the First Amendment of the United States. There was no response from the TSA.

    Supporters of the Bill say it is a good compromise between protecting national security against leaks and protecting the rights of a free press, “I can’t support it if everyone who has a blog has a special privilege … or if Edward Snowden were to sit down and write this stuff, he would have a privilege. I’m not going to go there,” said  Sen. Feinstein.

    Bloggers, alternative media, and civil liberties groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have criticized the Bill as creating two classes of reporters, the traditional media licensed by the government, and everyone else.  In an article on the proposed Bill, Morgan Weiland of EFF wrote, “The requirement of doing journalism for money and on a consistent basis, coupled with the suggestion that such activities happen within a larger journalistic organization, paints a picture of a New York Times correspondent—and arguably excludes bloggers, freelancers, and other non-salaried individuals who practice the craft of journalism and need the most protection.”

    PNC-News Editor in Chief and Founder and Editor of the Wild Hunt Jason Pitzl-Waters had this to say about the legislation, “Author and journalism professor Jeff Jarvis has said that ‘there are no journalists, there is only the service of journalism,’ a sentiment that I would broadly agree with. There are those who make their living reporting and investigating the news, but our history is full of individuals who, in key moments, rose up to document important events, to give voices to voiceless communities, or to expose hidden wrongs. Any protections for journalists that do no protect grass-roots manifestations of the service of journalism are not only flawed, but chilling. Would Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker be covered under these provisions? Would Gandhi’s newsletters advocating for an independent India? The farther down the road we travel into creating hurdles to legal protections, the more we damage the service, in essence dictating who is a ‘real’ journalist. The heart of journalism is a radical heart, because it creates an informed community, these guidelines can only hinder journalism’s purpose.”

    A Day with Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson

    Note from the Editor: On Thursday I was able to do something few have the chance to do: spend the entire day with a Presidential candidate.  Two-term Governor of New Mexico and likely Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson came to Minnesota for a fundraiser.  What I learned during our time together reinforced the idea that this candidate means it when he claims to represent all Americans.  

    Gov. Gary Johnson, from the GQ article “Is This the Sanest Man Running for President?

    Gary Johnson doesn’t pander to religious extremists. He also shrugs off the conventional wisdom that associating with religious minorities, such as Pagans, is a bad idea.  Back in October, he participated in a Pagan Media Town Hall, at the time when mainstream media most loves to write derogatory fluff articles about Pagans and “real” witches.  Johnson was roundly mocked for his participation by the mainstream press. Even after that, he still accepts me, an open Pagan,  as his Minnesota host.

    I meet Johnson at the airport on Thursday; he’s dressed casually with a backpack slung over one shoulder.  It  looks natural on him, an avid outdoors man.  Paragliding, climbing Mount Everest, ironman triathlons, are all part of his life.  His fitness can only help him: his schedule has him running from one event to the next for the next five days, with a schedule that spreads from 4 am to very late at night.

    IMG climber and former governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, on the summit of Everest with his guide Dave Hahn. photo credit International Mountain Guides

    At the baggage claim we talk about safe subjects like weather, the flight, losing your luggage.  I can’t help teasing him just a bit.  I ask, “So, have you ever been picked up by a crazy cat lady with six cats waiting for you in the car?”

    He stops scanning the carousel for his bag and looks at me, “Do you have six cats waiting for me in the car?”

    I laugh, assuring him no cats await him in my car.  This sparks a discussion of a bill put before him during his time as the Governor of New Mexico.  It sought to limit the number of animals a person could own in an attempt to stop animal hoarding.  He vetoed the bill because people should be able to have as many pets as they can care for, and if the pets are not cared for, animal welfare addresses that.  He notes that animal hoarding is a mental illness; no bill can cure someone of mental illness and this bill would have made that illness a crime. His views on illness extends to drugs.  “Drug addiction is a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue,” he says. Johnson favors legalizing marijuana and commuting sentences for persons incarcerated on non-violent drug charges.

    After grabbing his bag we head to the cat-free car and drive to Hyatt Place South Minneapolis.  There, like most everywhere we go, Johnson acts like an average citizen.  His unassuming demeanor and lack of entourage grant him anonymity. Also contributing is the 7% to 9% he’s at in the polls, the reason that brings him to Minnesota.

    Continue reading

    GOP Presidential candidate impresses with pro-Pagan stance

    If you are a fiscal liberal and wish for more governmental intervention in your daily life, then GOP Presidential hopeful Johnson is not the candidate for you.  If, however, you are like most Americans and are looking for a President who leans more socially liberal/fiscally conservative you may want to give Johnson a further look.  Couple this view with an unabashed pro-Pagan, pro-human rights outlook and clear openness to alternative views on a whole host of issues and you may have as close to an ideal candidate for President as the Pagan community has yet seen.

    Last night’s video conference between Gov. Johnson and Pagan and Hindu media was unusual and groundbreaking.  Unlike most every other candidate for political office at any level, Johnson not only agreed to speak publicly with Pagans, he promoted the event openly on his official Google+ page.   In talking with other Pagan media after the conference, many of us related personal experiences with politicians, even those sympathetic to us in private, who refuse to be seen speaking with us in public.   They don’t want an association with ‘people like us’ to damage their credibility and truth to tell, they don’t care enough about our concerns to address them.  This was not the case with Johnson.  During the interview he showed no discomfort addressing issues specific to our community and never flinched from saying the word Pagan.  An example of how supportive Gov. Johnson is to Pagan rights, and basic human rights, can be summed up in a message he had for Pagans and Wiccans serving in the US military,“It should be about equality, it’s not, and I appreciate their service  even though you are not being treated equally.”

    It could be easy to dismiss Johnson’s decision in speaking with Pagans while seeking election as the actions of an unknown candidate low in the polls, but that would miss the mark.  Johnson is a successful two-term Governor of New Mexico and is the only GOP candidate who scores positive approval ratings in his home state.  He is not a ‘nothing’ candidate, but a qualified candidate with executive level experience.  What has hampered his candidacy is the mainstream medias’ inexplicable exclusion of Johnson from televised debates.  They have set up criteria that bars Johnson’s inclusion in the debates, a candidate must reach 2% in their polls, but ensures he can never meet that bar by excluding him as an option in their polls.  This sets up a scenario where Johnson is a longshot for the GOP nomination, unless people vote for him in the GOP primaries.  So while we finally have a Presidential candidate who is willing to listen to Pagans and supports us on many issues important to our community, we may never have the opportunity to vote for him.  What makes it even more bittersweet for some Pagans is that such an outspoken candidate for Pagan rights is running on the Republican ticket, not Democratic.

    Click HERE to watch the video conference with Gov. Johnson courtesy of KeithBarrett.tv.

    A full transcript is available at the Staff of Asclepius blog.

    The hour and a half interview covered a wide range of questions about GLBT rights, Pagan military chaplains, raw milk, teaching yoga in schools, TSA and the Patriot Act, economic, and environmental concerns.  Many of the questions were submitted by Pagan community leaders like Rev. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary and by your average Pagan on the street.    Below are just a few of the highlights from the hour and half Q&A with Gov. Johnson, but I strongly encourage everyone to view the entire interview.

    Cara Schulz, PMC-MN:  It is commonly thought in the Pagan community that Republican candidates are hostile to minority religions such as ours.  What message would you like to get across to Pagan voters about how you would represent them if elected president?

    Johnson:  There should be a separation of church and state.  I happen to think the world looks down on Republicans for their social conservative views which include religion in government.

    Continue reading

    Faith and Spirituality Site Experiences Record Growth

    by Tasha-Rose Mirick

    Patheos.com recently exceeded one million unique viewers to the website for the first time in it’s history as the site continues to experience monthly growth. Patheos is the premiere source for dialogue on matters of faith, belief and religion in the world today. Says Star Foster, Manager of the Pagan Portal at Patheos, of the site, “I’m incredibly proud of how much we’ve grown with such a small dedicated staff.”

    Leo Brunnick, Patheos CEO, says of the growth the site has experienced, “I think the growth of Patheos is a product of the appetite that exists in this country for reasoned, honest conversations about faith.” He went on to add, “Patheos is home to many of the most important and respected writers in the world of religion today, and we’re adding new voices to the mix on a weekly basis.”

    Some of the writers Brunnick refers to include Sacred Harvest Festival guest presenter for 2011, Crystal Blanton as well as The Wild Hunt and Gus diZerega and PNC’s very own Cara Schulz.

    Patheos isn’t just a forum for Pagan voices, however, “It’s critical to Patheos’ mission that the site reflects the rich religious diversity of the country, so we’re continually adding new resources, “ Brunnick said. Recently Patheos launched a Progressive Christian Portal, selections to the World Religions Library in addition to maintaining the Pagan Portal.

    Star Foster

    “Who would have thought such a diverse site with so many diverse viewpoints would grow so fast? I’m proud of the work we do and honored to work with really wonderful people from faiths quite different from my own. I have a lot of hope for the future and ambitious plans for the Pagan Portal as we continue to grow. We couldn’t have gotten this far without really terrific Pagan writers and loyal readers.” Says Foster

    Patheos.com was founded in 2008 and features many of the world’s best writers and bloggers on religion, faith and spirituality. The website’s focus is to be a hub for information for people to learn about different belief systems as well as to connect others who share similar faiths to facilitate honest discussions on the most debated topics of our day.

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