Circle Sanctuary Minister joins Eagle Scout protest

Bob Paxton, a Circle Sanctuary Minister, has joined a growing protest by Eagle Scouts who oppose the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) policy that prohibit GLTB adult leaders.   On July 17, after a two-year review by an 11 person committee, the BSA reached a “unanimous consensus” recommending retaining the current policy of GLBT exclusion.  The Boy Scouts are a civil and spiritual organization aimed at building the character of youths age 11 – 17.  The rank of Eagle Scout is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts and has been earned by less than 2 million young men since the program began in 1911 due to the commitment and difficulty involved.

In response to the decision by the BSA to maintain its current policies regarding GLBT members, Rev. Paxton sent a letter to the BSA Executive Board asking them to reconsider the policy.  He also included his Eagle Scout medal, a move other Eagle Scouts are also taking.  The letter, in part, reads,

Today I am returning my Eagle Scout medal as it has become a badge of shame.  Until the day comes that the Boy Scouts of America fully act on their instruction to be “morally straight” – and to welcome all boys – I can only recommend that boys go elsewhere for those powerful formative experiences.

Quotes from the 11 minute interview:

“I can say that as a Pagan my experience as a Boy Scout directly lead to my choosing the Pagan spiritual path.  Experience that I had in the woods, experiences I had in summer camps, experiences I had in some of the ceremonial occasions very much led me in that direction.”

“As not only a minister but as a person who has a lot of gay friends and also who also received a lot of homophobic bullying at the hands of other folks in my troop I felt that by reinforcing on a national level the policy that gays, lesbians, transgender folks are not OK, are not acceptable within the Boy Scout approach that really they were ratifying that two level behavior that allowed a lot of that homophobic bullying that I and others in my troop experienced.”

“We are hoping to accomplish, not only by sending the letters but by publicly sending the letters a public shaming such that if nothing else it’s my hope that down in Irving, Texas as these letters and these medals come in with the mail delivery every day that somebody opens them up, puts them on a table, and takes a look at this and says, “You know, something’s wrong here. We have to do something else. People that we nurtured up to the verge of manhood are coming back to us now from 10, 20, 30, 50 years and saying no, you can’t be like this.”  If that doesn’t stand a chance of changing their hearts, I don’t know what will.”

A full transcript of the interview is forthcoming.

Epilogue – After the interview, and PSG – Melissa Murry

After she returned home, Melissa sent me this statement, upon further experience and reflection:

Melissa Murry:

After the press event and while reading the response from the Pagan community at large who are affected by this, it remains clear that there is still confusion, pain, and healing that needs to be done. I am overwhelmed by the support of Ruth and myself. This shows to me that while we can come from different perspectives and beliefs there is a common ground. And while we don’t have to all agree with one another, that common ground can be a starting point for laying a foundation. That is what happened after this interview when Ruth and I spoke at length for hours. The conversation centered on misunderstanding, miscommunication, hurt, and healing around this event.

I finally began understanding where Ruth was coming from in regards to her perspective. I want to thank her for her time, voice, and passion. She told me that this was the first time a trans-woman had sat down with her and really talked to her about these issues in this way.

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Two PSG Women Speak About Inclusiveness in Public Ritual – Interviews

I spoke with Melissa Murry late Friday afternoon at PSG, after her workshop presentation. This was her second year at the Pagan Spirit Gathering [PSG], her first year was a joyful experience.  She was concerned with the advance website ritual listing, though it was unclear then that it was a ‘main’ ritual. She expressed to Selena in advance of PSG that this was serious enough to consider canceling her registration.  Selena helped her schedule a late submission workshop on transgendered history in response.

*Note, from the PSG website:  [ A Dianic Women’s Ritual for Summer Solstice – Ruth Barrett

As a community of women who bleed, will bleed, or have bled our sacred bloods, we celebrate the Summer Solstice in a Dianic ritual that celebrates ourselves and honors the mythic cycle of the Goddess as She transitions from Maiden to fertile Mother/ Amazon/ Creatrix/ Manifester/ Maker. She uses her sacred uterine bloods to manifest tangible and intangible reality. We, in Her image celebrate our ability to heal, transform, and create our lives in this season of Her sacred fire. The ritual will also include a working around female reproductive rights. Think about in advance: As Creatrix in your own life, how do you use your sacred bloods? How do you feed and tend your creative fire? In honor of our sacred bloods and the summer solstice, please wear red as all or a part of your ritual garb. Bring drums and percussion toys if you have them. This ritual is for female born and raised women and girls. Facilitated by Ruth Barrett and women of the PSG community. ]

Melissa Murry at PSG Press Conference
photo: Bob Paxton / Circle Sanctuary

What led you to call Circle Sanctuary?
Melissa: I was concerned with the terminology used in the description of the Women’s Ritual as for women who  bleed, who have bled, or who will bleed. That is the definition that was used, but that does not define all cisgender women.  It is new definition that was created and used after Pantheacon to narrowly define the definition of women while the term “woman” is a broad term used in our culture to define self identified women. This is used to inadvertently define cisgender women, and it can be offensive because that use excludes trans-women who identify as women also.

Is it an unclear definition, what is there about it that causes concern?
The definition of that ritual was excluding women from PSG, but in the description for the ritual it was put forward as created and for all the women of PSG. I felt that there was an invisibility that was going to be created for transgendered women, like myself, who don’t fall within that definition.

So you objected to the limiting and exclusive definition of who the ritual was for, combined with the reference to the inclusive language describing a ‘community of women”.
Yes. I contacted Selena through the PSG website. Several people talked to me and eventually Selena called me, and we had over a four-hour conversation about the matter.  I can speak to what I took away from the conversation, but there was some confusion over the concern.  I understood the Pagan spirit Gathering was an inclusive event, and felt the exclusion of  a group of  women was not in line with the spirit of PSG.  Nor was it in accord with the values I believed Circle Sanctuary to have.

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Pagans find warm welcome at ‘Gateways to the Air Force’

When potential Military Members join the United States Air Force they usually enter through one of two Gateways To The Air Force.  Future officers attend college at Colorado Springs Air Force Academy and enlisted trainees go through Basic Military Training (BMT) at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas.  Both places not only educate and train service members in warfare techniques they also help assimilate individuals into the Air Force culture.  In the past, that culture has not always been kind to airmen of minority faiths like Paganism, but what is it like now?  PNC-Minnesota spoke with Air Force officials, airmen, and civilian Pagan ministers involved at both gateways. On Tuesday we’ll take a look at the Air Force Academy.  Today, on Veterans Day, we’ll head to basic training at Lackland.

“We each walk our own path to the divine.  Be it in a God/dess faith or not.  Our airmen coming out of Lackland have been armed in so many ways with their military training.  More importantly, they should know that the Air Force has gone to great lengths to ensure their spirit was nurtured while in basic training,” says Rev. Tamie Rieth of Sacred Well Congregation.  She should know.  She’s been the Wicca Distinctive Faith Group Leader (DFGL) at Lackland for just over 6 years.  Rev. Rieth is one of 5 instructors who lead the weekly Wiccan services for BMT trainees.

Approximately 150 to 300 trainees attend the two hour Wiccan services held in the Receiving Center each Sunday.  Rev. Rieth and the other instructors spend the first hour answering any questions the trainees may have and the second hour is spent in meditation and chanting.

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Pagan Warrior Radio launches with Veterans Day Celebration

Pagan Warrior Radio is a new internet radio show serving Pagan veterans and those on active duty in the United States Military, plus their family, friends, and supporters.

Pagan Warrior Radio debuts with a special Veterans Day show on Friday, November 11, 2011 at 8 pm CST on http://www.blogtalkradio.com/witchschool/2011/11/12/pagans-tonight–veterans-day-special.

The first part of the show will be a celebration of Military Pagans and their service. Several Pagan leaders and clergy who do support work with Pagan veterans and troops will be among the special guests on this special Veterans Day Celebration.

During the second part of the show, listeners are invited to call in and share their Veterans Day experiences and tributes to Pagan Warriors, living and dead. In addition, listeners can participate throughout the show through the chat room.

Beginning on November 15, Pagan Warrior Radio will move to its regular weekly time slot on Tuesdays from 9-10 pm CST.

This new weekly internet radio show will be hosted by co-founders Pamela Kelly of Texas and Selena Fox of Wisconsin.

Pamela grew up in a military family and is presently serving as the facilitator (DFGL/Distinctive Faith Group Leader) of the Pagan Circle at Sheppard Air Force Base. Selena, who worked for a short time in a civilian capacity for the office of the US Army Chief of Staff at the Pentagon, has been active in the quest for equal rights for Pagan troops and veterans and their families for more than thirty years. She is senior minister of Circle Sanctuary and director of Circle Sanctuary’s military ministries.

Pagan Warrior Radio is being sponsored and produced by Circle Sanctuary, in partnership with the Pagans Tonight Online Radio network. Circle Sanctuary, one of America’s oldest and largest Wiccan churches, sponsors Pagan Circles at US military installations and on ships in the USA and overseas, including in Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, and Qatar.

“Pagans have served and are serving in each of the branches of the US Armed Forces. We are creating Pagan Warrior Radio as an additional way to support Pagan veterans and troops and their loved ones, and to be a forum for networking, education, and dialogue. Shows will be a mix of news, information, music, reflections, ideas, and call-in discussion,” says Selena.

Pamela adds: “Pagan Warrior Radio is for Pagans of many paths – Wiccans, Druids, Heathens, Unitarian Universalist Pagans, Pantheists, and others. Upcoming shows will include topics such as the Future of Pagan Military Chaplaincy, forming Pagan Circles at military installations, making portable altars, and more!”

For more information about Pagan Warrior Radio, contact Pamela Kelly: 940.642.8736 ; paganwarriorradio@gmail.com

More about Pagans Tonight: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/witchschool

More about Circle Sanctuary’s military ministries:
http://www.circlesanctuary.org/ministries/military
608.924.2216 ; circle@circlesanctuary.org

Editor’s note:  The above article was sent to PNC-Minnesota by Circle Sanctuary.