Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Supreme Court Snubs Witches

Cynthia Simpson, a Wiccan priestess, was denied a hearing before the US Supreme Court over her right to open a legislative session with a non Judeo-Christian prayer. She had sued the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors because their list of invitees to deliver an opening prayer is limited to Jewish, Christian, and Muslim clerics. (Richmond Times-Dispatch: Wiccan priestess out of appeals).

By providing a list of approved religions for the opening benediction, the priestess argued that the Chesterfield board violated her First Amendment rights. There is certainly merit to her case. Not only are Wiccans barred from delivering the benediction, but so too are most eastern religions including Hindus. To make matters worse, after she initially won her case before the US District Court, Chesterfield Country amended their guidelines to prohibit prayers that mention Jesus. That amendment, according to the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, was sufficient to make their practice legal.

The first amendment is quite clear regarding the prohibition against state sponsored religions. As long as clerics of any faith are eligible to deliver the opening benediction, Chesterfield County is not in violation. The moment they publish a list of "approved" religions, however, they cross that line.

I personally do not support pagan worship, nor do I support Wiccan beliefs. I do, however, support the US constitution, and I must therefore argue that Cynthia Simpson should be eligible to deliver an opening benediction as requested and is deserving of the respect bestowed upon a cleric of any other religion. Denial of her right to be considered for that service based on the fact that she is a Wiccan priestess clearly crosses the bounds set forth in the First Amendment.

It is most disappointing that the US Supreme Court refused to hear this case. Their refusal to hear the appeal is tantamount to approval of the 4th circuit ruling, and sets the tone for other religions cases that may appear before this court. It is a most disappointing start to the new judicial session.


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