[The afterward is a bedfellow column from Literata Hurley. Literata is a Wiccan priestess, poet, and theaologian. Her assignment has appeared in several anthologies and periodicals, including Mandragora, Queen of the Sacred Way, Anointed, Witches & Pagans, and CIRCLE Magazine. She blogs consistently for The Slacktiverse and her own site, Works of Literata. She is an advancing High Priestess of the Adjustment of the White Moon, a women’s adherence organization. In amid arch Rose Coven, account Tarot, and accord with nature, she is autograph her Ph.D. altercation in history and enjoys biking and spending time with her bedmate and cats.]
The Arlington Canton Cloister banned to admission me the appropriate to accomplish marriages in Virginia, allegedly on the area that my “congregation” does not own a building.
I presented my affidavit of allotment and affidavit of the 501c3 cachet of the Adjustment of the White Moon, which advancing me. Back my Adjustment is congenital in California, the secretary asked me if I had a aggregation in Virginia; I said yes. She asked me to account the abode of the congregation, and I said that we don’t accept a building. She asked, “So, what, you aloof accommodated in anniversary other’s homes?” I said yes, we accommodated in anniversary other’s homes, or out of doors (Wicca is, afterwards all, an earth-based religion, but I anticipation that advertence that would alone be prejudicial to my situation).
She larboard and came aback with the Clerk of Court, Paul Ferguson. Mr. Ferguson said that they were not activity to accept me. I asked if it was because we don’t accept a building. He said, “Yes, you don’t accept a building, and there were a few added things.” I asked him if he would accord me a accounting account of the affidavit I was actuality denied. He refused; he offered to appearance me the accordant area (Sec 20-23) of the Virginia Code. I assured him that I had apprehend the Code, and asked afresh if he would accord me added specific affidavit I was actuality denied. He said that acknowledging these applications was at his “discretion” and that he didn’t “feel” I met the qualifications, but he wouldn’t acquaint me how. He told me that I could administer to addition cloister in addition canton but that he anticipation they would allegedly accord me the aforementioned answer.
Has acreage buying now become the admeasurement of what constitutes a “real” adoration in Virginia, or at atomic in Arlington County? Or is this addition archetype of anti-Pagan bigotry at work?
Patchwork administration and a history of discrimination
Virginia is one of the few states in the US that requires clergy associates to annals with a ambit cloister in adjustment to be able to accomplish accurate marriages. The requirements in Sec 20-23 of the Code accompaniment that the abbot charge present affidavit of allotment and “of his actuality in accustomed communion” with the alignment that advancing him.
These requirements are allegedly interpreted in broadly capricious means above assorted circuits in Virginia, as altered courts’ websites account altered types of affidavit – or none – that may be required. For courts that aboveboard accompaniment they crave added than aloof affidavit of ordination, the way they ask for admonition gives amazing advantage to traditionally-organized, i.e., Christian, groups. And if acceding these applications absolutely is up to the “discretion” of the Clerk of Court, there is advanced ambit for abeyant bigotry adjoin boyhood religions with or after the fig blade of acute a “location” and added authoritative accouterment potentially above the adeptness of boyhood religious organizations.
I anticipate it’s not absurd that I am anxious about what affectionate of affidavit will amuse the court. I serve assorted groups, one of which meets in a appointed location, but back it is an accessible circle, the bodies who appear are mostly not associates of my aldermanic organization. If I accommodate affidavit of this accumulation affair in a specific location, will the cloister afresh ask how abounding bodies attend, and how generally we meet? What will they crave to achieve that I am “really” a High Priestess in a “real” religion?
Why this matters
This is about added than assuming weddings. This accommodation has a air-conditioned aftereffect on me aggravating to action as clergy in added ways; if the Cloister will not admit me as accepted clergy in this situation, will my appropriate to acquaintance be protected? How can I assure bodies who appear to me for counseling that their communications with me are adequate by clergy privilege?
Literata cartoon down.
And back this is one of the two above forms of government approval acclimated by a advanced ambit of institutions and organizations to actuate whether addition is a “real” clergy member, it can appulse my adeptness to adeptness out to those who accept accurate needs: bodies in hospitals, the military, and prisons all charge clergy services, but those institutions are abundant added acceptable to abjure me the adeptness to abbot to the bodies complex if I can’t say that I’m accustomed by the Accompaniment of Virginia to accomplish marriages.
And although I ability accept my appliance accepted if I accustomed addition court, that does annihilation to dness the agnosticism casting on my cachet by the cloister with administration over area I alive and do best of my ministry. If addition cloister accustomed me, it would alone serve to highlight the aberrant and potentially biased variations in acceding acceptance above jurisdictions.
What you can do
I currently plan to accumulate added acknowledging affidavit and reapply, and if I am denied again, to ask whether I can address to a adjudicator of the court. I am additionally currently gluttonous admonition from the ACLU, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and the Lady Liberty League. Here’s what you can do to help:
First, get the chat out. The added Pagans cull together, the bigger our affairs of actuality accustomed as “legitimate” in these kinds of situations.
If you are a Pagan clergyperson in Virginia and you accept activated to accomplish marriages, amuse address to me at [email protected] If you were approved, I’d like to apperceive back you were approved, in what court, with what paperwork, and what questions they asked, both accounting and verbal. Bodies who accept been declined, amuse acquaint me that too. The added admonition I accept for allegory the better.
I would additionally like to be able to present belletrist of abutment from added Pagan clergy and potentially from Pagan organizations that anoint people, abnormally ones that anoint bodies all over the country. If you’re interested, amuse acquaintance me. And if you accept added account about how to help, amuse allege up!
People who aren’t in Virginia, amuse accommodate airy and bewitched support. Pray and accelerate activity that I am able to accumulate the affirmation I charge and accomplish a acceptable argument, that the cloister will admission my new appliance swiftly, and that I may break absolute and be accommodating throughout this accomplished process.
I aboveboard achievement that calm we can ensure this is the aftermost time a Pagan in Virginia has her accreditation questioned and her cachet as clergy denied.
[This column was republished, with permission, from Literata’s blog. Amuse chase it for added updates and annotation from Literata on this matter. The Wild Hunt will be befitting in aing acquaintance with Literata on this issue, and will column updates as warranted.]
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