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Bibles passed out at North Windy Ridge PUBLIC schools protest 2011-2012 |

more on the NWR school bibles protest |


Cartoon by Brent Brown that ran in the mountain xpress. NWR bibles protest outcome 1of 3 | NWR bibles protest outcome 2 of 3 | NWR bibles protest outcome 3 of 3 |
From the Weaverville Tribune jan 2012-
This week’s headlines
No school policy change with Christian wear

By Clint Parker

Rumors of staff and students not being allowed 
to wear Christian apparel at 
North Buncombe Middle School are, according to 
the school’s principal, baseless.

An email sent to the Weaverville Tribune from a NBMS 
student alleged that a coach 
had been reprimanded after wearing a Christian T-shirt 
and a student was told that 
they would be asked to change if they wore clothes with 
Christian messages to school again.

“I have no knowledge of any such incident,” said NBMS 
Principal Sherry Barnette. 
She also said no formal reprimand of a coach 
has been made. 
When asked if a new policy prohibiting the wearing of 
Christian T-shirts had been put 
in place, Barnette added, “Absolutely not.”

Before school on Wednesday (Jan. 18) about three dozen 
students gathered around the 
flag pole to pray, events that are allowed in Buncombe 
County schools provided they 
are not organized by the school’s faculty or staff.

Rusty Smart, who acts as a chaplain for the North Buncombe 
High School varsity football team, 
said he attended a meeting on Saturday (Jan. 14) at the 
Weaverville Library that was 
held in support of the wrestling coach that was allegedly 
reprimanded over the Christian T-shirt.

As a result of the meeting, Smart said that parents 
and students planned on wearing 
Christian T-shirts to the match against Cane Creek on Wednesday. 
Smart said Cane Creek 
parents also heard about the incident and planned on wearing the same.

The Buncombe County Board of Education is meeting at 8:30 am 
on Wednesday (Jan. 25) to discuss 
policies on religion in schools from choral groups singing 
Christian hymns to chaplains 
leading prayer with football teams.

The uproar about religion began last month when a 
Weaverville mother protested 
the availability of New Testaments at North Windy Ridge School. 
The books were 
dropped off by a group from Gideons International.


------------------------
Editorials by Lady Birch of APA | Support for APA and Rally | About CERES | Rally Support | A Letter to non-Pagans | News Stories 10-20-01 | News Editorials 2001 | News Stories 1999 | Rally Report |


http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=200771213084

Solstice rituals became Christmas traditions
by Leslie Boyd, LBOYD@CITIZEN-TIMES.COM
published December 15, 2007 12:15 am

ASHEVILLE — Before recorded history, humans celebrated the winter solstice as the return of the life-giving sun. The winter solstice occurs at 1:09 a.m. Thursday this year.
Many rituals today associated with different religious traditions reflect those early celebrations. Pagans who converted to Christianity took traditions with them:
• Ancient people brought evergreens into the house and decorated them with dried fruit and nuts to represent their need for the trees to return to life.
• They kept a Yule fire burning, in some traditions for 12 days, to help the sun god find his way back.
• They exchanged gifts.
• Holly was used in celebrations because it had bright red berries in winter, and the god of winter, the Holly King — a chubby, jolly man with a white beard — led the festivities.
“It’s a celebration of the return of the sun,” said Ginger Striveli, of Jupiter, who has celebrated the Pagan tradition for more than 20 years. “The idea was that this was the night that the sun god was gone the longest, and the Yule log was lit to help him find the way back.”
Striveli and her husband and six children celebrate the holiday on the night of the solstice, but the Holly King leaves gifts under their Yule Tree during the night of Dec. 24.
“NORAD tracks him that night, so that’s when he comes,” she said.
From here, the days get longer. Even though ancient people didn’t understand the science of the solar system, they did observe the sun and the stars, and those who adhere to the various Earth religions still celebrate the cycles of the seasons. Paganism covers a wide variety of ancient traditions. Wiccan is probably the best known today; other groups include Druids, Shamans, Sacred Ecologists, Odinists and Heathens.
Patrick Covington, of Asheville, practices Asatru, which grew out of the Northern European traditions.
“In Northern Europe, to talk about the return of the sun is a big deal,” Covington said. “For us, Yule is the most important holiday of the year. It was a period of 12 days where time was kind of suspended.”
Solstice celebrations Friday Winter Solstice celebration, 4-5:30 p.m., The Botanical Gardens, 151 W. T. Weaver Boulevard, Asheville. Song and dance, spoken word, a science lesson and shared silence. Rain or shine. Donations encouraged. Presented by Earth Celebrations. For more information, call 254-0943 or e-mail mms@mhc.edu Comes The Sun: The Midwinter Rite, 7 p.m. Mystic Journeys’ Sacred Space, 333 Merrimon Ave., Asheville. A love offering will be collected for the use of the space, and CERES is collecting canned foods for MANNA. For more information, call 230.5069. Saturday Winter Solstice celebration, 7 p.m., Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Swannanoa Valley, Montreat Road, Black Mountain. “Roots Down Deep: Coping with the Long Nights and Longing for Light,” led by H. Byron Ballard. For more information, call 669-8050.


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Asheville Citizen-times Article from May 7th, 2004 featuring Destiny and Syblisue Strivelli of the APA's Witchlings' Circle performing the "Cherokee Morning Song" (along with Amethyst Strivelli not pictured) during the multifaith national day of prayer event hosted by CERES and the United Religious Initiative.





Schools’ ‘God bless America’ signs draw complaint
By Tonya Maxwell, STAFF WRITER
Posted: 10-06-2001

ASHEVILLE — A woman has filed a complaint with the Buncombe County school system that takes issue with signs reading "God Bless America" on school grounds.
"It’s illegal and they know it," said Ginger Strivelli, who says she represents 200 pagans in the region as the leading priestess with the Appalachian Pagan Alliance. "This is not Afghanistan. We don’t have a state religion, but that’s what they’re trying to do, make Christianity the state religion."
She has asked Buncombe County School Superintendent Cliff Dodson to remove or replace the signs with a "more diversely tolerant phrase." She asked that signs read, "May All Gods Bless America" or "Bless America."
Strivelli said she has heard that several schools are posting the signs. At least one appears on a North Buncombe High School sign posted outside the school, near N.C. 19-23.
Strivelli said she is waiting for a response to her e-mail, sent on Wednesday. If the issue is not addressed, she plans to approach the American Civil Liberties Union with her concerns.
But a spokeswoman with Buncombe County schools said the messages aren’t exclusive.
The signs don’t refer to any particular god, said Gerry Kovach, director of public relations for the school system. She added that readers can interpret them any way they wish, with the god or gods of their own faith.
"On a personal level, it’s a song, it’s a national song," Kovach said. "I’m not sure why she’s making an issue of it."
Kovach added that she was unaware that schools were posting "God Bless America" signs. But she said she plans to look into the complaint.
Strivelli said the signs exclude polytheistic religions – those that recognize multiple gods. Pagans follow an earth-based spirituality that honors mostly feminine dieties that date back to ancient Greek, Norse, Celtic and other ancient traditions.
She added that she defends the right of people to express their religious sentiments on private property. But Strivelli said that school officials were taking advantage of a time of national mourning to push their own religious beliefs on the community.
"They think they’re the only ones in mourning," Strivelli said.

Contact Maxwell at 232-5957 or TMaxwell@CITIZEN-TIMES.com




You’ll find bullies in many guises
By Chris Cox
Asheville Citizen-times
May 26th, 2001

I hate bullies. I know, hating anyone is not the Christian thing to do, but I just can’t help myself. I hate bullies, and always have.
I hated them as a child when they picked on kids who were smaller or weaker or somehow different from them. As an adult, I know that I should actually feel sorry for them since their behavior is most likely the result of pure ignorance, mistreatment at home, or some deeply rooted insecurity or fear.
Intellectually, I know this is true. But it is hard for me to summon pity for people who abuse their power to hurt other people, regardless of the psychology behind their motives.
Sometimes, bullies grow up, realize the harm they have inflicted, and are ashamed. Other times, they just get older without getting wiser. Adult bullies.
That term should be an oxymoron, but unfortunately, it isn’t. There are adult bullies in the world; apparently, several of them have children at Erwin Middle School.
Maybe you have been following the story of 13-year-old Shana McNelly, a student and member of the chorus group at the school who was, just a couple of weeks ago, subjected to several hideous displays of bully abuse after she requested that some of the songs be changed for the annual spring concert. Six of the nine songs scheduled for the performance had a Christian theme, and McNelly is a pagan.
Ultimately, as a compromise, two of the songs were removed.
But McNelly had to pay a big price for being different. She was harassed at school by her fellow students, enduring threats of physical violence and hateful comments. In one class, the students taunted her by singing "Jesus Loves Me."
I can only imagine how the Christian spirit of love must have filled the room that day. Love thy neighbor, indeed.
Still, the best was yet to come. Try to imagine how Shana McNelly must have felt on the day of the concert, when she was booed and jeered, not only by her fellow students, but also by their parents and other adults in attendance as well.
After the concert was "completed," the students motioned for the mob — er, I mean audience — to remain seated while they sang "Pie Jesu," one of the songs that was removed from the "regularly scheduled" list of songs. The chorus teacher remained on stage, the principal remained in place, the people remained in their seats. Everyone, it seemed, remained except for Shana, who left the stage in tears.
This sort of public humiliation is the stuff of nightmares, but Shana McNelly had to live it.
I want to believe that the students themselves orchestrated this little "in your face" gesture, but, even if they did, they did so with the complicity of the adults involved. No one moved to stop it, no one intervened. Instead, they piled on. Shana was showered with yet more hateful commentary as she left the building, and outside, cars approached playing Christian music loudly and the abuse continued.
It was a disgusting and disgraceful display, the day the bullies were allowed to take over Erwin Middle School and shame a little girl into tears.
Now, in the aftermath, letters expressing outrage are pouring into the newspaper. Evidently, someone put the story on a pagan Web site or something, because many of the writers are from out of town and identify themselves as pagan.
I guess what troubles me is this: Where are the letters of outrage from local people? Yes, there have been a few, but precious few. You can’t drive a quarter-mile down the road without seeing a "We Still Pray" bumper sticker, and you can bet when there is any controversy involving religion in the public arena, there is not a more vocal group than self-proclaimed Christians.
Now, however, their voices have fallen curiously silent. To the extent that they remain silent, they are all complicit in the abuse of Shana McNelly. As a community, made up of people of different faiths, we must demand more of our schools and the people who run them.
It was a big mistake to frame this debate in terms of Shana McNelly versus the school and everybody else. All she did was ask that the school live up to the letter of the Constitution by choosing songs that did not favor one faith over all others.
But the debate is not what Shana McNelly wants, or what you want, or what I want, or what the parents of Erwin Middle School students want. And it is certainly not about compromise.
It is about the Constitution, and basic fairness. It is about equal treatment under the law. It is about blocking any one religious group from advancing its cause through our public schools.
And, for God’s sake, it is about protecting our children from bullies ... of all ages.



Asheville Citizen-Times May 17, 2001

FAITH UPROAR UNFOLDS AT ERWIN MIDDLE SCHOOL

Clarke Morrison The Asheville Citizen-Times

An Erwin Middle School parent says her daughter has been harassed by other students because of the family's Pagan religious beliefs and the behavior was condoned by school officials. Vannessa McNelly said the situation turned particularly ugly at a school concert Tuesday when parents and students jeered her and her daughter and told them they were "going to hell." But Principal Andy Peoples said he handled the situation the best he could under the circumstances and talked with several students Wednesday, warning them that further inappropriate comments would not be tolerated. "Religious issues can be divisive, and I would hope that we could look to find some common ground," Peoples said. "We all have to live together. We have to find some way to get along together." McNelly said her daughter, 13-year-old Shana, joined the school chorus class earlier this year and won a spot on the all-county chorus. During the preparation for Erwin Middle's spring concert, McNelly said she complained that six of the nine songs planned for the event were religious in nature. As a compromise school officials agreed to remove two of the most "offensive" songs, "Pie Jesu" and "Did My Lord Deliver Daniel," from the program, she said. "The harassment went on for several days and my daughter was forced to leave class on one occasion and take refuge in the counselor's office," she said. "The harassment included threats of physical violence as well as one entire class singing "Jesus Loves Me" during class." Then on Tuesday night, after the scheduled program was completed, students motioned for the audience to remain seated, the piano player began playing "Pie Jesu," and some of the students began singing it, McNelly said. "They ran my daughter off and said, 'Bye, bye. Pagan get out of here,'" she said. "The chorus teacher also remained on the stage as my daughter ran off in tears. Mr. Peoples stood at the foot of the stage and made no attempt to control the situation." McNelly said that when the students finished the song, the audience broke out in applause. Outside in the hallway and parking lot, her family was "subjected to a great deal of abuse." Some cars and vans drove up to them and played Christian music at high volume, she said. "I believe that there were many actions the school officials could and should have taken regarding this incident," she said. The singing of "Pie Jesu" was "not part of the program," Peoples said. "No one was forced to listen. No one was forced to participate. Our school resource officer was here and I did ask her to make sure (the McNellys) got to their car safely. There were some verbal exchanges between adults, and we did ask everyone to leave the campus." McNelly said she doesn't know if her daughter will return to the school, but Peoples said he hopes that she does. "This type of behavior by school officials should not be allowed to continue," McNelly said. Contact Morrison at 232-5849 or Contact the Asheville Citizen-Times: http://www.citizen-times.com/cgi-bin/contact.cgi © 2000 Asheville Citizen-Times 14 O Henry Ave. Asheville, NC 28801 USA Phone (828) 252-5611

Child bullying shameful
Asheville Citizen-Times offical Editorial



May 18th, 2001

The young people and adults who harassed and made a 13-year-old child cry at Erwin Middle School during a concert Tuesday displayed such appallingly un-Christ-like behavior, it’s hard to imagine how they can possibly believe they bear witness to the man who said "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
It is simply incredible that among school officials and an entire audience of adults, no one had the courage to stand up and say, "This is shameful." It seems not one of them could recall those passages in Mark, Luke or Romans where Christ’s message of love is repeated and emphasized as the second greatest commandment.
This is a 13-year-old child who is now afraid to return to school. If they profess to believe in Christ, those who disagree with her mother’s insistence that religious music be removed from the program ought to be asking themselves, "What would Christ do?"
Clearly, attempts to remove all religious music, literature, art and iconography from public schools would be an outrageous injustice to our children. Much of the great art of every culture is infused with religious symbolism or is purely religious in nature. To deny our children exposure to that art is to deny them access to the wisdom and passion and wonder of the ages. It is to deny them understanding and insight into the cultures of the world and into their own rich heritage.
School officials are caught in an almost impossible position as they try to balance the expectations of parents. But ultimately, they owe their first allegiance to the proper education of children. One solution in this instance would have been to select a program of music that was more diverse, instead of having six of nine songs with a Christian religious theme. That brought the mother’s complaint and set off the entire course of events that culminated in the disgraceful display Tuesday night. With a more balanced program, even if the mother complained, school officials would be better able to stand by their program and avoid confrontations such as this.
That said, there is no excuse, simply none, for the behavior of the adults and young people who bullied a 13-year-old child.


Pagans to meet at school By Dale Neal, STAFF WRITER
Updated: Sep 17 2000

ASHEVILLE - Pagans from around the country will attend Wednesday's public rally at Reynolds High School, urging equal time for all religions in the schools, according to a local organizer.

"You can have no religion in the schools. You can have all religions in the schools, but you can't have only the Christian religion in the schools," said Ginger Strivelli, high priestess of the Appalachian Pagan Alliance.

Strivelli and her group requested use of the school property for their event following last month's "We Still Pray" rally, which drew thousands of area Christians upset by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against school-sponsored prayers before football games. Pagans as far away as Maine, Maryland and Oklahoma have contacted Strivelli and said they plan to attend. The Appalachian Pagan Alliance, one of several local Wiccan circles, numbers 100 members, according to Strivelli. She estimates the rally may attract 1,000 or more Pagans, as well as protesters and curious spectators.

The Alliance had to hire 15 off-duty deputies and buy liability insurance in order to hold the rally, Strivelli said. The $1,000 in costs have been picked up by three national Witch advocacy groups.

The rally will offer Wiccan prayers and blessings. Speakers will include Dara Kaye Wynne, assistant national director of Witches Against Religious Discrimination, and Diotima Mantineia, associate editor of Witches Voice, a popular Internet Web site for pagans. Stivelli will speak, along with Beth Langley, the co-founder of the Appalachian Pagan Alliance, and an Alliance member, Thomas Pendragon Brice.

Strivelli said funds also have been contributed by the Alternative Religion Education Network.

Contact Neal at 232-5970 or DNeal@CITIZEN-TIMES.com



Pagan group wants to use high school field for meeting

The Asheville Citizen-Times, Front Page article
By Jason Sandford, STAFF WRITER, 8/22/00

ASHEVILLE - A local pagan group has asked Buncombe County Schools for permission to hold an "interfaith pagan gathering" at Reynolds High School in response to a Christian prayer rally held last week.

The Appalachian Pagan Alliance hopes to stage a "We Still Work Magic" rally at the high school's football stadium on Sept. 22, the date of the autumn equinox and a sacred day for pagans. The group plans to cast blessing spells asking for acceptance and call for the earth to be healed, said group leader Ginger Strivelli.

"It would probably be the same stuff the Christians do. It's just that we have more gods than they do," Strivelli said. "We wouldn't be up there sacrificing cattle or anything."

Thousands of people filled the Reynolds stadium Thursday to attend the We Still Pray event, sponsored by a group formed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling earlier this year reaffirming a decision that prayer in public schools be done privately by individual students. One of the group's key organizers is the Rev. Ralph Sexton, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church.

Strivelli said she sent letters Friday to Reynolds Principal Tony Baldwin and school system Superintendent Cliff Dodson requesting the use of the school property.

"It was a spur of the moment thing. But I couldn't believe it when I saw they held the (We Still Pray) rally there," Strivelli said. "But if they open it up to one group, they have to open it up to every group."

Baldwin said "we're responding to their request," and referred to the school system's "clearcut policy."

The seven-page policy requires an organization to follow general guidelines, such as a ban on alcohol and tobacco sales on school property, and organizations must fill out an application form. The rules also require an organization to pay a small rental fee and may require a group to show a certificate of insurance.

In a telephone interview Monday, Superintendent Dodson said, "We will follow the policy."

Strivelli has had a run-in with the Buncombe County School system before. Last year, she filed with a complaint with the Buncombe County Board of Education, saying she was prevented from helping with her 5-year-old daughter's "fall social" at Halloween because she practices a pagan religion. School officials denied any discrimination, noting that all parents were barred from volunteering at the school during the school day closest to Halloween.

The We Still Pray group has gathered momentum in recent weeks, with organizers calling for people attending high school football games to spontaneously break into the Lord's Prayer immediately following the singing of the National Anthem. The group, which hopes to spread its message nationally, has organized a petition drive urging Congress to pass legislation seeking a constitutional amendment overturning court decisions that disallow organized prayer in public schools.

Contact Jason Sandford at JSandfor@CITIZEN-TIMES.com Pagans seek school grounds rally after Christian "We still pray" event Asheville Tribune
By Christopher Knight, 8/25/00

Reynolds High School, scene of last week's "We Still Pray" rally, might soon be seeing another religious gathering on its grounds. This time, a regional Pagan group is asking to use the facilities.

The Appalachian Pagan Alliance sent letters to Reynolds principal Tony Baldwin and Buncombe County Superintendent Cliff Dodson on Friday asking to hold a "We Still Work Magic" rally, citing that if Reynolds had been used by one religious group, it should be made available for all others.

"I thought it was an inappropriate place to have it at the public school," said Ginger Strivelli, leader of the alliance. "I'm all for them having their religious gathering, but it struck me as being a poor decision to have it at the school system."

Strivelli said the idea for a pagan rally had come to her well before last week's We Still Pray event, which attracted over 13,000 people who were able to get inside the stadium and an approximately 24,000 who tried but were turned away, congesting traffic for hours in Asheville. "It was actually about a couple of weeks ago when I saw the information about the We Still Pray rally on the public access channel."

The group has asked for a September 22nd date to hold the rally, falling on the autumnal equinox, one of the holidays of the pagan faith. But Strivelli said that "there's just not much of a plan yet. September 22nd was our first option." If the 22nd were to be unavailable, Strivelli said her group would press on until they got their rally at Reynolds. "We'll definitely be doing it there even if we have to be doing it at spring equinox," Strivelli said.

When asked about what would take place at the pagan rally if and when it is held at Reynolds, Strivelli likened it to how the pagans observe Samhain, traditionally called Halloween. "We'll be having the energizing ritual. We plan to do a ritual to further the awareness and acceptance of the pagan religion by the community," Strivelli explained, saying that her groups beliefs should be considered as validly as any other. "We still pray as well, but it was a matter of being different," she said, also asking members of the Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, and any other faiths to join their planned gathering.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Strivelli said her group had not received a response from Buncombe County Schools. "The letter was hand delivered Friday morning and we have not heard from them. They are dragging their feet, and being very difficult, which we fully expect them to be."

Strivelli said that the Appalachian Pagan Alliance covered a wide area. "We have a hundred members, stretched out from Knoxville to Charlotte." She said her group had received a great deal of feedback since announcing their plans on Monday, and that she had been contacted by numerous media outlets, and is hoping to gain support for the pagan rally.

"It'll be at the same place where the other one was," Strivelli said. "I don't think it's the right place to have a religious gathering. But now they've done it, and they need to open up to respect the diversity of the religious groups in this area."



For past editions of the APA Reporter, including articles on topics mentioned in these news stories, click here: APA Reporter Mid-2000
Letters to the Editor

Sign flap best left dormant in these times By John Boyle

Posted: Oct 15 2001

Ginger Strivelli might have a point, but man does her timing stink.

Earlier this month the Jupiter resident lodged a complaint with the Buncombe County school system about "God Bless America" signs on school grounds. She asked that the signs read, "May All Gods Bless America," or "Bless America" to reflect the polytheistic nature of Wicca and other religions.

Strivelli, the leading priestess of the Appalachian Pagan Alliance, says her stance that the schools are endorsing Christianity at the expense of other religions "certainly has generated some animosity" toward her and some of her children, who attend public elementary school in Buncombe.

"A lot of people think free speech should be dead at the moment," Strivelli said. "Even in the pagan community, there’s been some criticism of this."

Phillip Yardley, high priest of the N.C. Piedmont Church of Wicca in Morganton, would be one of the critics. "There’s better times and bigger issues to battle right now," he said. He adds that paganism has as many denominations as Christianity, and that he, for one, worships a single god. In an e-mail, he suggested Strivelli’s "antics are no different from Jerry Falwell, who promotes separatism under the name of religion.

"America needs a medium of support, and religion is an excellent means to bring people together," he wrote. "Evidently, Strivelli does not get it; she is too wrapped up in her own bridge-burning politics."

While Strivelli says she will fight on, she doesn’t plan to file suit or involve the American Civil Liberties Union. Wise move, ’cause I get the feeling the ACLU won’t touch this one with a 10-foot broomstick.

"All I would say is that right now, this is a time when our country should come together rather than be divided," said Deborah Ross, executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina. "There are not cases out there striking down ‘God Bless America.’ I don’t know if this is the time to have lawsuits develop over issues that should unite us rather than divide us."

Ross stressed that the schools should listen to the complaints and that the community should settle the problem, not the courts. The school system sees nothing wrong with the signs. Strivelli is not an unreasonable person — or unpatriotic. She’s got a brother in the Army who may just die for her right to free speech. "What really bugs me is the whole reason America was attacked is because we have freedom of religion and freedom of speech," Strivelli said. "We’re being targeted for that, and in the wake of what’s happened, we’re acting like them."

Personally, I haven’t seen any local women getting a beating for displaying their ankles in public, but I get Strivelli’s point. But it’s not a point worth pushing right now.

John Boyle’s column appears on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Contact him at 232-5847 or JBoyle@CITIZEN-TIMES.com

________________________

Where did religious freedom go?

John Boyle, Columnist

Posted: May 31

Seems to me that the students, parents and administrators out at Erwin Middle School have forgotten why they’re in Western North Carolina and the United States in the first place: religious freedom.

The Puritans couldn’t get any in Britain, so they left for America, where we even wrote an Amendment to protect their religious freedom — and everyone else’s. Fast forward 200-plus years, and this seems to be forgotten among those who heckled Shana McNelly in her chorus class after she complained about the predominance of religious hymns on the school’s spring concert. The overriding sentiment among those in the majority seems to be this: "We’re all for tolerance, as long as you believe the same things we do."

Shana, 13, rightly complained that six of nine songs were Christian and was subsequently run out of class on one occasion by jeering students. After the concert, the good Christian folk harassed Shana and her mother with loud Christian music and told them how they were going to hell.

Maybe what these folks need is a little taste of Bizarro World, where everything is turned upside-down. In this fictional world, Christians are . 5 percent of the population rather than 99.5 percent. Here’s how I think this fictional news story would unfold:

An Erwin Middle School parent says students continue to harass her 13-year-old daughter because of the girl’s Christian beliefs, and she maintains that school officials condoned the harassment.

"I just can’t understand why these pagans keep forcing their beliefs on my child," said a still-irate Nellie Godfearer, mother of Allie, 13. "All she wants to do is go to school, sing in the chorus and mind her own business, but they’re constantly hollering pagan slogans at her, or telling her that the Great Mother is going to smite her."

The harassment turned particularly ugly last week after the choral concert, which out of nine songs featured four pagan tunes, including "We All Come From the Goddess" and "Earth, Air, Fire and Water Return." Students in the majority, who openly mocked Allie’s belief in her "savior" Jesus Christ, say consistently they see nothing wrong with the religious songs in a school setting or the morning prayers to the Lord of the Greenwood.

"If she can’t get with the program and stop believing that junk, well then that’s just tough," said Billy Darknight, a pagan and one of the students who drove Allie from school in tears.

Principal Seymour Blindlee said he did all he could to make the students stop, including asking them in a firm tone to "knock it off.’’

"Religion is always a sensitive issue, especially when you have students who believe in this wacko stuff like Christianity," he said.

John Boyle’s column appears on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Contact him at 232-5847 or JBoyle@CITIZEN-TIMES.com



Asheville pagans plan magic rally to counter prayers at football field

By KEN GARFIELD • Religion Editor Sept, 2000

Irked that a "We Still Pray" rally was held at the A.C. Reynolds High football stadium, a group of pagans in Asheville will hold a rally of their own in the same stadium Sept. 20.

The pagans are calling theirs the "We Still Work Magic" rally.

"This is definitely in direct response to the `We Still Pray' rally," said Weaverville resident Ginger Strivelli, a self-professed witch and mother of five who founded Appalachian Pagan Alliance. "The school district shouldn't have opened a can of worms."

More than 25,000 Christians jammed into the A.C. Reynolds stadium and surrounding area Aug. 17 for the "We Still Pray" rally, backing up traffic for miles. The crowd cheered wildly as preachers blasted the U.S. Supreme Court for banning organized prayer at high school football games and urged Christians to recite the Lord's Prayer at Friday night games.

It'll be different when the pagans get going at 7 p.m. Sept. 20.

Strivelli, 30, said she's expecting between 100 and 1,000 people. They plan to recite prayers to various gods and goddesses. Personally, she said, she worships thousands of ancient gods, including Isis the Egyptian mother goddess. The pagans will not perform any rituals, because the contract hammered out this week with Buncombe County Schools doesn't allow them to go on the field.

This isn't the first time Christians and pagans have rubbed each other the wrong way in Asheville. Last Halloween, Asheville Mayor Leni Sitnick issued a proclamation declaring "Earth Religions Awareness Week." That incited several Christian leaders to call for the city to proclaim a "Lordship of Jesus Christ Week."

It's not unusual for public school districts to lease space to religious groups that have no home of their own. Still, the thought that a Christian movement used a public high school football stadium for a rally has inspired the pagans to have their say.

Strivelli hopes free speech doesn't stop there.

"I hope the Jewish community has one," she said, "and then the Hindu community and then the Muslim community."

Reach Ken Garfield at (704) 358-5094 or kgarfield@charlotteobserver.com.


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