The Lady Liberty League is currently working with partners to address the re-appearance of a Facebook page advocating violence. We are working to do further problem solving with Facebook about this.
What you can do to help:
We thank the community for your continued support and vigilance.
The Lady Liberty League and the Covenant of the Goddess are delighted to announce that two Facebook pages advocating the death and torture of alleged ‘witches’ or ‘wizards’ have been removed for violating Facebook’s community standards.
Over the past week, LLL and CoG have been engaged in dialogue with the Pagan community and with Facebook over the presence of these disturbing, hate-filled pages. The pages appeared to be part of an ongoing-campaign of violence against powerless people within predominantly Christian communities, and did not initially target Pagans.
Nevertheless, the Pagan and related Nature-Spirituality communities, who use similar terminology, were concerned by the hate-filled rhetoric and by the initial lack of response to removal requests. After a communication with decision makers at Facebook, the company has agreed that such pages do violate its community standards and have removed them.
LLL and CoG applaud Facebook’s decision to remove these pages. We honor Facebook’s stated commitment to protecting freedom of speech and the free exchange of ideas, and recognize that the decision to remove content cannot be taken lightly. We are gratified that after giving the matter consideration, Facebook took a stand for human rights and for a world in which everyone can live free of the fear of violence.
We urge the Pagan community to join us in expressing our thanks to Facebook for listening and and making this positive change. We hope Facebook will to continue to be a leader in the effort to address violence and hate wherever it festers.
We also thank the many partners within the Pagan community who worked with us to engage in respectful dialogue with Facebook and respond to the situation in a coordinated and effective way. This was truly a community effort, and we are thankful for the many people who gave their time, research skills, passion and spiritual energy to this cause. Our community has once again shown that we can rally together and support one another in making the world a better place.
This victory will help make the internet a more civil place, but the real struggle is ongoing. Around the world - not just in Africa, but in our own communities - vulnerable people, including children, are tormented or killed after being labeled as ‘witches’ or ‘sorcerers.' Most are unconnected to our spiritual community, except that their attackers call them by the same words that we have reclaimed for our spiritual practices. Yet we cannot and should not turn a blind eye to their suffering. We urge the Pagan community to support worldwide efforts to eliminate persecution in the name of religion.
The Lady Liberty League, the Covenant of the Goddess, and our partners will continue to support efforts within our community to make violence unacceptable everywhere and to support efforts to promote human rights and freedom from fear for all.
The Lady Liberty League (LLL) has been contacted by many members of our community, concerned by several Facebook pages that promote violence against people the members identify as 'witches or wizards.'
Several pages have been identified as being highly problematic. Most appear to have been created by people identifying themselves as Christians in Africa.
In response, on Tuesday, August 20th the Lady Liberty League released the following open letter to Facebook.
The Lady Liberty League (LLL) is an organization supporting religious freedom for Wiccans, Pagans, and other Nature religion practitioners and human rights worldwide. Over the past few days we have received numerous reports from members of our community concerned about several Facebook pages and groups advocating violence and murder against "witches or wizards." These pages include:
The stated aim of these pages is to advocate for the torture and murder of people their members believe to be 'witches' or 'wizards.' These threats are of particular concern to our community, many of whom also use the word 'witch' to describe their own nature-based religious practices. Members of our community have been all too frequently targeted by violent people who do not understand the distinction between our religion and their idea of malevolent 'witches' or 'wizards'.
We have also observed with growing alarm, the increase of 'witch hunts' in Africa, where the authors of these pages seem to live, as well as in other parts of the world. There, religiously motivated 'witch hunters' are singling out the most powerless members of their communities, including children, widows and the sick, and subjecting them to torture and murder. This is not ancient history or the Wizard of Oz; these deaths are happening now. In that context, and in that location, we cannot interpret the Facebook pages in question as anything but justifications of and calls for violence against real people.
Our community members and LLL staff have attempted to use Facebook's integrated reporting function to alert your company to these pages, which are a clear violation of Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SSR), which states under Item 3. Safety - 7. "You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence," (emphasis ours). We have received responses from Facebook indicating that you have not found a that these pages violate Facebook's community standards.
Facebook has become a meeting place of many ideas, and a force for freedom of expression around the world. Our community deeply values the work that your company has done to support the free exchange of opinions. We appreciate the enormity of the task that Facebook has, in answering the millions of abuse reports it receives, however we strongly feel that in this case your reviewers have erred.
We are confident that Facebook will review your own community standards and recognize, in light of the real, daily violence that these pages are part of, you will revise your decision and disable these and all future pages calling for violent witch hunts anywhere.
the Lady Liberty League
LLL is also in the process of coordinating with the Covenant of the Goddess, other organizations and individuals within the Pagan Community to constructively address this issue, and to contact decision makers within Facebook.
In the meantime we ask that the Pagan community exercises restraint and clear communication in addressing this issue. If we are not specific and accurate in our objection, it is likely that we will be ignored.
Our investigation into the pages that have been brought to our attention suggests that the hateful speech there is part of a larger pattern of individuals using 'witch hunting' as a justification for violence against scapegoats within their own communities. These victims, which include children, the elderly and the disabled, may, for the most part identify themselves as also being Christians. While religious difference has been the root of many persecutions for 'witchcraft' or 'sorcery,' that does not appear to be the case in the regions where these pages are coming from now. Therefore, we feel it is critical that we express our opposition to these pages as being rooted in a respect for human rights and an abhorrence for violence, rather than seeing this as an example of religious discrimination.
We encourage the Pagan community to engage in respectful and calm dialog with Facebook, focusing our message on preventing violence.
We strongly urge our community not to engage with the members of these pages directly. Such attempts are not likely to promote understanding, and may even make the situation on the ground worse. Members on these pages are already interpreting attempts by well-meaning Pagans to ask them to change their language to be 'evidence' that there are evil, malicious 'witches' and 'wizards' who wish to silence them. The last thing we want to do is to give the authors of these pages ammunition to spread their twisted world view to others.
If you have contact information for decision makers within Facebook, we encourage you to send that information to email@example.com. LLL is a program of Circle Sanctuary.
This is an opportunity for our community to come together and take a stand against violence anywhere and everywhere. Our religion shows us that all things are connected, and therefore we feel it is critical to speak out for human rights for all.
August 20, 2013
For immediate release
June 1, 2013
More info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the past week, Lady Liberty League and the Pagan community have come a long way in addressing the concerns and controversy surrounding the Florida Pagan Summer Solstice Festival in Pahokee. The Summer Solstice Festival will be held at the Lake Okeechobee Resort and Marina June 19-23. It has been the recent target of anger and protest by several Christian pastors, particularly at a Pahokee City Commission meeting on Tuesday, May 28, 2013. At the Pahokee City Commission meeting, several local Christian pastors and community members objected to the festival being held in the region. On Wednesday, May 29, participants and coordinators of the planned Pagan festival appealed to the Lady Liberty League (LLL) for assistance.
A special LLL Task Force has been created by LLL activists and concerned members of the Pagan community to work toward a thoughtful and measured response to the Florida Solstice Festival situation. "This is an opportunity not only to bring about better public understanding about Paganism, but for Pagans of many paths to work together with each other and with others supporting religious freedom in Pahokee,” said Rev. Selena Fox, Executive Director of the Lady Liberty League (LLL) and Senior Minister of Circle Sanctuary. Members of the LLL Task Force participated in interfaith communications in order to increase understanding about Paganism in Pahokee and surrounding areas. "It is an honor to be in service to our community and help coordinate this effort that seeks to both educate the public and protect the religious activities of our community,” said Peter Dybing, Coordinator for the LLL Florida Fest Task Force.
After local concerns about the festival made the news (see May 29, 2013 coverage of the meeting), several Christian ministers in Pahokee convened a “Pastors Meeting” so they could plan a protest of the Pagan Solstice festival. One of the area pastors, Rev. David Broadband, of Canal Point Methodist Church, invited Rev. Peter Dybing of LLL to attend the local meeting of concerned pastors.
About fifty people attended the meeting, including the organizing pastors, some community members, and about a dozen other Christian pastors from elsewhere in Florida. Prior to addressing the purpose of the gathering, the group shared in collective worship led by the Nazarene Christian pastor who had convened the meeting at his church. After more than an hour-long service with prayers and music, one of the local pastors stated that the worship service was “all well and good’ but they were there to discuss the “evil coming to our town with the Satan worshipers.”. Following this, Rev. Broadband spoke and explained that the community had been given some untruths about the Pagan festival and Paganism. He then introduced Rev. Peter Dybing, LLL representative and ordained minister with Covenant of the Goddess, to clear up the misunderstandings.
Rev. Dybing detailed his own background as a Chief Federal Officer on a disaster management team and he explained that these teams respond to communities such as theirs when threatened by wildfire or other disasters. It is in the same fashion that the LLL Task Forceis responding to the situation in the Pahokee region. Rev. Dybing also expressed his and LLL’s deep respect and honoring for the Christian denominations represented at the meeting: “Today I am here because our community has reacted to negative statements made about Paganism and our community. In a couple of weeks, we will be your neighbors for five days. The reaction of the Pagan community to these statements is that, while not meant to be hurtful, they represent an example of “bearing false witness” against our community. Today I am here to clear up these misunderstandings.”
In addressing specific concerns about the Solstice festival at the meeting, Rev. Dybing provided some examples of this misinformation. He then corrected the misconceptions with correct information and disavowed the “worshiping Satan” issues with a framing of Paganism as “Nature Religion.” The entire body remained respectful and engaged throughout Rev. Dybing’s explanation, which also included these remarks: “Long before our nation confronted the abomination that was slavery, long before we addressed the rights of women to vote, our founding fathers came to our shores in search of religious liberty, The concept in engrained in us as Americans. What I am here asking is not for your support, or your approval, but your tolerance for our right to engage in religious activity. If anyone were to protest the activities of your church, our community, would, if asked, come to your defense. We ask only the same, please don’t protest our event”.
After Rev. Dybing’s statements, the pastor who organized the meeting declared to all present that there would be “No Protest”. He and Peter Dybing shook hands; a significant gesture in heated times. Rev. Dybing stated that if members of their community wanted to pray for our community, we would welcome such prayers as we see all prayer as a good thing. It was clear that LLL’s approach of outreach at this meeting had had a profound effect on the proceedings.
One of the most positive things that resulted from these communications is engagement with a representative of the local Chamber of Commerce. The representative stated that the Chamber “fully supports the festival and local business owners will be open for business and looking forward to the festival.” She also stressed that those attending will be safe and should not let a small group of individuals affect the event or their experience. The support of the local Chamber of Commerce is important. Those who wish to thank them for their support can e-mail expressions of appreciation to: email@example.com
Throughout the events of the last week, hate was confronted with respect, love, compassion and information. Those spreading misinformation were forced to face the reality of Pagans as “normal people.” LLL’s approach and communications were respectful, educational, and compassionate. Lady Liberty League, LLLTask Force Coordinator Dybing and Executive Director Selena Fox received hundreds of expressions of support and it was evident that all the positive energy manifested a positive outcome for the community.
Lady Liberty League is thankful to all who have been supporting efforts to have more peace, love, and understanding in the Pahokee, Florida area. LLL is also thankful that the pastor who called the meeting agreed that there would not be a protest against the Pagan Summer Solstice Festival.
LLL is very thankful to Methodist minister Rev. David Broadband, of Canal Point Methodist Church, who took an incredible amount of personal and professional risk in his invitation and his introduction of Lady Liberty League’s representative Dybing at this event. Rev. Broadband lives and conducts his ministry in the Pahokee, Florida community. His actions in standing up for religious liberty make him a hero to our community. Those wishing to express their gratitude for his heroic actions can email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rev. Selena Fox, Executive Director of Lady Liberty League states: “We are thankful to LLL Task Force Coordinator Peter Dybing for his work on this situation. We are glad that he was able to speak at the meeting, help dispel misconceptions, and that he was able to help bring about more peace and understanding. Additionally, LLL thanks everyone who is part of the Task Force, Rev. Broadband, the local Chamber of Commerce and all who have been working together for a positive and peaceful outcome. It is our hope that the Pagan Festival in Pahokee can be positive for those taking part and for the community as a whole.”
Stay informed with updates at LLL Facebook page: www.facebook.com/LadyLibertyLeague
More about LLL: www.circlesanctuary.org/liberty; email@example.com.
May 30, 2013
For Immediate Release
Florida - The Lady Liberty League has formed a Task Force to address community concerns surrounding the Summer Solstice Pagan Festival near Pahokee, Florida.
The planned Summer Solstice Festival at the Lake Okeechobee Resort and Marina in mid-June was the target of anger and protest at a Pahokee City Commission meeting on Tuesday, May 28, by several Christian pastors and community members who objected to the festival being held in the region. On Wednesday, May 29, participants and coordinators of the planned Pagan festival appealed to the Lady Liberty League for assistance.
Also on May 29, coverage of the meeting appeared on local news website florida.newszap.com, and was soon picked up by Pagan news sources. Many Pagan individuals and organizations have expressed support for a unified effort to address the misinformation and lack of knowledge shown by individuals quoted in the article.
"This is an opportunity not only to bring about better public understanding about Paganism, but for Pagans of many paths to work together,” said Rev. Selena Fox, Executive Director of Circle Sanctuary and the Lady Liberty League (LLL).
LLL is currently working with festival organizers to resolve the situation. At this time, both the local government and the owners of the festival site have expressed support for holding the festival as scheduled. Efforts are focused defusing confrontation with the local Christian community, and engaging in education and compassion-based communication to create a safe and positive event.
A special LLL Task Force has been created by concerned members of the Pagan community to work toward a thoughtful and measured response to the situation. Members of the LLL Task Force are presently involved in interfaith discussions to increase understanding about Paganism in the local community. "It is an honor to be in service to our community and help coordinate this effort that seeks to both educate the public and protect the religious activities of our community,” said Peter Dybing, the primary coordinator of the LLL Florida Fest Task Force.
The support of the entire community in sending positive energy, volunteering for the Task Force and offering technical support is requested and appreciated. It is very important to focus on unified effort and to avoid any action that might be perceived by members of the local community as intimidating, as that would undermine the ongoing communication and education efforts.
At this time, Lady Liberty League asks that those who wish to help:
If you are involved in a situation that you believe Lady Liberty League should look into, please provide us with detailed information so our staff can properly assess it and advise you accordingly. You may use our online form below, or you may download a printable copy, fill it out and send it to us. Please fill out the form completely, to save both you and us time in followup.
Printed copies may be faxed to us at (608) 924-5961, or may be mailed to us at Lady Liberty League c/o Circle Sanctuary, PO Box 9, Barneveld WI US 53507. For more information, you may also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lady Liberty League and other Pagan organizations have been providing support to Pagan childrens' book author Kyrja Withers (and family) of New Port Richey, FL. Over the past few months, harassment at her home has escalated to property damage, threatening her family's safety.
Read more on efforts to help the Withers family below:
WFTS television ABC Action News, Tampa, Florida -- http://www.abcactionnews.com/dpp/news/region_pasco/pagan-witch-says-her-home-was-targeted
New Fort Richey Patch (4/2/13) -- Shots Fired at Local Author's Windows
New Fort Richey Patch (4/22/13) -- Attacks at Pagan Author's Home Raise Concerns
April 30, 2013, For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Rev. Selena Fox, Executive Director, Lady Liberty League
Phone: (608) 924-2216
Lady Liberty League Update: Pagan Community helps Kyrja Withers
New Port Richey Florida – Pagan children’s books author Kyrja Withers has been the target of a series of attacks at her family home in New Port Richey, Florida. Over the past few months, anti-Pagan harassment has turned violent, causing property damage and threatening the family’s health and safety. At first, she was reluctant to enlist any help. However, as the situation escalated and news of this was shared, Kyrja and her family are receiving a growing outpouring of support from the Pagan community near and far.
"Whenever hate against Pagans surfaces, we need to work together to dispel it and to stand strong, collaborate, and support those who have been targeted," said Rev. Selena Fox, Executive Director of Lady Liberty League.
Over the past month, as news of Kyrja’s story spread, various Pagan organizations and individuals stepped up to offer their expertise and much-needed community assistance. These organizations included Lady Liberty League, Circle Sanctuary, the Officers of Avalon, Florida Pagan Newswire Collective, and Everglades Moon Local Council, the Florida chapter of Covenant of the Goddess. Along with others, these organizations collaborated with the single aim of ensuring the Withers' family safety and security.
“Here is yet another sign of how our community has matured and embraced the ethic that in these harassment situations, no matter the individual path, we are one community, united in defense our religious freedom,” said Peter Dybing, Security Specialist with Lady Liberty League and a member of Covenant of the Goddess
Last week, as part of his work with Lady Liberty League, Peter Dybing visited the Withers’ home, for three days. He conducted an extensive surveillance operation at the home to determine the most effective security measures. He scanned the area, interfaced with local law enforcement, and spoke directly with the family. Many of his recommendations have now been put into effect.
However, some of the recommendations were beyond the family’s personal budget. Therefore, on Sunday, April 28, Kyrja began a crowd-funding Indiegogo campaign to raise the funds needed to implement some of these final security recommendations. In less than two days, she managed to raise the needed $1,100 to purchase the recommended security equipment. This successful campaign is yet another way that the Pagan community has “united in defense of religious freedom.” Kyrja thanks everyone for this and other support.
The Lady Liberty League is continuing to stay in touch with local law enforcement as they work on this case. So far, law enforcement’s proactive involvement has contributed greatly to a reduction in the incidents of harassment. In addition, the New Port Richey police are providing additional security assets during the entire investigation, and one of their police cars is now parked directly in front of the Withers’ home.
To date, media coverage has helped Kyrja and her family. Within the Pagan community, sharing of her story has helped to rally individuals and organizations, to bring in needed funds, and to network for expertise and assistance. The story also has found its way into the local mainstream press including Suncoast News (April 26), New Port Richey’s Patch.com (April 22) and WFTS television ABC Action News (April 29). With input from a local police detective and Lady Liberty League media advisors, these news reports have pointed out the alleged civil rights violations of this case.
"Kyrja, Randy, myself and the Lady Liberty League team are all thankful for the help of law enforcement, local media, and others in addressing the anti-Pagan harassment and attacks against the Withers. We appreciate the wonderful outpouring of support of Pagans, Pagan organizations, neighbors, and others from the area and beyond." said Rev. Selena Fox
Selena is continuing to provide phone call support and strategy planning with Kyrja and her husband Randy just as she has been doing throughout. She, Peter, and others working with Lady Liberty League are continuing to be available to the New Port Richey police department and local media as needed.
Here are some ways to help support for Kyjra and her family:
For more info and additional updates, connect with Lady Liberty League:
LLL, PO Box 9, Barneveld, WI 53507 USA * (608) 924-2216
Media Contact: Rev. Selena Fox, Executive Director
Phone: (608) 924-2216
For Immediate Release, April 29, 2013
New Port Richey Florida - Local children’s author, Kyrja Withers, has been the target of a series of attacks at her family home in New Port Richey, Florida. Over time, the harassment has turned violent, causing property damage and threatening the family’s health and safety.
The harassment and other attacks appear to be based on misunderstanding about Paganism, Kyrja’s religion. While the New Port Richey Police Department continues its extensive investigation, Kyrja also has enlisted the help of a national civil rights organization, Lady Liberty League, and one of its security specialists.
Lady Liberty League (LLL), headquartered in Wisconsin, is a national organization that assists Pagans when their religious freedom and civil rights are in jeopardy. Over the past week, the Lady Liberty League’s private security specialist conducted a surveillance operation in order to determine and implement the most effective security measures.
“We are assisting law enforcement in helping protect Kyrja, her family, and home," said Rev. Selena Fox, Executive Director of Lady Liberty League. Many of LLL’s recommendations for the Withers have now been put into effect. The organization will continue to assist law enforcement and work with Kyrja and her family to ensure their safety as the situation unfolds.
The cooperation with local law enforcement has been outstanding. Their proactive involvement already has contributed to a reduction in the incidents of harassment. In addition, the police have spoken directly with Lady Liberty League staff and are providing additional security assets as needed during the investigation.
About Lady Liberty League: Founded in 1985 Lady Liberty League (LLL) is a Pagan religious freedom and civil rights support organization sponsored by Circle Sanctuary, one of America’s oldest and largest Nature religion churches. LLL provides information and networking assistance to individuals and organizations concerned with religious freedom issues pertaining to Wicca, Paganism, and other forms of Nature religions. LLL includes volunteer specialists in a variety of focus areas, including public relations, employment, child custody, military affairs, law enforcement, legal affairs, interfaith relations, and others.
Pagans are among the many who are taking part in Marriage Equality Support events this week in Washington, DC and across the nation, as the Supreme Court of the United States hears two cases on this issue.
Circle Sanctuary Senior Minister Rev. Selena Fox will be taking part in three events in Washington, D.C. and will be hosting a special Pagan Community forum on internet radio on this civil rights quest.