Solstice Talks for Equal Rights for Pagans at Yuletide

IMG 3177-smallSolstice Talks for Equal Rights for Pagans at Yuletide

Late this afternoon, Rev. Selena Fox, High Priestess of Circle Sanctuary, met by phone with Jim Schmitt, Mayor of Green Bay, Wisconsin, a city that continues to be embroiled in a growing controversy over the display of religious holiday imagery at its City Hall.

Selena requested the meeting yesterday and today in a series of phone conversations with staff members in the Mayor's office.

"I am glad that the Mayor called me and we were able to talk directly. I told him that I requested our meeting in the spirit of peace, reconciliation, and understanding that is an important part of the religious observances of both Winter Solstice and Christmas," said Fox. "'Tis the season to make peace and I sought to do this."

During the meeting, Selena endeavored to clear up misconceptions about the Wiccan religion that may have been behind the Mayor's recent anti-Craft public remarks and his refusal to let Circle Sanctuary's Yuletide pentacle wreath be reinstalled next to the Christmas nativity scene at City Hall where it had been last weekend.

Last week, the Mayor and the majority of the Green Bay's Advisory Council approved the request of City Council President Chad Fradette to add a nativity scene to City Hall. City Hall already had been decorated for the holiday season with wreaths, a Santa image, and reindeer.

Fradette purchased the nativity scene and sought to have it placed at City Hall in defiance of the attempt by Freedom From Religion to challenge a nativity scene on public land in a smaller community about forty miles from Green Bay. Fradette erected his nativity scene above the northwest entrance to City Hall on Tuesday, December 11, 2007.

On Wednesday, December 12, Mayor Schmitt publicly invited the addition of contributions of symbols of other faiths to the nativity scene. Selena decided to take him up on this offer. She contacted the Mayor's office and requested that Circle Sanctuary's evergreen wreath with Wiccan pentacle be added to the display in celebration of Yuletide, also known as the Winter Solstice. After learning that this contribution would be accepted, Circle Sanctuary's Assistant Minister Robert Paxton crafted and delivered the wreath to the Mayor's office on Friday, December 14. Later that day, City Hall staff placed the Yuletide pentacle wreath next to the nativity scene.

Circle Sanctuary's pentacle wreath remained next to the nativity scene all weekend. However shortly before 1 am Monday morning, a vandal mangled the wreath and its stand and tossed it off the roof into the bushes by the entrance. He abandoned the ladder and wreath when police were called to the scene by a passer-by. The case is still under investigation by police.

On Monday, both Paxton and Fox had a series of telephone meetings with Mayoral staff and the City attorney. They requested that either their original wreath, or a replacement that they would provide, be returned to the holidays display. The Mayor refused to return the pentacle wreath to the display and issued a moratorium that prevented the adding of any other emblems.

During her phone meeting today, Selena invited the Mayor to work with her to bring some peace and healing to the situation by finding a way to have Circle Sanctuary's Yuletide pentacle wreath returned to the holiday display to commemorate the religious holidays of Winter Solstice Eve and Winter Solstice Day on Friday and Saturday.

"I told the Mayor that Green Bay included Wiccans, Druids, and Pagans of a variety of denominations who observed Solstice as a religious holiday and that I was aware that many were upset because he and some other City officials were not giving Pagans and our Yuletide observances the same consideration that they were giving to Green Bay Christians and Christmas since they allowed the nativity to remain up through Christmas day."

The Mayor cast the deciding vote in the City Council meeting last night which permitted only the nativity scene to stay at City Hall out of consideration for Green Bay Christians celebrating Christmas and which denied other symbols including the Yuletide pentacle wreath.

Although the Mayor acknowledged to Fox that he could call a special meeting to consider her request today to have the pentacle wreath up just for Solstice, he told Selena that he was unwilling to do this. Fox and Schmitt agreed to talk again in 2008 in connection with the creation of requirements that the Mayor and other City officials plan to draft for holidays displays at City Hall for next year.

Circle Times: Wednesday, December 19, 2007