Pagans ask for a fair go
Urge anti-discrimination laws

By Karen Michelmore

(Investigator 63, 1998 November.
Reprinted courtesy of The Advertiser 1998, January 31, p. 45)

THE nation’s witches and druids have called on the Federal Government to adopt laws that will protect them from discrimination and vilification in practising their religion.

The Pagan Alliance has written to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, which will make the recommendations in a report titled Free To Believe? The Right to Freedom of Religion and Belief in Australia.

The HRC claims Australian law offers little protection for freedom of religion and belief and only limited protection against discrimination on the basis of religion and belief.

In a submission to the commission, the Pagan Alliance’s NSW regional councillor, Ms Adrianne Harris, claims its members face continuous hatred and discrimination for practising the pagan religion including:

BEING pressured to resign from jobs when their paganism is revealed.

DIFFICULTY in gaining access to community centres and local halls for meetings or other activities which, according to Ms Harris, finds a lot of venue co-ordinators assuming "that their premises will be used for 'orgies', 'sacrifices' and other subversive bahavior".

VERBAL abuse and harassment from Christian fundamentalists, including having their outdoor rituals picketed.

PAGAN parents being pressured to withdraw their children from school because of misunderstandings about the religion and its practice being wrongly labelled as "satanic".

"Many pagans are still 'in the broom closet' and, as such, feel unsafe or uncomfortable revealing their religion, and they are also consequently seen to be non-religious," Ms Harris said. "They (Christians) have told me on numerous occasions that I am going to hell… I have been told that I will see the light one day.

"Everyone should have the right to their own religion, as long as there is protection from discrimination by law."

The commission, which has received 250 submissions from religious groups, is likely to present the report to the federal Attorney-General, Mr Williams in March.

Meanwhile, of a Queensland government move to retain a law that makes the practice of witchcraft illegal, the submission, states: "This is a case of discrimination...witchcraft is a legitimate religion practised by many pagans in Australia. Why then is it still illegal in Queensland?"

A religion without priests or saints

PAGANISM is the world's oldest religion and is as old as the human race.

The national Pagan Alliance says paganism has no founders, no earthly leaders, no prophets, no messiahs and no saints.

Pagans do not worship the devil but consider satanism to be the dark side of Christianity.

They perceive god through the forces of nature and see the Earth, the planets, the stars and the void as one great divine source.

Paganism encompasses all religions that relate back to nature.

The word Pagan was the term the Romans used for the country-dwellers they found when they invaded Britain.