To be a Wiccan in America


Free exercise of religion is protected in the United States provided that the belief is sincerely held and is a
religious belief of any kind. The belief or practice need not be a part of an organized religion or sect, and
need not include a belief in any Supreme Deity. Indigenous, polytheistic, agnostic, and atheistic beliefs all
fall under the protection of the law. ("Know")

In America, it was determined in the ruling of US vs. Ballard, in 1944, that the "Courts can not judge the
validity of any belief or doctrine" ("Know"). The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution states that
"No state shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." However,
those who are Wiccan have found it difficult to see these laws enforced. Wiccans suffer from
discrimination in many forms throughout America. Those who fear Wiccans and do not understand the
Wiccan religion often base this discrimination in misinformation and the spread of misinformation.
Wicca is not a cult or a fringe development. "The number of Wiccans in the United States has
been estimated at anywhere from 50,000 to 500,000 (and) studies show that Paganism and Witchcraft are
among the nation\'s fastest growing religions" (Franke-Folstad "Coven"). This growth is found despite the
fact that "...it is against their beliefs to try to convert anyone" (Pendleton). Yet many people still don\'t
understand the basic facts about Wicca. Stephan Price, a Wiccan Priest, defines Wicca as "an alternative
name for modern Witchcraft" (Crann), but that really doesn\'t assist in dispelling the falsehoods about the
religion.
Wicca is not about the "Hollywood stereotypes of evil hexes and satanic rituals. Instead...it is about
worshipping the divinity of nature" (Putnam). "For centuries, witches have been accused of all sorts of
deviant behavior, including the worship of Satan. Ironically, the exact opposite is true of witches, witches
do not believe in or worship the devil--they consider it a concept peculiar to Christianity" (Crann). Some
confusion stems from the use of the pentacle. For Wiccans, the pentacle, is "a five-pointed star
that...symbolizes such benign entities as the Earth and its properties, or five senses" (Franke-Folstad,
"Coven"). For those who are unaware of this, the pentacle is often associated with the inverted pentagram
worn by those who worship Satan and the occult (Franke-Folstad, "Coven").
There is also confusion in the way in which Wiccans gather to worship. Some, but not all, Wiccans gather
together in covens. A "coven is one of the names used to define a cohesive group of witches (Wiccans) who
work and worship together on a regular basis" (McCoy 4). Because of the secrecy in which covens often
meet, many people choose to believe that coven members conduct rituals or sacrifices, and that this is why
covens do not have open ceremonies. It is these very beliefs that cause covens to tend to be secretive in
their meetings, usually in an attempt to avoid verbal or even physical abuse upon coven members.
Covens, like most of Wicca, do not have any set form or rules to define them. Covens are varied in
traditions, size, sex, and beliefs (McCoy 4). Most Wiccans do hold nature to be divine, and most believe
that all living things are sacred. Wiccans celebrate events in nature such as the change of the seasons and
the phases of the moon (Franke-Folstad "Coven"). Wiccans do not have a set doctrine of beliefs, but they
do have a few ground rules that most abide by (Stein 1). The first of these rules is known as the Wiccan or
Witches\' Creed, \'An it harm none, do as ye will\' (Loose). The creed is considered to be very similar to the
Hippocratic Oath and the golden rule (Stein 1). The second of the agreed upon principles is the concept
that "what you send out comes back to you, multiplied three or ten times" (1). Combined with the Wiccan
Creed, these two ground rules make Wicca a very forgiving, gentle religion, since it makes absolutely no
sense to harm anyone, including the p!
erson practicing Wicca. Yet Wiccans have suffered and continue to suffer from many forms of
discrimination and violence within America.
"An essential lesson learned in Wicca 101 is that witches are a much misunderstood