Among the howls of opponents who insist that religious freedom ordinances limit LGBT civil rights, conservative lawmakers in Indiana and other states have found unlikely allies: Wiccans, who claim that any laws that give greater religious freedom are manna from the earth mother.
“I think these bills are horrible,” said Dusty Dionne, High Priest and High Summoner of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church of Washington State. “But if they are going to open up this can of worms, we are going to shove it right in their face.”
Reverend Dionne, reached at his church in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, took time out from planning for his church’s Spring Mysteries Festival—a re-creation of an initiation ceremony for the cult of Demeter in which ancient Greeks “learned to no longer fear death”—to speak to The Daily Beast. He explained what bills like the one that Indiana passed and that other states are considering would mean for Wiccans and Pagans.
For one, it would mean Wiccans would be free to at last marry whomever, or whatever, they wanted.
“Many of us believe that love is the law. Though it is not a quote-unquote Wiccan tenet to have polyamorous marriages, it is under Wiccan law that love is the law,” he said. “Whatever we want to do with marriage we can do. Carte Blanche. If I want to marry a horse, I can marry a horse.”
Dionne also pointed out that Wiccans have been “herbalists forever,” which would mean not just the freedom to use marijuana, but a host of psychotropic drugs banned by state government.
And if Wiccan residents of Indiana or other states that passed religious freedom ordinances would want to test for any substances, according to the high priest, Wiccans would be free to refuse.
“We believe in internal magic. We believe that we carry our essence within ourselves, our bodies, so we won’t for example drink from a cup of a person we don’t know or, clip our nails in the house of someone we don’t know, because if someone with ill intent has a part of our internal essence, they can hold a power over us. My body is a temple. If you come for a piece of my temple, I can say no.”
Which means, Dionne says, that Wiccans would be able to opt out of blood tests, DNA tests, urine tests, and even Breathalyzer tests if they choose to assert their rights under the new bill.
Furthermore, should a Wiccan be found to dancing naked under the light of a full moon in Terre Haute, they would be immune from prosecution merely by citing “The Charge of the Goddess,” a Wiccan holy scripture: “Whenever you have need of anything, once a month, and better it be when the moon is full, you shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me Who is Queen of all the Wise. You shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that you be free you shall be naked in your rites. Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in My Presence, for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on earth.”
But Indiana is not the only state that can look forward to naked, stoned, horse-marrying Wiccans. In March, Dionne endorsed a bill in Georgia similar to Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, sending a letter to every member of the legislature thanking them for opening “many doors for our brothers and sisters of the Craft. It will be the burden of the government to institute the appropriate policy changes to infrastructure, and the training needed to properly uphold the new rights that Wiccans hold within the new truly religiously free state of Georgia.”
To be fair, Dionne insists that his lobbying was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, saying, “We have a First Amendment already.”
Some Wiccans do have concerns with what Dionne insists is merely humorous needling. Speaking to WildHunt.org, a website that covers social issues through “A Modern Pagan Perspective,” Wiccan Priest Matthaios Theadoros was concerned that “they are seeming to set up Wicca as one that participates in polyamory and insinuates some sort of questionable herb use. Though some Wiccans may be polyamorous, it is disingenuous to suggest that it is an inherent part of the religion.”
Heather Greene, an editor at Wild Hunt, said that a person in a minority religion is thrilled with any legislative support that protects the ability to practice and worship freely. However, she added that “the concern is that recent RFRA language is so broad that it will ultimately only lead to both religious and LGBTQ discrimination.”
Greene also pointed to a number of instances where Wiccans could have benefited from additional legal protection including schoolchildren forced to remove their pentangle symbols even as their classmates were permitted to wear crosses, and the Antelope Valley Pagan Pride Day, which was crashed by screaming protesters waving Bible verses.
As for Dionne, he says that while his endorsement of religious freedom bills is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, he is also willing to take advantage of his new power, should his new conservative Christian bedfellows manage to pass laws like Indiana’s in other states. He said newly emboldened Wiccans would be ready to defend their newfound rights.
“We are the fifth-largest religion in America, and we are the fastest growing. If they pass these laws, we are going to beat a fucking drum.”