Pagan Paths

Hellenismos, otherwise known as Greek Reconstructionist Paganism, is the traditional, polytheistic religion of ancient Greece, reconstructed in and adapted to the modern world. It's a vibrant religion which can draw on a surprising amount of ancient sources. Baring the Aegis blogger Elani Temperance blogs about her experiences within this Tradition.

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Canada's Public Safety Minister lets part-time non-Christian chaplains go

Look, we all know that in most Western countries, Christianity is the major religion. This means that for many people in Western countries, 'religion' is synonymous with 'Christianity'. I suspect that in the modern Pagan movement, a lot of anger towards Christianity comes from this blatant disregard of two thirds of the world's religious people. In general, I can deal with the dominant Christian worldview. I may not like it, but I respect it. In my day-to-day dealings with those of the Christian faith, I can usually find the things we have in common within our religions and we make it work. This, however, does not mean that Christianity is the same as Hellenismos, and that a Christian chaplain--by origin a word applied to a representative of the Christian faith, now applied to men and women of other religions or philosophical traditions--could accurately guide me if I should ever end up in a hospital, the military or a prison.

While I'm usually very positive about Canada, I am not so positive today. CBC reports that the federal government is cancelling the contracts of non-Christian chaplains at federal prisons across the country. This doesn't mean just the 'fringe' faiths like Buddhism and Sikh--the Wiccan chaplain that got hired, got fired right away back in September--but also Judaism, Islam and the First Nation spiritualities. Why? Because Public Safety Minister Vic Toews isn't convinced part-time chaplains from other religions are an appropriate use of taxpayer money.

I would love to go caveman batshit over this, but Hellenismos has this thing about ethics and eloquent speech, so I'm going to try and actually formulate my opinion instead of reducing my power of speech to a Lolcat.

I understand that we're in a time of economic crisis. Budget cuts are going to happen. I understand this. Letting go of about eighty part-time employees is a money saver within any company--and a government is basically a very big company. Yet, I see no request for the part-time chaplains to (temporarily) volunteer at their job, and the part-time Christian chaplains can stay. I may be jumping to conclusions, but it seems to me that Toews, who is a Mennonite, suffers from the belief that Christianity can fix everything. That Christianity is the be-all and end-all of religion.

According to the article, 'Toews' office says that [...] the part-time non-Christian chaplains will be let go and the remaining full-time chaplains in prisons will now provide interfaith services and counselling to all inmates'. One can easily see why this is an incredibly bad idea. To borrow an analogy from a close friend: this is like expecting a Volvo specialist to handle the needs of every other company's cars, just because they know 'cars'. The Christian chaplains may get some of the peripheral's right, but they'll never be able to provide religious services to all faiths, even if they tried. Why? Because doing so would go against the dogma of their own religion.

I can't imagine the Christian chaplains being happy with this decision either, honestly. Even if they were allowed/pushed to provide only Christian type services to those of other faiths, it would be a daunting and ungrateful task. If the Christian chaplains will be required to provide the services the part-time chaplains used to provide, they must feel even worse. Can you see a Christian chaplain performing a Samhain ceremony? Or a proper Sweat Lodge?  Of course, that's not exactly Toews' problem, now is it?

Honestly, I doubt this decision will stand for long. It screams religious discrimination and that, thankfully, is against the law. You can't just kick out all minority religions and leave Christianity. You either kick them all out, or leave the system as it is--preferably with a (part-time) chaplain for other fringe religions as well. Anything else is unconstitutional. It's as simple as that. And I'm pretty sure these few part-time chaplain won't burden or solve Canada's national deficit. In fact, I'm pretty sure more taxpayer money will be spent on court cases challenging this decision than would have been spent on the salary of minority chaplains for a year (with a full time chaplain salary in Canada averaging out at around C$ 40.000,- a year).

All in all, this kind of news makes me sad. So many people just do not get it. They don't get religion, or religion that is not their own. They don't get that everyone has the right to believe what they want to believe, even if you think it's utter and total bullshit. You, as a human being, have absolutely no right to decide what another person can and cannot believe. It's as simple as that. Yet, these people end up making up the rules for those who choose other vocations. And that, to put it bluntly, sucks.

I hope someone challenges Toews' decision soon. This can not stand, and will not stand for long. When that happens, it may pave the way for fringe religions to get their foot in the door. Toews may have unleashed the hounds on this one, and I'm pretty sure that was not his intention. I feel there is a growing awareness in the Pagan movement that we're nearing a point where we'll claim what is rightfully ours. Idiotic decisions like this give us a boost; it shows the public that the law is on our side. Then again, I am an eternal optimist. For now, lets see what happens. If you're in Canada: speak up. Speak to as many people as you can about these issues, get tongues wagging. Call for action. Challenge Toews. Above all: keep faith. This too, shall pass.

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Elani Temperance is a twenty-seven year old woman, who lives with her partner in The Netherlands. She has been Pagan for a little over twelve years and has explored Neo-Wicca, Technopaganism, Hedge Witchery and Eclectic Religious Witchcraft before progressing to Hellenismos. Although her home practice is fully Hellenic, she has an online Neo-Pagan magazine called 'Little Witch magazine' ( in which she and several co-writers try to cover the whole gamut of Neo-Paganism. Baring the Aegis is also on Facebook:


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