We all want our children to be safe in this world. We go to great lengths to teach our children about looking both ways before crossing the street, not to talk to strangers, no running with scissors and holding the railings on stairwells among just a few. What parents who subscribe to one of the many Judeo-Christian religions do not have to worry about is their children's safety regarding their or their parents religious and spiritual beliefs. As Pagan parents, we do. It is unfortunate, but too many Pagan parents have to worry about their children possibly being bullied at school for their families religious beliefs. Too many have to worry about what their children will say in public. Not all communities are open to various faiths that do not follow the same tenants. Careers have been ruined over an individuals personal spiritual beliefs because of ignorance and fear of beliefs that seem foreign and wrong to others. And far worse, religious freedom is dragged into too many courts of law. Pagan parents can find themselves having to fight for their right to believe what is right for them and still be able to have access to their children.
Parents separate and divorce; leaving children to be fought over in a tug of war that hurts everyone involved. Most especially the children. It can be hard enough to be civil to one another during a divorce, but throw in religion and the courts are forced to make decisions they are ill equipped to make; nor does any judge want to have to make these kinds of decisions. Church and State are kept separate for good reason. But, when an angry parent feels justified in making their ex 'pay for what they've done to them', everyone must suffer.
Whether your major concerns involve the school systems, the workplace, your community or the court of law, you need to know what your rights are. Knowledge is power. Knowing what the laws are in your state/province is not only for your and your children's protection, but it can give parents confidence to stand strong against religious bigotry and persecution and a sense of ease regarding others outside of your immediate circle of friends and family knowing what you believe.
So, how do we protect our children?
Where to start? We are all probably fairly knowledgeable on the views of our communities. This can give us a look into what we may expect in the school systems. Some of us are comfortable with staying quiet, others are more than happy to stir the pot and announce to the world exactly who and what they are, and be damned their 'views'. But we're talking about the safety and emotional well-being of our children, so our personal views on how open we will be can change. Many Pagan parents look at private schools like Montessori for their children because such a large majority of schools are Christian or Catholic based. Just because the law may be on your side, the community or school board or work place can make being in their vicinity a living nightmare. How much are we willing to take? How much are we willing to put our children through?
Teaching our children about ignorance and fear in society.
Our children need to be taught that there are people in this world who do not understand Pagan beliefs. They see what is in the movies, or scary ghost stories and believe that is what we are. It scares them. We don't need to correct them, just let them be. We'll all take the approach with our children that we know will work best, but this is a discussion that cannot wait until after it happens. Preventative measures need to be taken. You'll feel better and your children will feel more confident in themselves as they move through their life.
Yes, those of us, the Pagan parents, see all of this as ridiculous. We see divinity within nature; now that's just frightening. We are proponents for gender equality in the mundane world and so it only makes sense that this equality would include our religious world. Where some see God and the Virgin Mary, we see God and the Goddess. Equal, partners, co-creators, balance. What a horrible thought. We teach to 'Harm None'. Wow, the audacity of Pagan parents. We teach that everyone has a right to their own religious and spiritual beliefs even if they contradict our own. How awful! Non-pagans think we hold scary rituals inciting demons and other such nonsense. We wear robes and have candles and incense.
So let's all take a trip to the nearest Catholic service and watch their priests in robes and funky pointed hats, with their gold staffs, chalices of wine and plates of cakes. Swinging their noxious incense around them, all the while chanting in Latin which I doubt anyone understands. For all we know their inciting damnation on the heads of everyone there.
Now let's flip through the pages of our old history textbooks and see where exactly our upstanding Catholic priests got their basic structure and means of dress for their services. Oh yes, here it is. From the Pagan faiths before them.
Yes, we Pagan parents are a scary lot. Celebrating the seasonal changes, seeing the divine in everything and teaching our children that they have more control over their life and environment than they may think. But there are those who feel justified in their religious persecution so it's best that we all know our rights.
Learn the laws in your area now rather than later.
Yes, we can still see and feel the absurdity of it all, but being prepared certainly won't hurt. Start with locating the laws in your area. These links will help you with the information you need:
Religious Freedom - US Department of State
Canada's Office of Religious Freedom
United Kingdom Rights and Policies on Religious Freedom
Ireland 2012 International Religious Freedom Report
Australian Human Rights Commission
If you are faced with family court and custody issues involving Pagan beliefs, the best resource is the Lady Liberty League. They specialize in Pagan rights and can assist you with resources and even legal council if deemed necessary.
So find out where you stand in the eyes of the law where you live. Just keep all of the information in a file in case you ever need to use or reference it. The hope is that we never have to use it, but if we do, it's there and ready for us. Be prepared to have it on hand for school boards, employers, community facilities, unions and the court of law. It never hurts to be overly prepared.
What if the attack comes from an ex?
Start with the rights in your state/province and contact the LLL. There have been custody cases that have ranged from Pagan parents divorcing, one has 'found God' and is going to use Paganism and Witchcraft to win custody of the children; to interfaith families that decide to use the others Pagan faith against them in family court; to nonreligious couples divorcing, one remarries a Pagan/Wiccan/Witch, and the ex is going to try to get the kids by using this in court.
The worst part of this entire situation is the pain that it causes the children. One parent is doing everything they can to limit the visitations with the other parent; justifying this with outrageous claims, persecuting the other based on religion. The children see it, and worse, they feel it.
It takes time and diligence, but it is possible to insure your rights and safety of your children. To be together as a family. To feel confident and secure within yourselves regardless of the mess others are making of their own lives.
So what can we do after all the legalities are taken care of or are in motion?
Pagans tend to have a fairly good understanding of what is now being called the 'Law of Attraction'. What we put out into the world will come back to us. We may not always feel it, but we really do have the ability to choose our emotions regardless of what others are doing.
Where our children are concerned, anything an ex does or says that implies your losing them in some way is hitting below the belt. We become very emotional very quickly, but we can calm this down. If we immediately react every time with anger, sadness, rage, hatred, a need for revenge - that's what we're putting out into the Universe. So those are the things that are going to come back to us. If you can find a way to remember that the emotions you put into your dealings with your ex will be the same ones that are returned to you, you can get a better perspective on the situation. Every time you respond with anger you are literally handing all of your power to another person. Why on earth would anyone want to willingly do that? Especially if that means you're handing your power over on a silver platter to your ex.
Some tips for keeping your negative emotions at bay:
- Deep breathing helps to release endorphins, the bodies natural feel-good painkillers in addition to increasing blood flow which allows you to be more focused; relieving anxiety and fear.
- Stop talking about it with everyone you see. Notice that when you speak about it, your emotions go right back to the place of anger. So stop it!
- Find ways of distracting yourself away from your negative emotions. Stay away from the news channel, friends and family who only want to complain or hear about how horrible your life may be at this moment. Read a good book, watch a comedy, play with your pet. Anything that will turn your emotions in a more positive direction.
- Go to sleep each night reviewing everything you are grateful for, you'll wake up in that same grateful mood.
- Slow down and enjoy what you have surrounding you in this very moment. If you can't be grateful for what you have right now, you can't draw more of it into your life.
- Meditate regularly. Meditation has been proven to help people with focus and highly emotional situations. It's one of the easiest ways to relax and get ourselves back on track.
In this day and age and with so much information available regarding the numerous Pagan beliefs and religious systems one would think the ability to persecute someone for being Pagan would be long gone. This is certainly coming in the future, so in the mean time we Pagan parents need to know and understand our rights. We need to know how open we want our children to be and to be prepared to deal with the schools and community if needed. And we need to consider our role in the lives of any child who comes into our lives, either through our children's friends or step-children that join our families. Knowledge is power and the more we know the better prepared we will be in protecting our rights and those of our children. Brightest Blessings.