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Witches, or practitioners of the Wicca religion, can pray at a county’s board meeting, a federal judge ruled.
Officials in Chesterfield County, Virginia, discriminated against Cyndi Simpson, a Wiccan, when they barred her from being on a list of clergy who can open the board of supervisors meetings with prayer, said U.S. District Court Judge Dennis W. Dohnal, according to the Chesterfield Progress-Index newspaper.
The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Wicca is regarded as a natural religion, “grounded in the earth.” Followers of its many different forms generally believe all living things, as well as stars, planets, and rocks, have a spirit.
In a letter of explanation to Simpson, County Attorney Steven L. Micas said, “Chesterfield’s nonsectarian invocations are traditionally made to a divinity that is consistent with the Judeo-Christian tradition,” the paper reported.
But the judge ruled the board violated Simpson’s constitutional right of equal and free expression of her religious beliefs.
Meanwhile, Dohnal argued, Christians are allowed to express their religious beliefs by delivering the “legislative prayer” allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Expressing delight with the outcome, Simpson, 47, said she believed the decision would bring credibility to witchcraft as a religion, the paper reported.
The ruling was a victory for non-majority religions, said Kent Willis, executive director of the ACLU.
It demonstrated why church and state should remain separate institutions, he contended.
“As the framers of the Constitution understood from their own experiences, when the state uses its vast power to endorse religious activity, it will always make losers of some faiths and winners of others,” said Willis, according to the Chesterfield daily. “That jeopardizes religious freedom.”
Editor’s note: “THE MYTH OF CHURCH-STATE SEPARATION” – the special November edition of WND’s acclaimed monthly Whistleblower magazine – documents conclusively that the modern legal doctrine of “separation of church and state” is the work of activist judges, and has utterly no basis in the Constitution.
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