The Beltane Festival is held on April 30 each year by up to 12,000 pagans on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill to celebrate the dawn of spring, according to the ancient Celtic calendar.
Scotland’s University of Edinburgh, after proposing a ban on Bibles and denying a Christian campus group the right to hold a conference on the immorality of homosexuality, has extended the welcome mat to the school’s Pagan Society to hold its annual meeting on campus next month.
The pagan conference will feature presentations on a variety of topics, including Magic and Witchcraft in the 21st Century, Pagan Parenting, Pagan Marriage, Pagan Symbolism and Practice and Ancient Greek magic. A workshop in tribal dance will be held at the university Student’s Association.
“It will be an opportunity for people to listen to talks on various aspects of modern paganism and socialize with like-minded people in a relaxed, tolerant atmosphere,” said John Macintyre, presiding officer of Pagan Federation Scotland. “Most people now recognize that the old stereotypes about witches and witchcraft are way off the mark and there is nothing remotely sinister about it.”
“Remotely sinister,” it seems, is reserved for Christians at Edinburgh.
In 2005, WND reported plans to begin banning Bibles from Edinburgh student halls of residence due to concern they are the source of discrimination against students of other faiths.
The ban was a response to student association protests as well as an agenda to equally support all faiths, a university spokesman told the Times of London.
While a Gideon Bible had traditionally been placed in the room of all new students, officials decided they could be offensive to some. Removal, advocates said, was about “respecting diversity,” not attacking Christianity.
The previous year, Edinburgh removed prayer from graduation ceremonies.
The decision to allow the Pagan Society to hold its meeting on campus comes a year after university officials denied the same privilege to the university’s Christian Union.
Officials banned a course on the dangers of homosexuality the group wanted to teach, saying it was in violation of the university’s guidelines. A compromise offered by the university allowed the course to be taught if posters offering differing views were prominently displayed.
“This seems to be a clear case of discrimination,” said Matthew Tindale, a Christian Union staff worker. “It’s okay for other religions, such as the pagans, to have their say at the university, but there appears to be a reluctance to allow Christians to do the same. All we are asking for is the tolerance that is afforded to other faiths and organizations.”
Simon Dames, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, called the university’s action an example of “Christianphobia.”
“This appears to be a clear case of double standards,” he said. “The principles of a pluralistic democracy revolve around an acceptance of competing ideas and universities should be enshrining this principle. Anti-racism groups would never be asked to put up posters saying there are alternative views.”
Pagan Macintyre has no sympathy for the Christians’ appeal to fairness, stressing that followers of his faith are tolerant and support the university’s equality policies .
“Pagans, as a rule, don’t believe that sexist or homophobic views are acceptable and discrimination on that basis is deplorable,” he said.