Here's the whole story. Amazing. A mob of vicious bigots are allowed to break up and disrupt Pagan religious ceremonies. Meanwhile, Keith Henson gets convicted of a "hate crime" for silently picketing on a public highway.
( http://www.operatingthetan.com )
This is what corruption buys in California.
LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- Like any other church group they have their pot luck suppers, charity fundraisers and mid-week fellowship meetings.
The witches and warlocks of Lancaster, California, also happen to practice an ancient, Earth-centered religion known as Paganism, which involves invoking spirits and spells, concocting herbal potions, praying to an array of gods and goddesses, and performing mock "animal sacrifice" rituals by melting chocolate bunnies in fondue pots and eating the gooey remains.
In the spirit of diversity and political correctness the growing group of more than 300 residents of the suburban enclave 40 miles north of downtown Los Angeles sometimes invite the public to their gatherings.
But they say their Christian neighbors violated their rights on the evening of March 16 when they showed up for a sacred spring equinox ceremony in the parking lot of a local Pagan gift shop, praying loudly to Jesus while drowning out their singing and chanting with Christian praise music.
What followed next has since sparked heated debate among residents over the definitions of "free speech" and "hate crime" and whether various religions groups in the predominantly conservative Christian area, will ever co-exist peacefully. The unorthodox dispute has attracted the attention of representatives from the state and federal governments who are monitoring the situation.
At first the Christian guests remained mostly seated along the periphery of the Pagan ceremony, praying quietly. Among them was a volunteer chaplain from the Lancaster Sheriff's Office who sat in an SUV with its motor running.
But as the ceremony got rolling, the Rev. John Canavello, who has since been suspended from his post with the Sheriff's office for his involvement in the incident, allegedly pumped up the volume on his car stereo, drowning out such old Pagan standards as "We All Come From The Goddess," "Earth, Fire and Water," and "Spirit I Am," with a loud blast of Christian music, said High Priestess Cyndia Riker, owner of Witches Grove gift shop, which hosted the event.
Not Satan-based They interrupted a sacred ritual, she told Reuters. "When we yelled 'Sacrifice the chocolate rabbit' they jumped out of their parked cars and started to circle us. They were praying hard. It was really chaos. But we were focused because we were determined they weren't going to stop us and force us to hide."
"They believe we are Satan-based and we're not. We don't believe in the entity so therefore he doesn't exist."
An argument ensued. The sterno flame blew out, thus sparing the bunny from sacrifice. The Pagans, men, women and children, pressed on, making-do by eating pretzel sticks dipped in pretend melted chocolate, to symbolize the joining of God and Goddess. Meanwhile one from their ranks called sheriff's deputies to report a disturbance.
But deputies, whose station was three blocks from the event did not respond for 4-1/2 hours, long after everyone had gone, Riker said. The Pagans believe the incident was a hate crime and that the Christians should be prosecuted under a state law that deems threats against religious practitioners a felony.
Lancaster Sheriff's Capt. Tom Pigott said that no actual threats were made and that California law only applies to disturbances taking place in tax exempt buildings, not in parking lots, therefore the Christians were merely exercising their right to free public speech.
He said the slow response time had nothing to do with Pagans calling for help. "It was a busy Saturday with plenty of emergencies and a noise complaint was low on our priority list," he said. A town meeting was held earlier this week with state and local leaders to hash out a peaceful solution to the dispute.
Neither the Christians involved in the incident nor a spokesman for a local Christian alliance in Lancaster, could immediately be reached for comment.
The Pagans are not satisfied. They are planning to lobby the California legislature for tougher laws against people who interrupt religious ceremonies.
Meanwhile Riker, a former Lutheran, said she has not cast any negative spells on the Christians and is open to welcoming them back to her circle. "If they want to pray for my soul that's fine as long as they do it quietly," she said.
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