Politics and Teen Rights

Sex, Drugs, and Pagan Politics?

If there’s one question I hear over and over again, it’s this one: “What’s the official Pagan stance on premarital sex/abortion/euthanasia/same-sex marriage, or any other of a multitude controversial personal/political issues?” The difficulty with answering is that there are no pat answers. Remember, Wicca and Paganism aren’t organized religions; we don’t have a central leader who exercises absolute power over everyone’s moral choices. In a coven setting, a Wiccan might go to the High Priest/ess to ask for advice on a specific problem, but, even then, a good Priest/ess doesn’t dictate. He or she listens, advises according to the particular situation, and then encourages the person to think deeply for himself or herself. So the simple answer to the question is that Pagans don’t have any official stances on political issues. We’re Democrats, Republicans (believe it or not), Libertarians, and “other.” Most of us do agree with “An it harm none, do as you will,” and that’s a complicated creed to apply to politics.

For one thing, how do you practice “harm none” when you’re thinking about abortion or the death penalty? Does a Wiccan want to make abortion illegal and possibly curtail women’s reproductive rights? On one hand, abortion ends a life, and that’s harmful, right? On the other hand, a woman who’s forced to be pregnant against her will is being harmed, isn’t she? It’s the same quandary with capital punishment. Should we pay for a confessed mass murderer to live and eat and let him continue to hurt society? But if we take a life, aren’t we murderers, too? The debates are endless, unanswerable, and totally personal. In my opinion, the rule of thumb is slightly different when you start talking politics. I think keeping the greatest good of all involved is a key concept. While Witches don’t have any authority figures to tell us how to live, we always answer to our own conscience and our personal deities. Witches take responsibility for their actions, and if that means we have to occasionally do something that goes against the accepted norm to live true to our selves, then we take that and own it.

Which brings me to the less understood implication of “An it harm none, do as you will” If your actions harm none but simply aren’t socially accepted, then you have the responsibility to live as you see fit and follow your heart. If you feel that the way you live your life is good, wholesome, and happy, then it’s your duty to live that way and be delighted. Sounds good, but sometimes it’s really hard to buck the system constantly. Ask any gay person. For the same reason, it’s important to give every other living creature the respect to let it live in its own best way.

I’d also like to point out that “harm none” includes you! Wicca doesn’t have any “laws” about when, how, or with whom you have sex, for example. We’re all about Nature, right? And sex is perfectly natural, right? So go ahead and have tons of sex without worrying, right? Not exactly. I used this example because the idea that Witches are promiscuous is a pretty common stereotype, especially for female Witches. Witches are generally sexually liberated, for sure, and the vast majority of us are open about and have a healthy attitude toward sex. However, being empowered and free doesn’t necessarily translate into being a hoochie. Wiccans know that freedom means responsibility. We also know that sex is a sacred act. Read: Sex is natural, groovy, holy, and a huge responsibility. Therefore, Witches (I hope) won’t harm themselves by having meaningless sex or having sex with someone who doesn’t respect us, or Witches won’t harm someone else by disrespecting him or her or the relationship he or she may be involved in. See how the lines are blurry and everything gets complicated? That’s the obligation of freedom. You have to think for yourself, follow your intuition, be willing to hear all sides of an argument, and act with your best effort by always consulting your intellect, heart, and soul.

Having said all that, I feel comfortable making one small generalization about Pagan ethics: We want freedom, justice, a healthy planet, and true humanity in the world. How you interpret those ideas is entirely up to you. What would you fix about the world? What is your definition of utopia? Figure it out and work for it every day! Politics is a game, but the game is serious. If you want to delve into the political world, here are a few suggestions for you — even if you’re not old enough to vote.

Personal Action is Political Action

Every personal choice you make is political, from supporting those companies who make products that fit in with your Pagan lifestyle to calmly stating your views on the world. Politics isn’t just voting or activism, although those things are important. Each time you make a decision about what you think is right and good and then act on it, you’re making a political statement. So the first step to being a political Pagan is to know yourself. You are a part of society. Use your power!

Always speak your mind. If you think something is unfair, unhealthy, or a restriction of your freedom, speak up! It’s your right as a human being to put in your two cents. A word of advice: Follow the first rule of good debate and always keep your cool when you encounter opposition.

Money is power. Spend your money wisely. If you find out that your favorite chocolate milk company destroys the environment with strange chemical by-products, give it up and find another favorite. You can also write to that company and express yourself, making sure to tell them that you won’t buy their products anymore unless they clean up their act.

Money is power. I know, I already said that, but it works another way, too. TeenPowerPolitics.com says that teens between the ages of ten and nineteen spent an estimated $153 billion in 1999! That’s serious cash! Support those companies that are in tune with your ideals! Support your local farmers and your local Pagan shop, and you end up creating a world a little bit closer to your own utopia.

Learn the rules. If you want to play the political game, you have to learn the rules. Stay informed about what’s going on in your government and in other countries. Write to your representatives, even if you can’t vote yet. If there’s something that you and your friends are really steamed about, start a letter-writing campaign and don’t relent until you get a response. You may not be able to vote right now, but you will someday, and you certainly have parents and teachers who vote. Remind your local political figures about that.

Start locally. If you’re unhappy about toxic waste, clean up a park. It’s not saving the world from chemical sludge, but it is taking responsibility for your immediate environment. Work your influence in school, too. Petition your administrators when there’s something ugly afoot, like censorship, or try to implement a recycling program.

Always finish what you start.

Strength in Numbers

You have the right to freedom of speech, expression, and religion. If you find yourself in a situation that restricts those freedoms, shout, argue, kick, and fight for your rights. Not only is it imperative for you as an individual, you’re also paving the way for the next person who’s being bullied into silence and conformity. I hope you’re close enough with your parents that you can go to them if you’re being harassed and that they’ll support you if you decide to take action.

There are lots of organizations out there that focus on political activism, and lots of those are especially for teenagers. Check out the Political Action section of the Appendices for contact information to get you started.

Protect Your Rights

According to several constitutional scholars, a teenager is afforded exactly the same rights as adults under our Constitution. In reality, teens sometimes get squashed in school and out in the world. Why? Mostly because teens aren’t aware of their rights, so they don’t know how to defend themselves. Take a look at a copy of our Constitution, get really friendly with it, and don’t let yourself be pushed around.

Read on:
In 1999, seventeen-year-old Crystal Seifferly was told that she couldn’t wear a pentagram to school because it violated the school’s dress code. The dress code banned several types of apparel, including Gothic makeup, black nail polish, and “gang/cult” symbols. In fact, the schools Gang/Cult Policy “specifically prohibits students from belonging to a Wiccan group.” Huh? Are you kidding me? Crystal contacted the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), and they represented her in the proceeding court case against her school. The ACLU argued that the pentagram is a symbol of religious faith, and as such, students must be allowed to wear it openly. Interestingly enough, other religious symbols, like the Jewish Star of David and the Muslim crescent and moon, were also banned from the school as “gang” symbols, but crucifixes were allowed. Can anyone say “discrimination”? Needless to say, Crystal and the ACLU trampled that policy, won the case, and made a great stride for Pagan rights.

Another case that started in 1999 was fifteen-year-old Brandi Blackbear’s lawsuit against her school for infringing on her freedoms. She’s an aspiring horror-fiction writer who admires Stephen King, among others. Someone started a rumor that she had written a story that included a violent incident at school (this was shortly after the Columbine insanity). Her administrators freaked out, searched her book bag, and seized her belongings. They did, indeed, find a short story that had to do with a shooting at school — a fictional story. They confiscated her writings, and she was temporarily suspended for being a threat to the school. A few months later, Brandi found a book on Wicca in the library, where several students saw her reading it. Shortly after, a teacher was admitted to the local hospital for some kind of illness. You’re not going to believe this, but the assistant principal at Brandi’s school called her into his office and accused her of being a Witch and casting a spell on the sick teacher. Are we living in the thirteenth century? Again, the ACLU stepped in and the case was resolved in favor of sanity and freedom.

According to the ACLU, an organization that fights for our constitutional rights, where you go to school affects your freedoms while you’re there. Public schools are given money by the federal government to help them operate successfully. Since they’re under the federal government’s rule, public schools have to follow constitutional guidelines. You cannot be forced to pray in school; you cannot be discriminated against because of your religion; and you do have the right to express yourself freely — as long as that expression isn’t deemed “obscene” or “libelous.” That’s where the debate starts; what is obscene and libelous, and what is “disruptive” (another common excuse cited by school officials when they don’t like your style)?

Private schools are different because they’re privately funded. Since the federal government doesn’t give them money, it doesn’t have as much control over a private school’s policies. It’s still freedom, in a way. If your family is religious or wants to send you to a very specialized school, they have the freedom to choose it, and the school has the freedom to teach a specialized curriculum. Private schools can be a lot more strict in their rules regarding censorship, dress codes, and freedom of expression, so you’re in a bit of a bind there. Still, you cannot be discriminated against, regardless of where your school gets its money.

How do you know if you’re being discriminated against? Well, I can’t answer that without hearing your story, but if a teacher or faculty member is picking on you for your beliefs, singling you out in class and making fun of you, or marking your papers badly for no reason other than the fact that your ideas are different from his or hers, then you may have a case. If you’re not allowed to participate in clubs or organizations because your religion/gender/race/class is different from the other members, you’re being discriminated against. If you aren’t allowed the same rights as other people, like wearing a symbol of your religion to school, then you’re being discriminated against. Your school officials don’t have the right to take your stuff (unless it’s illegal for you to have it, like drugs, guns, and all that), and they don’t have the right to search your purse, book bag, or body without your consent.

Discrimination Sucks — Fight the Power!

No American citizen has to stand for being discriminated against because of his or her race, color, creed, gender, or age. Our Constitution protects us from being harassed or otherwise penalized for our beliefs, and those same laws apply to teenagers. While Wiccans and Pagans aren’t part of an organized religion, we are still afforded the same rights as anybody else. Unfortunately, Paganism is often misunderstood, and we have to fight a little harder to make ourselves and our beliefs accepted. If you encounter discrimination in school, at a job, or in some other public way, you have a right to stand up for yourself! Don’t sit back and take it!

There are a few groups that offer resources for legal aid, information, and networking in cases of religious (or other) discrimination. Here are some for you to check out:

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

National Headquarters
125 Broad Street
New York, NY 10004

This is a watch dog organization that works to protect American’s civil liberties, namely those freedoms that are guaranteed by the Constitution. Check out their web site for all sorts of useful information about your rights and ways that you can help protect them. There’s a section just for high school students and another one for colleges and universities. You can contact your local ACLU representative for legal aid if you feel that you’re being discriminated against at school.

Religious Liberties Lawyers Network (RLLN)

Phyllis Curott, Esq.
P.O. Box 311
Prince Street Station
New York, NY 10012

Phyllis Curott, a Wiccan Priestess, NYU School of Law graduate, and fabulous author, has set this group up to provide attorneys for legal counseling and representation in religious discrimination cases.

Alternative Religions Education Network (AREN)


One of the groups that stepped in to work on Crystal Seifferly’s case, this group offers legal assistance.

Lady Liberty League

Circle Sanctuary
P.O. Box 219
Mt. Horeb, WI 53572

Started in 1985 by Selena Fox, a prominent Witch and co-producer of Circle Sanctuary magazine, this group offers networking contacts for legal support.

Earth Religions Legal Assistance Network


This site is a collection of contacts and also provides referrals for legal assistance.

Witches’ League for Public Awareness (WLPA)

P.O. Box 909
Rehoboth, MA 02769
P.O. Box 8736
Salem, MA 01971

Started by Laurie Cabot in 1986, this group works to fight stereotypes and educate the media. They can send you informational packets regarding your rights and how to protect them.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License