Christians in a small Arkansas town have shown, yet again, that they really hate the Constitution. That First Amendment is pretty pesky. At least, when it’s a religion other than theirs in question.
Bertram Dahl, a Pagan High Priest, says that officials in the small town of Beebe, Arkansas are discriminating against his faith. They were happy to tell Dahl that he could open a church in a building on his property, along with a small shop, when they believed it would be a Christian one. But when they found out it would be Pagan, they backtracked so fast they set a speed record.
Dahl says that he spoke with the Mayor of Beebe, Mike Robertson, and was encouraged to open the church. Robertson told Dahl that he had “no problem” with Dahl’s plans. Then he found out that Dahl’s Seeker’s Temple was Pagan. Almost immediately, Mayor Robertson told Beebe’s code officer not to issue any permits for Dahl’s property for a place of worship or shop. This was before Dahl even had a chance to apply for any.
“When they knew we were going to open a church, it wasn’t an issue. We explained to him [the mayor] the house had a building that we could open the church in, and he had no problem.” Then, “We were basically given a cease and desist you know — shut down. We hadn’t even unpacked. We aren’t even open — how are we getting this?”
City Attorney Barrett Rogers told KARK that Dahl’s property was zoned residential and that commercial zoning is required for a place of worship or business. When reporters checked the code — the city zoning code for R-2 properties — they found that places of worship and private non-profits are allowed. The Seeker’s Temple is both.
The trick is, Dahl has to file for special permits. Rogers says that Dahl never requested the paperwork for the permits. Dahl insists that he did ask for the paperwork from the Mayor’s office and was told it wouldn’t be approved even if that office gave it out. They said they don’t give the paperwork out and that there was no permit Dahl could apply for, in any case. Sounds like maximum confusion for Dahl was the goal.
So, how is this discrimination? It seems that there are plenty of home businesses that operate on the very same street as Dahl’s home. The zoning seems to be stretched a bit for them, as selling in one’s home is, technically, not allowed. Yet they do. As for a place of worship, no matter what any zoning regulation says, religious groups are allowed to meet in private homes. A precedent was set in a Florida case for this.
But perhaps the most blatant instance of discrimination occurred when Dahl went to his alderman for help. When KARK contacted this alderman for a comment on the situation, they were told “that man’s God isn’t my God.” Perhaps not. But that man’s Constitution is your Constitution. And, if it’s not, you should resign your office.
Full disclosure: I am a Pagan. I have been a Pagan for 40 years. I served as the High Priestess of the first Pagan church in America that was granted 501(c)3 — tax exempt — status by the IRS. I have seen my share of discrimination and persecution. My church was slandered in the local media, targeted by holy rollers during one of our festivals (driving around the area blaring their music and condemnation from a van) and my private property was invaded and religious statuary stolen. All because of attitudes like the one being displayed in Beebe.
What they are doing is unconstitutional. And Mayor Robertson, City Attorney Rogers and the City Council need to be advised of that fact. If you’d like to do the honors, their email address is [email protected] and the phone number for city hall is (501) 882-6295. I plan on contacting them both ways. Paganism is a federally recognized, legitimate religion whether the bigots in Beebe like it or not.
Here is KARK‘s report:
More from AATTP on religion in America:
- Virginia Republicans Ban Opening Prayers from Pagans, Polytheists at Public Meetings
- VA Official: Non-Christian Public Prayer Violates My Rights ‘Because I Don’t Believe That’ (Video)
- Florida Town Must Open Meeting With Satanic Prayer or Violate Supreme Court Ruling
- US Supreme Court: First Amendment is Only for Christians, Upholds State-Sponsored Prayer
- The ‘War on Christmas’ Has Been WON in Wisconsin, Flying Spaghetti Monster Monument a Go!