Adirondack College Students Back ‘Pagan Pride’ Festival

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The New York Sun

After scrambling to reconsider their decision to sponsor a daylong “Pagan Pride” festival this weekend, student leaders at an upstate public college decided last night to support the festival despite outrage from Catholics who complained to trustees of the State University of New York system that the event ridicules Christianity and Jesus Christ.

The activists say the pagan festival, to be held at Adirondack Community College, located about 55 miles outside Albany in Queensbury, N.Y., constitutes hate speech that few would tolerate if other groups were being disrespected.

“Everyone knows that you couldn’t even show a picture of Mohammed without them closing down an event like this — and that’s because radical Muslims will kill you,” the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, William Donohue, said yesterday.


Efforts to reach the organizers of Pagan Pride Day 2006 were unsuccessful, but a Pagan Pride Web site says pagans are attempting to throw off devil-worshipping stereotypes and establish themselves as peaceful and spiritual. Similar pride days are celebrated at almost 100 sites across North America, the Web site says.

Led by Mr. Donohue’s group, activists point to the Web site of the First Church of Satan, which suggests that people who were raised as Christians may want to “deprogram” themselves. Several videos on the site include sexually explicit material. One of the videos involves a woman dressed as a nun.

“One might try making fun of religious dogma, the tool of the oppressor,” the Satanic church’s frequently asked questions section advises.


One of the presenters at last year’s Adirondack Pagan Pride Day owns the site, according to an Internet ownership database.

The decision regarding whether to withdraw a $500 honorarium of student-activity money to pay travel expenses for keynote speaker Patricia Telesco, author of “How to Be a Wicked Witch,” rested with a six-member executive board of the student association — not college officials.

Earlier this year, a larger student senate panel approved the request of a community member — not a student at the college — to host the event, which, according to a Web site for last year’s Pagan Pride Day, serves as a “bridging mechanism between Neo-Pagan religious beliefs and those of many people who want to know more about the New Age movement and what it means to be Pagan, Wiccan, etc.”


Students had final say because the Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment requires that student money be distributed at public colleges in a content-neutral fashion, a lawyer who specializes in school free-speech issues, Mike Hiestand, said yesterday.

“Open it to one, you have to open it to all,” he said.

Legalities aside, Mr. Donohue said, the students shouldn’t host the pagans.

“There are a lot of legal rights that people have that are not equitable with moral rights,” he said.

One of the SUNY trustees who heard the Catholic League’s protests, Candace de Russy, said she wished the students had decided not to fund it.

“Standards for campus activities in my view cannot sink much lower into the slime,” Ms. de Russy, who was appointed by Governor Pataki in 1995, said, adding, “It would be a very encouraging sign if the student leaders led the way in reconsidering such a loathsome event.”

They did reconsider, and last night decided to affirm their earlier decision.

A college spokesman, Robert Myers, declined to comment about the brouhaha, warning student leaders, “They will be responsible for taking the heat.”

The New York Sun

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