A Politician’s Brave Stand for Paganism

I was surprised and touched to read in the Providence Journal that Rep. Richard W. Singleton made a brave stand for teaching our children Paganism, and prevailed in the General Assembly.

The ‘Easter Bunny Protection Act’ will ensure that Pagans can organize seasonal events around our holidays, including the venerable fertility festival of Ostara, in the public schools yet. I’m not going to personally lobby for that, since I’m an advocate of comprehensive sex education, including abstinence and birth control teaching in the cause of encouraging our schoolchildren not to be fertile until they are graduated and well established in life. Still, I was impressed when I saw the following in the Providence Journal.

Singleton’s bill responded to an incident in which Tiverton Schools Supt. William Rearick prohibited a parents’ group from sponsoring a photo booth featuring the Easter Bunny at a middle-school craft fair in March. A costumed Peter Rabbit appeared instead.

The bill would have prohibited cities and towns and their subdivisions from enacting regulations “requiring the alteration of the name or concept of any religious or secular holiday or any religious or secular figure or symbol associated with any such holiday.�

“What this bill does is codify common sense and reduce political correctness,� said Rep. Arthur J. Corvese, D-North Providence.

I do appreciate Rep. Corvese’s support. I can’t count the times I have had to tone down my Paganism because Christians didn’t find it politically correct. Now I feel free to let it all hang out.

Some claim that the Easter Bunny is a Christian symbol, but I know better. I happen to own a Bible concordance I found at a yard sale. Whether yellowed and crumbling, like mine, or accessed online, I can guarantee that a search of any biblical concordance will not uncover a scriptural reference for ‘Easter Bunny’.

It’s so unusual to find people of my faith in politics, and so exciting to hear a Pagan voice, that I hesitate to admit that I don’t agree politically with a special bill to save the Easter Bunny.

I am an American, and I hold our Constitution and our cherished principle of freedom of religion right up there with my own religious practice. I can’t think of any better way to demonstrate ethical behavior than to respect the rights of others in spiritual matters. I don’t want any little kids in public school to feel that they are less American because they are the only Jew, Hindu, Muslim or Pagan in their class, and they are trying to study math or something in a classroom that is decorated with holiday symbols from a majority religion (not naming any names).

Here in the state that Ann Hutchinson and Roger Williams fled to — after they failed to be the right kind of Christian — we have a wonderful heritage. Our founders were deeply religious people, and they also knew from their own hard experience that the tyranny of the majority is a terrible thing in personal matters of conscience. In the spirit of the Golden Rule, they did unto others as they wanted done to themselves, and took a chance on a lively experiment in religious freedom.

It’s lively all right. Every generation has to work out a balance between free expression and the claims of law and order. There are people who would solve this problem by declaring us a Christian nation. They seem to think our Founding Fathers were only kidding when they instituted freedom of religion.

I’ll take the freedom over favoritism, even when it’s my religion that is favored. And if some school officials are clumsy in trying not to impose a religion on a captive audience of public school children, I won’t take it as an invitation to move in for the kill. There’s nothing scarier than a majority with a sense of grievance. My experience as a member of a minority religion makes me very sensitive to the rights of people, especially children, not to be bullied into going along with the group.

So with appreciation to Rep. Singleton and Corvese, I’d rather have freedom for all than privilege for some.