In 2013 a group of pagans planned and arranged a festival to celebrate the summer solstice in Pahokee, Florida. It is probably little surprise that the event was not exactly welcomed by the area’s resident Talibanists, who packed a city commission meeting and demanded that the city prevent the festival from taking place because pagans, devil worshippers. We suspect many of them would be firm defenders of religious freedom but also be baffled if told that religious freedom means that people who hold religious views different from yours also have the right to have and express them.
Among the protestors were Brad Smith, a funeral director and apparently the Florida Director of Kids for Christ, who called the event “an abomination”; “I just found out about this today. I am disappointed in the city of Pahokee for allowing this group to come,” he said, under the delusion that the city has the power to deny groups that Smith doesn’t like the ability to exercise their fundamental constitutional rights. Evangelist Lillian Brown, of Saints on the Move, pointed out that “God cannot heal our land if we have witches and warlocks violating our community,” which is a fine example of fractal wrongness. At least if you ever wondered how witch burnings could go on for centuries back in the days despite the patent ridiculousness of the charges, people like Lillian Brown should give you some indication. Rev. Raul Rodriguez, of Church of God Door of Jesus Christ, just pointed out that “we don’t need this in our town. Not now. Not ever”, even though whether Raul Rodriguez needs the event or not seems to be strikingly irrelevant to the issue at hand.
Daniel Mondragon, however, warned that by hosting the event “we are opening ourselves up to things we should not, like belly dancing and magic spells;” belly dancing and magic spells are almost equally bad, and the former could potentially even take place: “We do not welcome these things. This is the first annual event, and it should be the last.” Dire warnings also from Bishop Jared Hines of New Destiny Community Church: “This event is not only detrimental to our city but to our county. What goes on at that lake will affect us all; it will move from the dike and into our homes.” Pastor Eugene Babb of Harlem Church of God, meanwhile, in an apparent attempt to top the others, asserted that “we cannot expect our city to survive and prosper if we allow these things.”
When their attempts to prevent the event from taking place by legal means failed, they resorted to their most powerful weapon: prayer. Pastor Jorge Chivara of the Hispanic Nazarene Church led the effort: “We want to begin praying about what’s taking place before the event, during the event, and after the event,” Chivara said.
Diagnosis: Yes, they are theocrats, plain and simple. It is a very telling illustration of what many fundies think religious freedom amounts to, at least. Though the delusional nitwits described here – they really give Sir Bedivere’s audience a run for their money – are local nitwits with negligible influence on civilization considered individually, their actions and responses also seem to be pretty standard fare many places in the US.
Hat-tip: Dispatches from the Culture Wars