Exploring mixed feelings

While checking out The Wild Hunt today, I ran across Jason’s post where he talks about an attempt to get a fortune telling law overturned in Casper, Wyoming.

Let me first state that I wish Ms. Forest the best of luck. I am a strong believer that such laws should be removed. Having had readings from a handful of professional tarot readers, I believe that they offer an excellent service. And while I might understand the city’s desire to prevent potential con artists from defrauding people through tarot readings and other psychic readings, I do not think that such a blanket prohibitiion is the way to go about it. (Truth be told, it’s my experience that the psychic community does a fairly good job of policing itself.) I also think that such a blanket prohibition singles out Pagans and is unethical until governments also look to address the practice of prophecies and words of knowledge that goes on in many charismatic and Pentecostal churches, churches which often turn around and ask for donations. (I even attended one such church that brought in a “professional prophet” for one service and took a special offering that went to said prophet for her ministry.)

That being said, I do find myself bothered by one part of Ms. Forest’s argument. I’m not at all comfortable with the following statement:

It keeps her from charging for tarot card readings, a key aspect of Wiccan religion, she said.

While I certainly think that tarot readings are a handy tool for Witches and Pagans alike, I am not at all comfortable the suggestion that it qualifies as a “key aspect” of our practice. And I certainly would not consider the kind of readings professional readers offer client for monetary compensation specifically essential. (After all, there is a difference between what is essential or key and even that which is highly beneficial.) To present these readings as so key suggests to me that Ms. Forest and I practice rather different religions. (Of course, this is not entirely surprising, as I don’t consider myself Wiccan.)

Of course, it is entirely possible that Ms. Forest is making this claim simply for the sake of political expediency. And I can certainly see the appeal in such an approach. After all, a claim of religious freedom is probably the best argument against this law. But again, I’m not sure that claiming it as a key practice is entirely necessary to make that argument.

Of course, ultimately, I don’t know whether Ms. Forest made her claim out of sincere belief or in the name of political expediency. I cannot and will not judge her motives. But in either case, the idea just leaves me somewhat uncomfortable, despite the fact that I agree with her goal to get this law removed.

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