This must be the week for me to spot news articles that are annoying. An article on The News (www.portsmouth.co.uk) entitled, “Paganist protests as health visitor tells her to move items,” posted by Chris Broom, was my first news read for this morning. I should probably start making a habit of hitting the coffee pot first before I read, although I doubt it will do little to minimize my aggravation. I am beginning to be pleased with the fact that we’ve started a regular blog here on ISIS were we can use the format as a sounding board, a place to share ideas, and as a place to occasionally vent frustrations.
In the article, a 29 year-old-woman named Jemma Hawkins was at a home receiving services from a mental home treatment team when she was asked by a health visitor to put her religious items away because the individual feared the affects that Hawkins’ religious items would have on Hawkins’ ten year old son. Hawkins’ is, of course, pagan. The article revealed that Jemma often got visits from the treatment team to help her deal with her bipolar condition, and the worker asked her to remove her “pagan images and accessories,” from her own living room! Hawkins’ was terribly upset with the worker and who could blame her.
The way I see it, when you step into my home you step into my sacred temple and I purposefully surround myself with things that are religiously meaningful to me. My children know that I am Wiccan and fully appreciate my religious values. They find nothing scary or terrifying about any pagan items, artwork or pieces I might display in my home. If you walk into the home of a pagan you have absolutely no right to ask him or her to hide their things or to change who they are. Imagine if the roles were reversed and a pagan walked into the home of a Christian friend or a friend of any other religion for that matter. Would it be appropriate to say, “Hey, can you tuck away all your icons of Christ,” or “Do you mind not flaunting your religious beliefs in front of me?” No, of course it wouldn’t, and it is not okay in this case either.
The worker was talking with Hawkins’ casually about her health and then began committing on Hawkins’ belongings. Then she told her that her pagan belongings may have an effect on her son’s well-being and that she should put them away. Hawkins’ had told the reporter what angered her most is that the worker didn’t even recognize Wicca as a religion. Thankfully, Hawkins did not acquiesce to the woman’s request; she told the woman that she has been a practicing pagan for six years and that her son has never had a problem with her belief system.
Of course, there is another side to this story and there may have been a problem with the worker’s ability to recognize Hawkins’ idea of religious symbolism. The worker had come from the HampshirePartnership NHS Trust and the organization states that the worker had been referring to some dolls Hawkins’ had in her home called Living Dead dolls. You can see samples of these dolls here (http://www.mezcotoyz.com/store/ldd.aspx).
Now, I’ve seen these dolls and while the dolls are unique and probably pretty cool to collect, especially if you are into horror movies and the like, I’m not a hundred percent sure what they have to do with being pagan. I’ve checked out a few of the dolls myself, and loving horror books and movies of all kinds, if I were going to collect any of them, the Beetlejuice doll and the Freddy Krueger doll would probably be part of my own collection. Of course, being a pagan, I don’t know if I would attach religious significance to them, although I would find them morbidly adorable. But, that’s just me, and that could be where the worker got confused and the health worker simply found the dolls too macabre. Now, this notion can be stretched; what happens when someone has gargoyles, dragons, mythical statuettes and other figurines in and around the home that may hold some religious significance? Is it okay to tell the person that they may have a detrimental effect on children, put it away?
It’s not like the woman had a real machete on her coffee table, now is it? Where do we draw the line? What one person finds meaningful, another person doesn’t. What one person appreciates, another may not. Whether the dolls really had a religious significance or not, does a home mental health worker really have the right to make suggestions about how your belongings are displayed in your home? While this may not be a clear cut case of religious discrimination, when would be an okay time for someone to come into your home and tell you to move your belongings because they are offensive or they may be “psychologically harmful to your children?”
The worker asked Hawkins if she felt the dolls should stay in her bedroom instead of her living room, and the organization that employs the worker argues that their workers would not give parenting advice unless a parent was doing something very wrong. The bottom line is this; when a person enters a home, they are doing so willingly. If objects in the home are offensive to the visitor, unless it poses immediate undue harm to the visitor, it’s better to keep one’s opinion to one’s self. You never know what kind of religious or sentimental value someone might attach to their personal belongings. Finally, if the objects are really that offensive to the visitor, then perhaps the visitor should get up and walk right back out the door that they came through.
You can read the write up offered by Chris Broom here.