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TEENS AND WICCA

Legal, family and safety issues

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Legal matters involving Wiccan teens

In the United States, persons under the age of 18 are regarded as being under the almost absolute control of their parent(s) / guardian(s). Parents have essentially total direction of the religious environment of their children. 

Canada is a signatory  to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child. In theory, this gives some rights to children who want to deviate from the religion of their parents; however this right has not, to our knowledge, been tested in the courts.

In short, teens under the age of 18 have little or no freedom of religious assembly, education, or practice unless they first receive permission of a parent or guardian. Individuals who teach or otherwise involve young people in different religions or spiritual paths without the prior approval of their parents can find themselves in serious legal difficulties.

Restrictions severely limits the options of young Wiccans:

bulletWiccan covens and study groups will generally require the written permission of a parent or guardian before allowing potential members under the age of 18 to join or be involved with educational classes. 
bulletMany libraries and homes have censorship software installed on their Internet access computers. Some of these programs arbitrarily prevent users from accessing any web site containing the word "witch" or "occult". 
bulletA very few school boards have dress codes that prohibit the wearing of non-Christian religious jewelry such as pentacles. These restrictions make it difficult for Wiccans to recognize fellow believers. 

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Handling the parent/child problem

Most young Wiccans live with their parents, and are faced with the problem of how to reveal their new-found religious beliefs with the rest of the family. Almost all parents are deeply concerned about the welfare of their children. It is this precisely this caring that can generate much conflict between a Cowan (non-Wiccan) parent and a Wiccan child:

bulletMany parents have bought-into the alarmist rhetoric of the anti-cult groups and counter-cult groups. They fear that one of their children might fall into the clutches of a destructive cult, might run away from home, and terminate all contact with the family. They fear that all of the hopes and plans for their child's future will evaporate. The chances of this happening in any religious setting are extremely small; the probability of it happening to a Wiccan is vanishingly small, Most of the common signs of destructive cults are absent from Wicca.
bulletParents probably base their beliefs about Wicca on misinformation and disinformation. For centuries, Christian churches taught that Witches are evil, dangerous worshipers of Satan. Some still do. Hollywood, children's nursery stories, and other entertainment media have picked up the theme of the evil Witch. It is only recently that positive portrayals of Wicca have been broadcast. It is difficult to overcome these biases quickly.
bulletMost conservative Christian denominations teach that Hell is a real place of eternal punishment for those who have not repented of their sin and trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior. Adults who follow these faith groups tend to view one of their prime parental responsibility as bringing their children to a state of salvation. The expectation that their child will spend eternity being tortured in Hell death because of their belief in Wicca is a terrifying thought to conservative Christian parents. It makes no difference that Wiccans do not recognize the Christian God, devil, heaven or hell. In fact, most Neopagans abandon the concept of eternal life after death, and believe in reincarnation. What matters are the beliefs of the parents. There is no real solution to this problem. 

Some suggestions for the teen Pagan:

bulletYou might start the process of informing your parents by sounding out their beliefs about Wicca. Perhaps the family could view Sabrina or Charmed on TV. Neither of these programs reflect actual Wiccan belief and practices. However, by discussing the program with your parents afterwards, you might be able to begin to understand their views.
bulletIt may be best to use the terms Wiccan and Wicca rather than Witch and Witchcraft. The former have well defined meanings. Witch and Witchcraft has more different meanings than a cat has lives. We have been able to uncover over a dozen definitions of the term - many of them are mutually exclusive.
bulletLauren Manoy's book Where to park your broomstick contains a section directed to parents who have learned that their child is interested in Wicca. Giving your parents this book to read might promote their understanding of Wicca. 1
bulletYou might read Nicky's Wiccan Pages for some specific recommendations on introducing your family to Wicca. Pagan Teen Realm also handles questions asked by young pagans. 3
bulletYou might direct your parents to an essay about Wicca that has been written by a Christian writer. That article might have more credibility with them than material from a Wiccan source. In 1999, when the first draft of this essay was written, we recommended an essay by Paul Robertson at the web site of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. Unfortunately, they had received threats from an organization which had some problems with the article. So, they withdrew it. We now recommend a series of articles by Philip S. Johnson titled "Wiccans and Christians: some mutual challenges." 4
bulletYou can join an online forum and exchange postings with fellow teen Wiccans. See below.
bulletYou can surf any of the Wiccan web sites written for teens.

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Personal safety

There are leaders in all religions who are dominating, manipulating and controlling. Wicca is no exception. Some are into financial gain; others seek sexual exploitation; still others seek control and power. One should always be on the lookout for people like this, no matter what your religion is. Some suggestions:

bulletBe extremely cautious about revealing any identifying information about yourself: last name, home address, school name, etc. This applies to direct personal contacts or over the Internet.
bulletWhen contacting another Wiccan or coven, arrange to meet first in a public place. 
bulletBecome familiar with other members of a coven, and with their beliefs and practices, before committing yourself to join the group.
bulletRead some of the essays on this site which are linked to our cult menu. If you detect some negative signs within your religious group (Wiccan or any other religion), consider disengaging. 
bulletNever reveal the name of a fellow Wiccan to anyone without permission. Almost all Wiccans remain fully or partially in the (broom) closet. Otherwise they risk harassment, and economic retaliation or physical assault by some well meaning, highly devout but terribly misinformed cowans (non-Wiccans). Require such confidentiality from your fellow Wiccans.

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References:

  1. Lauren Manoy, "Where to park your broomstick: A teen's guide to Witchcraft," Llewellyn, (2002). If you can get past the book's rather strange cover, the contents give an excellent introduction to Wicca for youths, and some guidance for parents. You can read reviews and/or safely order this book from Amazon.com
  2. Nicky R, "Discrimination: Family & Friends," at: http://www.the-wire.com/stagenet/wicca/harrass.html See also: Teen Witch at: http://www.the-wire.com/stagenet/wicca/teen.html 
  3. Pagan Teen Realm provides "guidance and answers to common questions asked by young Pagans." See: http://witchcraft.simplenet.com/paganteen1.htm
  4. Philip S. Johnson, "Wiccans and Christians: some mutual challenges," http://jesus.com.au/library/wicca/index.php

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Copyright © 1999, 2000 & 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2002-OCT-2
Author: B.A. Robinson

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