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Legal Issues Regarding Paganism in the United States

January 17th, 2024

Christianity can be considered an outgrowth of Paganism, and many aspects of the Christian faith still show telltale signs of our pagan roots.

Although Paganism has an established history in the United States, the religion has recently experienced a surge in exposure after the January 6th protests. The “QAnon Shaman” famously appeared at the Capitol dressed in a Pagan-inspired outfit with several pagan runes tattooed across his body. Of course, this represents only one example of Paganism in the United States – and it is important not to paint all Pagans with the same brush. Let us take a look at Paganism throughout the United States and consider various related legal issues. 

The Alleged Link Between Paganism and Neo-Nazism

It is no secret that Neo-Nazis and several other White Supremacist groups in the United States have co-opted pagan symbols and processes. In particular, there are certain Celtic and Norse symbols that have become almost synonymous with the swastika – such as the triskele. In 2023, there was much talk about whether Richard Allen – the person behind the Delphi murders – was obsessed with a “cult of Nordic pagans.” Allen apparently believed in something called “Odinism,” the worship of the ancient Norse god of war and death. 

It is important to remember, however, that an obsession with Nordic and Celtic symbols does not necessarily indicate an adherence to Pagan beliefs. Many white supremacists are Christians – and they only appreciate the underlying culture of these pagan symbols rather than the actual religious worship of Norse gods. It is also worth noting that most legitimate pagans in the United States want nothing to do with Neo-Nazis. There is a risk that these ancient symbols could trigger hate speech charges, despite having no inherent connection with white supremacism. Clearly, someone can be a pagan without being a Nazi. 

Is Wicca a Legitimate Pagan Religion?

One of the most widely known pagan religions in the United States is Wicca. In fact, this may be the most popular pagan faith in the nation, with almost one million adherents. Social media has helped the spread of Wicca, and TikTok seems especially proficient at converting new Wiccans. Various observers have called this religion a form of “modern paganism,” but others aren’t so sure. 

For the most part, Paganism involves some kind of pantheon of gods, whereas Wicca simply encourages belief in magic. However, there are apparently some deities within the faith, such as the “Oak King,” the “Green Man,” and the “Mother Goddess.” Wicca is also a legally recognized religion in the United States, and its status was established by a court case all the way back in 1986. 

Christianity Has Elements of Paganism

It is important to recognize that Christianity can be considered an outgrowth of Paganism, and many aspects of the Christian faith still show telltale signs of our pagan roots. Perhaps the most obvious example is Catholicism, which presents a trinity of gods. These include the God the Father, God the son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. One might argue that this is a “pantheon” of gods.

Whatever the case may be, it is important to recognize that the freedom of religion is an important aspect of life in the United States – and people should be free to become pagans if they wish. The Universal Life Church counts many Pagans among its ministers, and offers a variety of Pagan and Wicca items in its online store. In addition, continue reading the Universal Life Church’s legal blog to keep up to date on the latest legal issues involving First Amendment issues.

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