Pagan Police

There are no pagan police. (There are police who are pagan, that’s a whole different issue). There’s no overarching body to whom you can complain, or who can bestow justice. There’s no one whose job it is to go round shutting up pagans who embarrass other pagans, or say things most of us don’t agree with or post total drivel in forums.

In many ways this is a good thing. Paganism is about taking responsibility for yourself and your actions – the idea of anyone policing that, in all its diversity, is anathema. Paganism is not about dishing doctrine or enforcing rules, nor is it about power and hierarchy. But every now and then you may encounter someone who calls themselves a pagan, but, in your perceptions, betrays paganism with every word and action. And yes, those folk make most of us wish we had some kind of official body to run to.

What this means is that each and every one of us has to police the community as we find it and take responsible action. If I said that was a minefield, I’d be guilty of terrible understatement. However, here are some broad guidelines for how to tackle rogue and nuisance pagans.

1) If anyone is using their claimed pagan status (as priest/ess, teacher etc) to abuse others, coerce, defraud or otherwise mistreat, this is a matter for the regular police and you need to take it that way.

 2) If you have problems with someone creating a bad press image the only answer is for other pagan folk to approach the media and try to get their voices heard too. It’s not an easy solution, but sometimes it works.

3) If someone is working inappropriately or dangerously within the community, the only answer is to make other resources available – and that can mean stepping up and teaching to give people an alternative to bad teachers. You can’t make people do differently, but you can give them choices.

4) Be very careful of clashes of style and personality. Not liking how someone does things is not grounds for attacking them or instigating ‘witch wars’. It is fine to disagree. It is not fine to hound or harass people because you don’t like how they do things. You have every right to offer an alternate opinion. If you have a problem with another pagan’s behaviour, it is vital you make sure that your own actions remain lawful and honourable.

5) We are all different and we frequently disagree. How we do it speaks volumes about who we are. Sometimes it’s better to walk away, unless there is genuine risk of harm being caused. Usually the best solution is to create a viable alternative. Taking responsibility means taking action that may be demanding and difficult, but if we think we can do better than the teachers and priests who have stepped up already, then the only honourable action is to step up.

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