Michigan ACLU Defends Honor Student Witch

February 10, 1999 12:00 am

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Wednesday, February 10, 1999

DETROIT — The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan today sued the suburban Detroit school district of Lincoln Park for violating the religious rights of a student by not allowing her to wear a pentacle, a symbol of the Wicca religion.

In October, school officials announced a policy change that prohibited students from wearing pentacles. Crystal Seifferly, 17, represented by the ACLU, is an honor student at Lincoln Park High School and a witch, a member of the Wicca religion. Wiccans consider pentacles — five-pointed stars enclosed in a circles — icons of their religion.

“The ACLU has a proud history of defending religious liberty,” said Michigan ACLU Executive Director Kary L. Moss. “The right to religious freedom is most frequently threatened by attacks on minority religions. This case is an example of the trivialization of religious beliefs that are very meaningful to a number of people.”

Seifferly voiced similar concerns about her school’s infringement on her First Amendment rights.

“The school district makes it mandatory to pass a course in civics,” Seifferly said. “They offer courses based on the Constitution and push the Bill of Rights at us. And then they go and violate my civil rights by not allowing me to practice my religion.”

The Wicca religion has been recognized in United States courts and by the United States Army Chaplain’s Handbook. It stresses individual enlightenment and celebrates the seasons and the four elements: earth, wind, fire and water.

“Proselytization is strictly forbidden,” said Edward Ortiz, mid-Michigan representative for the Witches Anti-Discrimination League. “The pentacle is an ancient symbol. It is hard at believe that at the end of the 20th century, this kind of discrimination is still going on in America.”

ACLU cooperating attorney Bob Sedler said the law was clear on the subject.

“You cannot allow Christian students to wear crosses and then deny other students the right to wear a pentacle,” he said.

The ACLU has its filed its suit in United States District Court and has filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to remove the policy while the case is being heard.

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