Churches scared of Pagan festival

A good friend is one of the event planners , and I have a standing offer to work with him for the event. Everyone i have met within the pagan community knows i am atheist and welcomed me. Not one has ever tried to convert me or has spoken ill will towards myself or any other group.

Mary Jane Aguilar will be presenting a belly dance workshop at the Summer Solstice Pagan Festival, which will be held June 19 - June 23 at the Lake Okeechobee Resort and Marina in Pahokee.

PAHOKEE—Pahokee residents, church members, and pastors are outraged over an upcoming event at the Lake Okeechobee Resort and Marina. The marina will be hosting its first Lake Okeechobee Summer Solstice Festival – a program that organizers hope will become an annual event.

The event will be held June 19-23.

Pastors from various churches in Pahokee attended Tuesday night’s city commission meeting to express disappointment in city leaders for allowing the event to come to Pahokee. The crowd cheered in agreement as, one-by-one, pastors from around the area admonished city officials for allowing festivals containing witchcraft and occult practices into the city.

“I just found out about this today. I am disappointed in the city of Pahokee for allowing this group to come,” said Pastor Brad Smith, Florida Director of Kids for Christ. Smith called the event “an abomination”.

“We don’t need this in our town. Not now. Not ever,” said Rev. Raul Rodriguez, of Church of God Door of Jesus Christ.

His daughter, Ruby Rodriguez said that this came as a shock to her. “We do live in a free country but of all of the cities in Florida, why would they choose Pahokee?” she asked.

The line of speakers from Pahokee, a city with a high concentration of local churches, seemed endless.

“We are opening ourselves up to things we should not, like belly dancing and magic spells,” said Daniel Mondragon. “We do not welcome these things. This is the first annual event, and it should be the last.”

“When I heard about this I immediately began praying,” said Bishop Jared Hines of New Destiny Community Church. “This event is not only detrimental to our city but to our county. What goes on at that lake will affect us all; it will move from the dike and into our homes.”

“We cannot expect our city to survive and prosper if we allow these things,” said Pastor Eugene Babb, of Harlem Church of God.

“God cannot heal our land if we have witches and warlocks violating our community,” said Evangelist Lillian Brown, of Saints on the Move.

Pastor Jorge Chivara of the Hispanic Nazarene Church addressed the commission through an interpreter, calling pastors of all faiths to unite against the festival. He invited everyone (pastors and residents) to join his church on Friday, May 31 at 7 p.m.

He plans to discuss the festival and its potential effects on the community.

“We want to begin praying about what’s taking place before the event, during the event, and after the event,” Chivara said.

But not everyone at the meeting agreed.

Jimmy Kellerher pointed out when the commission meeting began everyone stood and pledged to the American flag -- a flag that represents freedom.

“To say teaching kids magic tricks is evil, that’s stretching it,” Kellerher said. “Religious persecution no matter which way is wrong.”

Many residents questioned how city officials could allow the festival to come to town without the citizens’ knowledge and how the marina’s director, Wayne Gray, could be allowed to book such an event.

“I spoke with Mr. Gray regarding the festival and he stated that if any religious organization would like to rent the marina for a festival they are more than welcomed to do so,” said Derrek Moore, Pahokee’s city manager.

Residents quickly began to organize a march in protest of the festival.

“I cannot legally stop Mr. Gray from allowing the event but I also cannot stop the community from protesting it,” said Mayor Colin Walkes.

Wayne Gray defends the event.

“It’s business. I am trying to attract people to the marina and to Pahokee,” he said. “I cannot do that if I begin discriminating just because of someone’s religion. If any of the churches want to hold an event celebrating Jesus, they are more than welcomed to do so and I will market it just as we have with the Solstice.”

The Solstice will bring over a thousand people to the area, which translates into money being spent at many local businesses, Mr. Gray argued.

Mr. Gray listed various events he has booked at the marina.

“I have a book signing of a local man coming up. I recently had a young lady who is trying to get her modeling career off the ground,” he said. “Both were events I donated the facility’s use. If their careers take off because I have helped them, that is something I can be proud of.

“I have a power boat show and a jet ski race coming soon,” he said. “I am trying to do good things and help the community.”

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Comment by angela kozma on May 30, 2013 at 9:42pm

They are pretty much a laid back fun loving group of people usually. At pagan picnic in missouri they offer water to the protesters that show up. two years ago a guy showed up carrying full sized cross up and down picnic went out of their way to give him water sunblock and a place to sit. When asked my sister in law why? Her reply was he is a human being deserving of respect for  being one.

Comment by angela kozma on May 30, 2013 at 9:44pm

As to sin if you call selling paintings, telling stories and dancing sinful your aiming your sites way too low. Plus they grow plants helpful tasty herbs and flowers. You have a few who are a bit disanced from reality but mostly just people wanting to laugh and live in peace.

Comment by Dan on May 30, 2013 at 9:50pm

Some are spaced out true.  You can walk in and claim you are the patron saint of the engine block, and you would probably still be offered a tall drink of mead. If I HAD to choose a religious group to hang with for the rest of my life( not saying I am) the pagans would probably be it.

Comment by Kairan Nierde on May 31, 2013 at 12:07am

Man, pagans bother me. They go far enough to question monotheism but somehow end up at polytheism. FAIL. I addition, how do you choose your deities? 'Oh, the Sea God of this ancient culture is hella-fierce. Hey, I really like trees, who doesn't like trees?  So this Tree God's gotta be in my arsenal. And check this out--I am all about getting my April Fools on, so let me worship a couple of Trickster Gods.  Ooh, how about this God of Wisdom, to round things out. Shit, what do you mean this God of Wisdom is also the God of War? Ugh. Back to the mythology books it is then.' I have as much respect for a pagan as I do a cafeteria catholic. 

Comment by Albert Bakker on May 31, 2013 at 12:45am

I agree with Kairan. They bother me only insofar as they're a strain on my cervical vertebrae, but  willful stupidity, especially in an organized form, always worries me. Having said that I have to hurry because I have to greet Tonatiuh and touch the westside of the sacred totempole in my front yard with the ordained plastic turtle or else the sungod will go back to her cave.

Comment by matt.clerke on May 31, 2013 at 2:41am

Are these people retarded or something? I seriously don't understand... are they genuinely afraid of a bunch of people dancing and enjoying a festival? or are they mean spirited, horrible, people?How does a person become like that?

Comment by Diane on May 31, 2013 at 6:48am

I used to be afraid of pagans, too, until I learned something about them.  I, however, do not have theism of any kind ingrained in me so I was able to find out about paganism without judgment.  Now I just don't care.  People can believe whatever they want, as long as they don't demand that I believe it too or try to teach it to kids as fact in public school.  

Am I afraid of pagans?  No.  Am I afraid of Christians?  You betcha.  They're scary!

Comment by Misty: Baytheist Living! on May 31, 2013 at 12:13pm

Anyone blown up, beheaded or shot by Pagans in recent history? 

Hmm...not that I can remember. I'm thinking fear is a little misplaced in that town. 

Have fun, Dan. I agree with ya. 

I'd rather hang out with a bunch of Pagans than a bunch of Christians, any day. 

Pagans have the better celebrations. They also have better 'party favors.' 

Comment by Misty: Baytheist Living! on May 31, 2013 at 6:58pm

I went to a kick ass Spring Equinox barn party a few years back. It was a proper 'festival.' 

It was out in wine country... spit-roasted a full lamb one night and a full boar the next. There were a few decent bands over the course of the weekend. It was such a good time. Way more of an intellectual crowd. There were a few woo-wishers, but for the most part, everyone was just there to celebrate Spring and the fun that goes with it. 

I like Pagan Festivals. 

They let me bring my dog. 

Comment by Ed on June 1, 2013 at 12:25am

There would of been similar outrage if it had been a festival of Muslim worshippers. Xtians have had it their way and only their way for so long that now they realize and fear their Jebus stranglehold on the masses may be slipping. I'm looking for a bumper sticker: Party with a Pagan!


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