Thursday, March 27, 2014

Skyclad and the law

Everyone in the pagan blogosphere is talking about the recent arrest of pagan writer, musician and personality Kenny Klein.  For those who do not know, Klein was arrested in New Orleans for possession of sexually charged images of children under 13 years of age and admitted to sending and receiving such images via computer.  The story can be found in a number of locations, but the news story is available here:  http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2014/03/new_orleans_man_booked_on_chil.html

In the debate happening at patheos.com on the subject of Klein's arrest there was a difference of opinion about a side issue: the wisdom of minor children to be allowed at functions or public festivals where nudity may be present.  From a legal standpoint, I am in no position to make a definitive judgement.  I have read that if the function is private and it happens on private property that there is nothing illegal about children attending such events.  I would imagine that this would be the case for a family function or something like that where the participating family or families may be naturists. Defenders of people's right to raise their children in their spiritual traditions may argue that they have the right to raise their children around nudity as they see nudity as natural and in many cases even sacred.  Opponents of children's attendance at such events are uncomfortable with the idea because, while ritual nudity is one thing, they draw the line at the legal age of consent.  I happen to believe that children should not be made to feel ashamed of their bodies, and that parents have the right to raise their children with ethics and morals which are consistent with their own.  That said, I am not sure a public festival is the appropriate place to make that statement.  Let me elaborate....

One person posted in the comments section of the blog in question that if one opposed to nudity of adults around children, or children participating in that nudity, that they are not practicing a "nature religion" because children are born naked.  This is patently absurd in my opinion.  Nudity doesn't define a nature religion last I checked, and just as parents have the right to take their children to pagan festivals where nudity is present, pagan parents who prefer to keep their skyclad practice between adults have the right to decide such for their families without being seen as lesser.  In addition, are pagans who prefer not expose their children to nudity to be made to feel unwelcome at festivals?  Are we to assume that every pagan who attends a public festival practices ritual nudity?  Regardless of the rules in our individual traditions, families and communities, we MUST take into account that there are folks out there who will see sexual connotations where there are none, and the addition of minors to that can make for a very sticky situation.  Also, children are not able to offer legal consent.  When you are nude, all the rules change.  A simple hug can be seen as something else to a disapproving onlooker.

We have a duty to ourselves and to the pagan community at large to act with discernment when we are out in public situations.  Like it or not, we are representing one group or another.  As a traditional initiate, I cannot assume that my entire trad is not being judged based on my behavior or statements when I identify as an initiate of that trad.  Right or wrong, this is the way of our society.  Mr. Klein's arrest reflects poorly on the whole pagan community, just as pedophili priests reflect poorly on all Catholics.  While intellectually unfair, it is a simple fact.  It is the opinion of this witch that children and ritual nudity should only exist in private events (truly private, in a family home) if it exists at all.  If I knew that an event or rite would be skyclad and include minors I would decline to attend. 

Another issue here which has come up in private conversation is the subject of photos taken at pagan events.  This is a serious subject since pagan people often have varying levels of "out-ness" with different levels of society.  Maybe with family they are completely public about their religion or practice, with friends it might depend, and at work no one may know that they are pagan.  A photo can change all that with or without their permission.  The use of the internet and social media can make a pic spread like wildfire - especially when every modern cell phone is equipped with a camera.  Please be considerate with your camera usage when out at pagan events.  Now, add naked minors into equation and we have a potentially litigious situation.  

In other words, behave like someone is watching you because someone probably is.   

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