47 holidays are listed from a variety of religious traditions. The guide describes how observances of the holiday of any given religion could affect a student’s performance. One example is fasting during Ramadan; the guide recommends:
“If possible, avoid scheduling major academic deadlines during this time. Be sensitive to the fact that students and employees celebrating Ramadan will be fasting during the day (continuously for 30 days) and will likely have less stamina as a result. If planning an evening event, provide food accommodations if requested (Islamic dietary restrictions apply).”
First off, Mizzou, I want to applaud you. To take note of the holy days of minority religions, as well as the major ones, is a step in the right direction. The university is a place of diversity and to acknowledge that in an official guide, designed to help professors and others know when students may not be at top form for tests and other activities due to commitment to their religious obligations, just makes my heart glow. You are showing how much you care about your students, and how much you want them to succeed in their education.
The Pew Research Center and the most recent US census estimate the Pagan population to be between 900,000 to 1.2 million. Growth of Pagan religions over the last decade was close to 28%, as compared to the 3% of Christendom as a whole, and the negative growth of Protestantism here in the US. Many Pagans still remain in the closet about their religious beliefs for fear of persecution in the form of loss of jobs, housing, and children. This makes it extremely difficult to find out exactly what our numbers really are. While Paganism, as an umbrella term for a host of different religions, is far from becoming even one of the top three largest religions in this country, we are steadily growing and we are not going away anytime soon. I should also add that “Pagan” does not necessarily equal Wiccan, though Wicca is the largest portion of the Pagan population (just as Evangelical Christians are larger in the Christian population than Catholics, but still get lumped together as Christian in polls).
With all this said, here enters Fox News. They had both an on-line article as well as a segment on “Fox and Friends” where they addressed the guide that Mizzou had put out. If you want to be sure I am not making this up, you can read the on-line article here: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/02/17/university-missouri-guide-asks-professors-to-accommodate-wiccan-pagan-holidays/ , as well as watch a clip of the “Fox and Friends” show here: http://mediamatters.org/embed/static/clips/2013/02/17/28929/fnc-fnf-20130217-wiccan
Tammy Bruce, radio host of the nationally syndicated “Tammy Bruce Show” and Fox News contributor, said she found the guide to be indicative of an unbecoming societal shift.
“It almost seems as though we’re looking for excuses for people to not have to take their commitments seriously,” Bruce told FoxNews.com. “It’s beyond political correctness; it’s almost like an excuse to do nothing. It’s like societal nihilism, where nothing matters.”
Tucker Carlson adds, “Every Wiccan I have ever know is either compulsive Dungeons and Dragons player or is a middle aged, twice divorced, older woman, living in a rural area who works as a midwife.”
Forget the fact that the accommodations listed for the Pagan holidays equals zero recommendations. Not even a single, “Don’t schedule tests on these days.” Forget the fact that only 8 holidays are listed for Pagans, and not the 20 they seem to pull out of thin air on “Fox and Friends.” Lastly, forget that in the UK police are allowed to take the 8 Pagan holidays off (so, yes Fox, this does happen in other countries), or that Christians have only one less holiday listed than Pagans (coming in at 7 holidays for the year). The fact they can’t even be bothered to do basic journalism, and then claim in the clip that they are, in fact, journalists, boggles the mind.
The break down for the holidays is as follows:
Wiccan/Pagan: 8 holidays
Hindu: 5 holidays
Buddhist: 3 holidays
Baha'i: 3 holidays
Shinto: 2 holidays
Sikh: 2 holidays
Jain: 1 holiday
Taoist: 1 holiday
Confucian: 1 holiday
Jewish: 11 holidays
Christian (Protestant/Roman Catholic): 7 holidays
Christian (E. Orthodox): 4 holidays
Islam: 3 holidays
So, the highest number of holidays are Jewish. Somehow that didn’t seem to even register with our friends at Fox news. I honestly would have been just as upset if it had. The number of Pagan holidays should not be an issue, just as the number of Christian and Jewish ones shouldn’t. Religion is a very personal, very powerful part of the human experience. We take that experience as little, or as far, as we need or want. That doesn’t mean my religion is any less important to me than it is to my Christian counterparts. This is NOT an attack on Christianity by the “liberals,” nor by the University. This is treating people of minority faiths as fully human people, just as committed to their religion as any one from a more recognized faith tradition. Mizzou, keep up the great job! Fox news, hire real journalists who know how to do a little background research before spouting off, please.
There are currently several on-line petitions asking Fox news to apologize. One can be found here: http://www.change.org/petitions/fox-news-make-a-public-apology-for-the-statements-made-about-the-pagan-wiccan-community
Another (with 20,000 signatures when I last looked) can be found here: http://www.causes.com/actions/1733105-demand-fox-news-apologize-to-pagans-and-wiccans