Monday, February 4, 2008

All the Queen's Mess

The issue revolving around the Miss Toronto Tourism debacle (discussed in my last blog) has, of course, not escaped the notice of the Pagan community-at-large and the pageant itself was held this past weekend, and the Pagans represented. Of course! And of course, the Pageant people engaged in a furious backpedaling operation that was, well, pathetic.
Now I’m sure that if you’ve read my blogs before you know that I have no patience with Pagans who scream discrimination based on their religion when they are simply being discriminated against because, well, they are stupid. Like that lady that was burning a cooler in her backyard while disturbing the peace half-naked. That was not discrimination. That was one person being dumb and getting cited for it.
This, however, appears to be a clear-cut case of discrimination.
If you recall, when this issue first came to light, the article cited a letter received by Miss Conover, who is Miss Canada Plus, that went like so:
“She states that her hobbies are yoga, reiki and tarot card reading.
“Our board of directors has eliminated her as a judge as tarot card reading and reiki are the occult and … not acceptable by God, Jews, Muslims or Christians.”
Then a Biblical quote about mediums and “spiritists.”
Then: “We hope that Stephanie Conover will turn from these belief systems and will repent from her practice of them.”
(Find these quotes in the article at
The quote in question?  Leviticus 20:6, where God states: “I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums or spiritualists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut them off from his people,” although fortunately for Stephanie, she’s apparently been exempted from the requirements of Leviticus 20:27, which mandates that “A man or a woman who is a medium…shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones.”
In this article, Karen Murray, who was quoted in a previous article thusly:
“We just got her bio a week ago and we don’t agree with it,” said Karen Murray, Miss Toronto Tourism pageant director. “We want someone down to earth, not someone into the dark side or the occult.” is refusing to comment. And so we have a new player in this drama. Ainslie Baillie (there’s a Pagan name if I ever heard one!) who is also a member of the Miss Toronto Tourism board who claims that her religion isn’t an issue. She says “I was just told that she wasn’t qualified. A lot of it has to do with judging experience, not religion.”.
Yea lady. I’m sorry, but somebody put an entirely different position in writing.
Miss Conover plans to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission of Ontario next week. I say go for it. This sort of thing needs attention. And again, it’s not because I think that privatized events like this don’t have the right to exclude people based on whatever the heck they want to exclude them based on, it’s because I think they must make it absolutely clear.
If the Miss Toronto Tourism pageant considers only those who follow Biblical law to be worthy of being associated with them, then it must be clearly stated where anyone can see it. It cannot be hidden.
Further, if you want to run a pageant that is that selective, you really need to separate yourself from official government bodies. Every article has made it absolutely clear that the Miss Toronto Tourism pageant is an organization that promotes historic sites in Toronto and that it’s not associated with the city or the official Tourism Toronto and that’s good. But if I were in charge of Tourism Toronto, or a member of the city board, I would want them to take the city’s name off of their pageant if they are going to be discriminatory!
Says Andrew Weir, vice president of Tourism Toronto, whose Web site shares nearly the same name as the pageant: “It’s caused some confusion but it has nothing to do with us and we have nothing to do with them. All I can say is that’s not how we market the city.”
Of course, the Pagan community is up in arms about all of this, and why shouldn’t they be? And not only Pagans should be upset, but anyone who isn’t a member of the “dominant” culture, and, well, anyone who opposes discrimination.
Said Michael Makaid, an organizer of the Toronto Pagan Conference: “We were shocked that a non religious beauty pageant that supports multiculturalism would do this. As a Torontonian that enrages me. It’s about discrimination not paganism. We have loads of people who are pagan and non pagan who are upset about this.”
The Toronto Pagan Conference and other groups picketed the event and called sponsors to see what they thought about it. Ralph Hamelmann, who runs The Psychic Brunch, said 16 of 18 sponsors have withdrawn their sponsorship of the pageant.  I guess their sponsors don’t take kindly to discrimination either. Not everyone jumped on the bandwagon though. Alfredo DiGenova, general manager of Adrenalin Fitness, has no plans now to withdraw despite pressure. “I’ve received seven e-mails since Tuesday asking me to drop my sponsorship. I think the whole thing is blown out of proportion. It’s their pageant so they can have whoever they want.”