Wiccan Sues Chesterfield County on Charges of Discrimination

December 7, 2002

Source: The Washington Post

On December 7, 2002 The Washington Post reported that "in Chesterfield County, elected leaders bow their heads for a brief prayer to start every meeting of the Board of Supervisors. Local ministers, priests and the occasional rabbi, each of whom has volunteered to be on a list, offer words of inspiration before the meeting shifts to zoning laws, budget cuts and public hearings. It's been that way for years. But when Cynthia Simpson, a witch and local Wiccan priestess, volunteered, she received a firm "no." In a letter from the county's attorney, she was told that only members of "Judeo-Christian" religions can pray on the board's behalf. Today, two civil liberties groups filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the county's response to Simpson amounts to religious discrimination. The suit demands that the county either stop offering prayers before meetings or allow Simpson to participate. 'They are allowing people of some religious faiths to participate and not others,' said Kent Willis, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, one of the groups that sued. 'It is virtually impossible for the government to get involved in religion without discriminating.' Barry W. Lynn, director of the D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which joined the lawsuit, accused Chesterfield supervisors of acting like 'theological kingpins.'"