Boston University Wiccans have just cause to celebrate today, finally given status as an official religion at BU after a three year battle for recognition. After being refused by the university twice, all it took for the group to receive recognition was a change of name: from Pagan to Wiccan. The BU group’s leaders seem to think the name changes little, though it does exclude some non-Wiccan pagans. The Wicca group will now enjoy the benefits of being an official religion on campus, such as a guaranteed weekly meeting place and listing in the Office of the Chaplin. And what is more, they will now be viewed the same as any other religion in the eyes of the university.
While it seems ridiculous that a three year effort should rest on a technicality, administrators had a good point when they rejected the group’s attempts in the past. Pagan is not a religion. It is the “none of the above” of religious terms – an umbrella under which Wicca and a number of other religions exist. According to Webster’s dictionary, a Pagan is simply anyone who is not a Christian, Muslim or Jew. Wiccans, on the other hand, have a very specific and developed belief system and should not be forced into the “miscellaneous” group.
Last night’s decision has been a long time coming and Wiccan students at BU should have had their religion recognized three years ago. When first denied, administrators and students should have worked together to determine the specific qualifications for religious status so that the group could have made necessary modifications. But what is past is past, and the university has demonstrated a healthy open-mindedness in acknowledging the group. BU Wiccans should celebrate their new-found acceptance.