Local pagans stand by law of land

Danielle Woodwyk says her pagan faith is about love, but worries others may draw darker conclusions from a criminal-sexual conduct case police say involved paganism.

The Kentwood mother says nothing in her religion condones the sexual relationship and pagan marriage that authorities say teacher Elizabeth Miklosovic, 36, had with a 14-year-old former student.

“We support bonds of love, whatever you feel is right for you, but you have laws to abide by,” said Woodwyk, 24.

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Other members of West Michigan’s small pagan community also condemned Miklosovic’s alleged use of a pagan ceremony to initiate the abuse.

“Paganism strives for responsibility,” said Jennifer Suttorp, director of Sanctuary of the Winds, a local nonprofit pagan organization. “A pedophile is a pedophile in any form of spirituality.”

Area pagans worry the case could stir up unfounded allegations their faith was culpable. People on the Sanctuary’s mailing list already are saying they will need “some kind of damage control,” Suttorp said.

“I really hope the community will take the crime as the crime, and leave the person’s spirituality out of it. Just because I went to church with somebody doesn’t mean that played a real heavy (role) with the relationship.”

The “wedding” ritual described by police sounds similar to a “handfasting” ceremony, in which two people link their hands with a piece of rope or twine, pagans say.

But while a homosexual union is legitimate in pagan doctrine, a wedding with a minor is not, they stress.

“Being pagan, you still have to follow the law of the land,” said Woodwyk, a nursing student at Grand Valley State University.

Suttorp said an adult giving literature to a minor, as Miklosovic allegedly did with a book on witchcraft, is “really frowned upon.”

Any minor interested in joining her group must have a parent’s permission, she said.

“A lot of it is to protect ourselves from situations like this,” said Suttorp, 27, of Kentwood.

“We don’t want a parent coming back to us saying, ‘You brainwashed my child into believing like this.'”

Pagan beliefs center on taking care of the environment and other people, said Woodwyk, who worships at home with her husband, Josh, and 5-year-old son, Seth.

“Our main mission is to better ourselves, better the community, heal the Earth and protect it,” she said.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Grand Rapids Press, USA
Dec. 4, 2004
Charles Honey, Press Religion Editor
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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday December 5, 2004.
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