Once again, so much has been going on around here, I’ve barely had the time to update this blog.
First, the most recent and one of the most important things that has happened to us recently is that we sent out a missive to the larger pagan community which I reprinted in the post prior to this one. To our great and happy surprise, we sent a copy to Jason Pitzl-Waters, the author of the Wild Hunt Blog – one of the largest and most widely-read of the pagan blogs – and he immediately published it! Many, many thanks to you, Jason for getting the word out to the community about us and our legal situation. We’ve been ignored and shoved aside for so long, and you can’t possibly know how much this means to us. Mother’s Blessings to you and yours!
To anyone who may be looking at us for the first time, thank you for taking the time to read our post and for taking a closer look at us and our situation. This blog is for updates on what we’ve been doing at the Maetreum, and as such it covers various things, both major and minor. I made a few mentions of the ongoing issues with the denial of our property tax exemption here and there, but until now have remained largely silent on the issue. This is because not only was I trying to keep a more upbeat focus for this blog, we had figured that it was best to keep quiet about it. We are now in a situation where not only have we been ordered by the judge to use every option at our disposal to find a lawyer and we feel that it is long past time to get the word out to the larger pagan community about what has been going on here.
In some ways, our situation is not an uncommon one, in that you frequently do see minority religions having to deal with municipalities illegally denying their property tax exemption using whatever excuse as a way to obtain more revenue. In the case of the Catskill Mountains, as you may or may not be aware, they were a very popular vacation destination from the mid 19th century until the middle of the 20th century. Many resorts that catered to specific immigrant groups flourished until the 1960’s-1970’s. The trend since then was for the old resorts to be either demolished (like the Catskill Mountain House, The Laurel House, etc) or abandoned and left to rot (like Grossinger’s). Of the ones left, some still survive in their intended function and others, like ours, have been purchased by largely minority religious groups who enjoy tax exemption. This has caused a loss of revenue to the municipalities that they try to stem by engaging in this sort of thing. Invariably, when the case finally makes it before a judge, the denial is thrown out and the property tax exemption restored, but it’s such a waste in the long run. It’s a waste for the municipality to fight a legal battle they can’t possibly win and it’s a waste of time, energy and resources for the religious group to fight it, especially if they can’t find an attorney to represent them in court pro bono. In our case, however, we feel that there IS actual, bona fide religious discrimination going on that goes beyond a simple attempt to regain lost revenue. As I described in the June 3rd entry (We Harbor Kittens), we have reason to believe that the driving force behind all of this is one or more local businessmen who want our property and have been trying to acquire it since before we purchased it in 2002.
Here’s some more positive news. We held Palenville Pagan Pride Day on October 3rd, and it was a success. A modest one, but that’s okay with us. Since this was our first one, we wanted to keep things small and manageable until we got more of a feel for the intricacies of putting on Pagan Pride. We had seven vendors, held five workshops plus a Harry Potter ritual, put on by our good friends of the Order of the Phoenix Rising. Our friend Gretchen, the Senior Druid for the Tear of the Cloud druid Grove, held workshops on navigating the mainstream for pagans as well as an introduction to her tradition, the ADF. We had the opportunity to educate some open-minded Christians who were in attendance and we raised food donations for Greene County Community Action. We certainly hope to work more with them in the future, since Greene County is a poor, rural county to begin with and things have only gotten worse with the economic downturn. Frankly, we would like to be able to offer housing to women in need (which was our original purpose and reason for purchasing Central House) or form a food pantry.