To all the Pagan Community:
We are a Pagan congregation that is encountering entrenched
discrimination in upstate New York and currently in court fighting for
our rights as a minority religion. The Maetreum of Cybele is a
Goddess-centred, reconstructionist religion. Although we are not
Wiccan, many of us come from Wiccan backgrounds and still practice as
such. We have been noted in Margot Adler's "Drawing Down the Moon, Pat
Telesco's "Which Witch is Which" and Raven Kaldera's "Hermaphrodeities".
Our founder has been active in the Pagan Community since the 60's.
We own real property and run a brick-and-mortar establishment in the
Town of Catskill in Greene County, New York. Our property consists of a
historic former Catskill Inn called Central House and approximately 3+
acres of land with an outdoor Temple/Grove in the hamlet of Palenville.
We purchased the property 2002 and turned it into a Pagan Temple and
Convent. A Pagan Convent you ask? No, it's not a contradiction in
terms. What we do is provide both temporary and permanent housing for
Pagan priestess who wish to dedicate themselves more fully to serving
their community as well as for purposes of spiritual retreat, safety and
Not long after we purchased the property a local slumlord addressed a
town meeting calling for us to be run out of town by way of zoning and
building inspection harassment. While most of the people in town
rejected his call and welcomed us, nevertheless over the course of the
next several years we weathered continued harassment, vandalism, threats
to "burn us out" followed by harassing and illegal inspections.
We incorporated in 2005, put the property in the name of the religious
corporation and applied for property tax exemption which was granted in
2006. The following year the renewal of the exemption was denied
without given reason ironically enough within weeks of our Federal 501
(C)3 status being approved. The Town of Catskill has continued to deny
our exemption to this day in open violation of New York tax law which
mandates the property tax exemption for religious and charitable
Today our situation is that we are considered behind on these illegal
taxes and thus in potential danger of having our property taken away
which is probably the motive here. Our case is currently in court
however we were forced at the last minute to go "pro se" (represent
ourselves) because the attorney we were working with would not represent
us in court. Under New York law we must have a lawyer represent us
because we are incorporated and we have been ordered by the court to
hire a lawyer. We were actually ordered to use all our connections and
networking so this letter is actually by court order
- believe it or not.
We have also contacted the Department of Justice. Because, after three
years of refusing to give a reason for the denial, we were told this
year it was because of a zoning violation which is actually prohibited
by Federal law under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized
Persons Act of 2000. We are hoping, as provided by the law, that the
DOJ will pursue criminal charges.
What we need from the Pagan Community is this:
We need a lawyer, NOW! We've been turned away by over 30 lawyers at
this point even though we feel we have an ironclad case with a Judge
predisposed in our favour. We've done all the heavy lifting already,
researched relevant law and prepared all the arguments.
If you or someone you has had a similar problem with the Town of
Catkill, New York, we would very much like to hear from you.
We need you to help spread the word about this. Please forward this
letter widely. This issue is one that potentially effects all minority
religions, especially Pagans.
We would like you to come and visit if you are in the area. We open our
property to all compatible Pagan groups for rituals and other events as
We can always use monetary help. We are a poor order and maintain our
property and do our charitable outreach on a shoestring budget that is
being pushed to the limit fighting this battle. You can paypal a
donation from the button at gallae.com
We are also requesting that you send us some positive energy, even if
you can do nothing else. We really need it to prevail, we need all we
can get right now.
You can learn more about us at our websites at http://gallae.com ,
http://centralhouse.gallae.com and updates are at
http://gallaecentralhouse.blogspot.com To contact us email
We feel we have much to offer the Pagan community and suspect that our
case can potentially have far-reaching effects for Pagans as a whole,
especially those who hope to one day own real property and operate their
own temples, monasteries and convents. We ask that you please help us
in whatever way you can. Thank you for your time and attention.
Rev. Cathryn Platine, First Battakes
Rev. Viktoria Whittaker, Battakes-in-Waiting