Ramah mayor apologizes to pagans
RAMAH ” Mayor Tamra Herrara has apologized to a pagan group whose plan for a Halloween gathering cast the small plains town as a modern-day Salem.
The Calhan-based coven of about a dozen members rented Ramah’s American Legion Hall for an Oct. 29 fund-raiser for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
The Rev. Tim Tucker, minister of Ramah Baptist Fellowship, tried to get the town board to block the gathering at a work session Aug. 25 called to discuss the pagan celebration.
Herrara’s apology followed a scolding Tuesday from fellow trustee Nicole Allen, who said she was embarrassed by the board’s behavior at the work session, saying it was an attempt to violate the group’s civil liberties.
“All I can say is we do as a board apologize,” Herrara told members of the Secret Garden Coven at Tuesday’s meeting. “This has never come up before and never will again.”
Allen said she protested the August meeting, and called criticism of the pagans’ religious beliefs “reminiscent of a Salem witch hunt.”
“I believe in the separation of church and state,” she said. “I do not believe the town of Ramah had a legal interest and should not have been involved.
“I find it sad council members were willing to protest and condemn what they did not understand. This is the first time I’ve been embarrassed and ashamed of the actions of my fellow board members.”
Several Ramah residents also criticized the board Tuesday for involving itself in a matter of religious freedom.
At the August meeting, some on the board raised concerns about pagan rituals.
Pagans worship a number of gods and goddesses and don’t subscribe to the Christian belief of a God and devil, coven members said.
Although Herrara’s apology removes the town board from the debate, it doesn’t mean the issue is dead.
Ramah resident Annette Manchego is circulating petitions in eastern Colorado communities asking the American Legion to reconsider allowing the pagans to hold their gathering in its building.
Manchego has enlisted the help of three friends to gather signatures opposing the pagan event. She plans to present the petitions to Ramah Legion Hall leader Kent Greenwood in late September.
Greenwood could not be reached for comment. One member of the coven has said the American Legion has not tried to back out of the agreement because of the controversy.
Manchego, who lives in Ramah, said her opposition is based on her belief in the Bible.
“It is not proper,” she said of the pagans’ beliefs. “We say ‘one nation under God,’ not ‘goddesses.”‘
Manchego said she’ll circulate the petitions “from the Springs clear out to Limon.”
“It is for the whole community of eastern Colorado and, as far as I’m concerned, the whole world,” she said.
Coven leader Sandra Doucette said the event will go on as planned. She accepted the board’s apology but said she questioned its sincerity.
“All this has actually overshadowed the real purpose of why we were going to have our festival, which was to assist St. Jude’s hospital,” she said. Vendors “are afraid to come here for fear there’s going to be retaliation against them.”
Coven member Kellie Barcelon said the uproar is ironic.
“We’re basically just tree huggers,” she said. “We are peaceful people.”
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