Pa­gan priest wins the right to wear horns

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Peter Hol­ley

It doesn’t mat­ter how many ar­ti­cles of cloth­ing Phe­lan Moon­song puts on be­fore walk­ing out the door each day: If he’s not wear­ing his fa­vorite pair of goat horns, the Pa­gan priest might as well be naked.

Un­less the 56-year-old Millinocket, Maine, man is sleep­ing or bathing, his beloved horns are rarely far from his scalp.

It’s been that way since he first laid eyes on the horns at a Pa­gan men’s group gath­er­ing in 2009. A friend whose goat had re­cently died of­fered the horns to group mem­bers. No­body else wanted the dead goat’s hard­ware; Moon­song couldn’t be­lieve his luck

So he took the horns home, drilled small holes in each one and at­tached them to his fore­head us­ing stretchy, 50-pound fish­ing line that he wrapped around his head like an in­vis­i­ble skull cap.

His life was never the same.

“As a prac­tic­ing Pa­gan min­is­ter and a priest of Pan, I’ve come to feel very at­tached to the horns, and they’ve be­come a part of me and part of my spir­i­tu­al­ity,” Moon­song said, not­ing that he pe­ri­od­i­cally soaks the horns in patchouli and cedar oil to keep them fresh and leath­ery. “The horns are part of my reli­gious at­tire.”

Moon­song feels so at­tached to his horns that he re­fuses to take them off for any­one - in­clud­ing the state of Maine. In Au­gust, Moon­song said, of­fi­cials at the Bureau of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles in Ban­gor told him that he would need to re­move the horns to re­ceive a state-is­sued ID.

When he tried to ex­plain to bureau em­ploy­ees that he is a “Priest of Pan” - one who con­sid­ers the horns his “spir­i­tual an­tenna” - they were not moved. They told that the horns would have to be ap­proved by Maine’s sec­re­tary of state.

“She told me that I had to send in some doc­u­men­ta­tion or reli­gious text to show why it was re­quired for me to have my horns on,” Moon­song said. “I said, ‘OK, I’ll go ahead and do that,’ but it seemed like an oner­ous re­quire­ment.”

Moon­song said he sent the state a per­sonal es­say ex­plain­ing the im­por­tance of his horns, along with four schol­arly works, in­clud­ing one ti­tled “Pa­gan Re­li­gions: A Hand­book for Di­ver­sity Train­ing.”

Though he didn’t re­al­ize it at the time, Moon­song had joined a reli­gious free­dom bat­tle that is be­ing fought in DMV of­fices around the coun­try.

At least 30 states of­fer res­i­dents high lev­els of con­sti­tu­tional pro­tec­tion for reli­gious ex­pres­sion, some of them even higher than the pro­tec­tion of­fered by the Con­sti­tu­tion’s First Amend­ment, ac­cord­ing to Charles Haynes, the found­ing di­rec­tor of the Reli­gious Free­dom Cen­ter of the New­seum In­sti­tute.

“Gen­er­ally speak­ing, even in states with­out a high level of pro­tec­tion, of­fi­cials have to have a pretty good rea­son for say­ing no to a reli­gious ac­com­mo­da­tion for a driver’s li­cense photo,” Haynes said. “How strong that rea­son needs to be de­pends on where you live.”

But it also de­pends on the qual­ity of the cit­i­zen’s case, Haynes said. When peo­ple ar­gue for the right to cover their faces in a driver’s li­cense photo - such as a Mus­lim woman who be­lieves it’s im­mod­est to un­cover her face - states of­ten have the up­per hand be­cause it’s in the in­ter­est of the state to as­sist po­lice in be­ing able to iden­tify peo­ple.

“How­ever,” Haynes added, “if the per­son’s reli­gious garb doesn’t cover the face or ob­struct law en­force­ment, those folks are likely to win.”

for a sin­gle im­plant, abut­ment, and crown

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.