Word is circulating quickly that musician and writer Kenny Klein has gotten himself into some trouble. How Pagans react will be telling in understanding how we view community.
There is no question that participating in the types of activities that Klein has allegedly admitted to are illegal with good reason. Protecting our most vulnerable, those who are unable to protect themselves, is perhaps the most important value any community can uphold.
I do not know Klein personally, I am not a member of the Blue Star or any Wiccan tradition, and I know little about his specific faith community. But I do know that it — as well as the broader Pagan sphere — is a religious community. Where the secular world writes laws to define what actions should result in consequences, it is the realm of religion to explore motivation, intent, and how those actions impact the relationship with whatever divine or natural forces that religion holds sacred.
Should someone be cast out and shunned for possessing child pornography? Some traditions would say yes without hesitation, others would counsel for healing, and many more might not have an answer to the question. How does the answer change if the crime is sexual conduct with a child? Non-sexual physical abuse? Mental torment? Murder?
There are no cut-and-dried answers to these and many other questions, at least not ones that can be universally applied to all Pagan religions. But one thing that I believe should apply to is this:
How outsiders perceive Paganism should not be a factor.
The Roman Catholic Church made some really bad decisions that look like they were driven by public-relations concerns, when their only concern should have been how to protect children. Public relations should never be a factor in religious decisions, unless that’s actually part of the doctrine or practice of the faith. There will be a growing blog tizzy about the Klein story, as we process our emotions and release them. That’s understandable and needed. But we don’t need to make decisions in our religions that are based on public perception. Yes, a real Pagan did that, which makes it all the more important that Pagans don’t change how the address it just because there will be media scrutiny. I, for one, hope that there can be healing for all those involved in these incidents, including Klein himself.