August 2012



In the Decision rendered by Judge Platkin of Albany Supreme Court of New York against the Maetreum of Cybele some absolutely astounding logic was used in the ruling.

Apparently, and actually against established caselaw, providing “affordable housing” for women who probably otherwise be homeless or escaping abusive living situations is not charitable.  Let’s look at that because in direct sworn testimony no fewer than three priestesses of the Maetreum told the court, verified by the introduction of our “housing contract” into evidence, that we do not charge individuals we house on an emergency basis at all and never ask them for money. Now that’s “affordable” isn’t it?  Further, that anyone not housed on an emergency basis has signed an agreement stating their reason for living at the Maetreum is spiritual seeking in nature and that they have discussed those motives with one of the priestesses.    In other words, clearly charitable works aren’t charity… that a written statement of spiritual intent is not religious.

Another point was that only a minimal part of the property is “dedicated exclusively to religious services”.   Part is used to further the exempt activities of charitable housing of women in need, part is used to further educational work, specifically towards the Herstory of women and furtherance of the rights of women which happens to be part of our religious mission and also part of the exempt uses of a property under the section of New York law dealing with religious property tax exemption.  And actually, once again in both sworn uncontested testimony during the trial, it was made clear that other than the rooms specifically used as bedrooms, the entire property is used in furtherance of our religious mission at all times.

Although no legal standard in New York, as far as my own research bears out, has ever been established by law or court decision as to how many members of a congregation are required to be a “legitimate” religion serving a legitimate “public benefit” apparently we do not have enough congregants.  Once again in both sworn testimony and affidavits considered part of the evidence, it was established that our website receives more than 5 thousand hits each month, more than (at the time of the trial) 250 people following our postings on Facebook and hundreds of people have attended services at the Maetreum over the years, including a number of local women, women and men from all over the US, women from Europe, Australia and Canada, this somehow does not meet a standard that actually does not exist in law.  Not to mention our New and Full moon celebrations average more participants than the Episcopal church not 300 yards from our property at their weekly services.  They are exempt, we’re not worthy

The next point is astonishing in it’s alleged internal logic.  That our services are somehow “irregualar” in formal ritual and that because “prayer, meditation or spiritual activities (are) common in many homes” this somehow translates to our doing so “falls short of demonstrating that the property’s actual use is in the furtherance of religion”.  Read that one again…..it is amazing in it’s logic.  Engaging in regular prayer, meditation AND spiritual activities are not practising religion?  Because some secular households do so?  This one alone rips the veil off of what is going on here.  Nothing we do would be considered religious enough by this court, nothing at all when regular evening services are not practising religion.  By the way, as to the irregular nature of our rituals, once again in both sworn direct testimony and evidence provided without being contested, the court was aware we hold regular, open to the public and announced services every single new and full moon as well as the four equinoxes and solstices. We have never skipped a single new or full moon in all the years we have been incorporated.  That means roughly every two weeks there is a formal, open to the public ritual on the property in addition to our regular weekend activities virtually every weekend dedicated to some part of our religious mission.  Our schedule of our “irregular” services is promoted on Facebook, normally on the large “church” style sign at the front of the property AND published on our website.

Also astounding in the decision was the claim of “the absence of comprehensive, on site religious duties for the priestesses”  Our published organizational model which was introduced as evidence in direct form and as part of a book I wrote clearly outlines the duties of our priestesses even down to conflict resolution within the household, not to mention the myriad other duties spelled out… in detail.  Further, in claiming a legal precedence we cited does not apply, the judge had to rule my own direct testimony was somehow suspect when it was not even challenged on cross examination!  When the amount of personal time I spend was exactly the same as the Rabbi in that case, especially when you factor in time spent care-taking the property which has also been ruled by prior courts as part of exempt work.

The last point is simply unbelievable in it’s leaps of illogic.  Because prior to the Maetreum acquiring the property, the group that donated the property to the Maetreum had planned to use it for the charitable purpose of providing housing for women (and transsexual women as well) in need and because I alone of the original purchasers of the property am also a priestess (with exactly zero remaining personal financial interest due to the law)  that charitable use is somehow not only not charitable but also suspect!  We actually were not allowed to address any use of the property outside the years 2009 through 2011 by the judge and he uses what the property was used for BEFORE it belonged to the Maetreum of Cybele, a legally incorporated entity separate from the prior owners, to rule against us!

Charity is not charity, prayer, meditation and spiritual activities are not religious, duties of clergy clearly spelled out are not spelled out, activities every week and formal ones every two weeks are “irregular”, some mythical standard of number of regular congregants was not met.  We are a “legitimate” religion but actually exist to wrangle a tax exemption (not legitimate)  I am personally a liar with no actual evidence provided to justify saying that.  This is the basis of the decision when you parse the actual language beyond the wild and totally unsupported opinions of Dan Vincellete, attorney for Catskill in his closing alleged argument submitting in writing so as to avoid reaction.  Arguments already found invalid, not accurate, not based on actual law, completely unsubstantiated and probably discriminatory by another Judge.  I leave the motives behind this decision up to the speculation of my gentle readership.

BTW, the Goddess is pissed off.  It’s not nice (or wise) to fool (with) Mother Nature you know.


Western feminists are NOT silent

Francesca Tronetti, MA Anthropology, Women & Gender Studies

Doctoral Student in Philosophy and Religion at CIIS

While flipping through YouTube videos I came across a segment of the Michael Coren show from May 25th of this year in which he and Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch discussed Amina Filali, a young Moroccan girl who committed suicide after being married to her rapist for a year.  The marriage was ordered by a judge, a practice which is common in Islamic states if the woman is not killed to redeem the family’s honor.

During the show Spencer said, “We’re absolutely immured to this, the human rights organizations don’t care, the Western feminists don’t care… The Western feminists are really incredible about it.  You see all these feminists who are very quick to criticize Christianity, criticize Judeo-Christian values, criticize the West, the United States and Canada and Europe for its alleged mistreatment of women.  But when you come to Islam then they suddenly start making excuses and they say women who are wearing burqas and are essentially slaves of their husbands, well their happy and it’s ok.  And it seems clear that the idea of multi-culturalism trumps feminism.”  Now I had several problems with this segment besides the fact that it only involved two white Western men discussing women in the Middle East.

The idea that Western feminists are passive and forgiving on this issue, that we make excuses and allow women to be subjugated because of multicultural indoctrination, i.e. liberalism, is ludicrous.  No woman who heard that story would say to themselves, ‘well it’s their culture so it’s alright.’  In Western culture we had similar practices; though these practices were typically not part of the legal code, instead they were just how things worked.  Western feminists, even non-feminists are outraged when women and girls are treated in this manner, not even as second-class citizens but as third-class creatures.  I suppose since women did not gather together and march through Washington on national television that Mr.’s Spencer and Coren assume we do not care.

Feminists, male and female do care; but we pick which battles we will make public and which we will keep in secret.  Feminists work behind the scenes in global groups to support women.  Yes, there are well publicized letter writing campaigns to free rape victims from being sentenced to prison for adultery.  But, there is more subtle support such as fundraisers to donate money and resources to women’s groups in Islamic states to create schools, legal defense funds, clinics, and a network of safe houses and embassy staff to help women leave these countries.  Women in Great Britain pushed for the creation of the Forced Marriage Unit, a police unit which intercedes on behalf of women and girls who are being forced into marriage to men outside the country, or are already in an abusive forced marriage and protects their rights as human beings.  Feminist groups in the United States and Canada work within their local communities to make police and social services aware of the plight of women and girls in forced marriages and help to keep girls in the West from being shipped off the marry strange men in Islamic countries where they will have no rights in court, no protection from abuse, and no support system to help them.

Consider the case of Bibi Aisha, an Afghan girl of 12 who was married to a Taliban fighter to settle her father’s debts.  After she attempted to flee his family’s home she was taken before the courts and for dishonoring her husband he was allowed to cut off her nose and ears, while his brother held her down and leave her to die.  The members of her husband’s family would not help her, her own uncle turned her away. Finally a member of her family took her to a non-Afghan hospital to save her life.  A hospital run by a U.S. Army medical unit.  The doctors and nurses there saved her life, taught her some English and with the help of the organization Women for Afghan Women Bibi came to the United States, underwent surgery to have a permanent prosthetic nose and became a symbol of the treatment of women in Afghanistan.  Feminists who support groups like Women for Afghan Women and Women Living Under Muslim Law are supporting protections for women in Islamic states.

It simply is not feasible for Western feminists to try to force a change in the status of women in Islamic states.  These are not states in which majority rule will decide law.  These are states in which a specific interpretation of the Holy Quran has given men complete and total power over women.  A state in which a man can rape a woman or young girl without repercussions, where a father can sell a daughter to settle his debts, and where a feud between families does not have to be settle by the men fighting but instead by one group of men raping a woman from the other group.  Those in power believe they are right in the eyes of God and no amount of public outcry or petitions by Western women will change their beliefs.

But do no mistake the quietness of feminists for acceptance.  We are working to change things for women in Islamic states.  We provide money and support for schools for girls, for lawyers to help child brides out of arranged marriages and when specific cases of barbaric treatment of women hit the news we have even forced the king of Saudi   Arabia to pardon a rape victim.  We publish the biographies of women who have escaped these countries, we make it known how the women are treated in these countries, and we make it known to our own leaders what we will and will not tolerate when it comes to dealing with the countries.  But mostly, we have Muslim and Middle Eastern women take the lead on the work in their countries, because they understand better than any well read anthropologist what the true situation is and how to combat it.  Western feminists work from behind the scenes, not pushing our immediate agenda for total equality overnight because we know that is not going to happen.  Instead, we support our feminist brothers and sisters around the world in a variety of ways, and work to change the lives of Muslim women in our own countries because we know our laws and we know which buttons to push with our governments.

Michael Coren clip: “Michael Coren & Robert Spencer On The Suicide Of Amina Filali” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lb1FWUPCIgI