This past July, a school for witches and their craft, opened on Chicago Street, the main drag in Rossville, Illinois. CEO Donald Lewis says that the school has more than 190,000 registered members. Five people work at the school running online classes, shipping books and merchandise and selling wands, incense, candles and other items. Mayor Terry Prillaman, who welcomed the new business to town, said, "Witch School pays property taxes, collects sales taxes and uses city-owned water and gas systems. And it occupies a building that otherwise probably would be empty in a town that already has plenty of vacant storefronts."
As you may imagine, some of the religious citizens of Rossville have become a little upset with having the school in their town. Two of the four churches in town have led the opposition to the witches. Members of the Rossville Church of Christ and other residents have organized weekly prayer meetings focused on the school. Church members put up a billboard that reads, "Worship the Creator, not creation."
Rossville Church of Christ's youth pastor Andy Thomas believes the arrival of witches in this town of 1,200 created a "spiritual battle" pitting "the forces of darkness against the forces of light." Thomas worries that young people will be attracted by the witches' spells, potions and aura of mystery. "We're concerned and uncomfortable," he says. "I think people would be happier if they weren't here, but it's not our goal to run them out of town."
Last month, church leaders invited Robert Kurka, a theology professor at Lincoln Christian College, to talk about Wiccans. About 150 people showed up. He urged them to study the Bible and be prepared to talk to the newcomers about their own Christian beliefs. Although this session was staged to educate the people of the town, many are wary. Judy Rayfield, who cuts hair at the Chicago Street Hair Co., commented, "Some people say 'live and let live,' but the main thought of the Christians is we would like to see them close. They're in darkness. They're deceived." Andy Thomas insists, "Our ultimate goal would be to convert them to Christianity," he says. "If that doesn't happen, I don't know what will be next."
So, although this can be taken as a bit of a tempest in a teapot and a bit humorous, it raises an important question that keeps coming up in my mind every time I come across a Christian on Gather complaining about how our government is taking religion out of society. These folks keep shouting about how everyone has the freedom to practice religion in this country. So, why is it that when someone else practices THEIR brand of religion, these folks want to shut them down? What happened to "freedom of religion" for all?