This report in today's Colorado Springs Gazette prompted the following letter of protest to Academy Superintendent Michael Gould, acting in my capacity as High Priest (3rd Degree) in the North American Temple of Dionysus, Colorado Springs Chapter. We Dionysians have long borne the brunt of various forms of religious discrimination, often suffering in silence, but I felt that something must be said in response to this latest outrage. I hope you'll all join me in urging the Air Force to end this pattern of unequal treatment and provide all neo-pagan fertility cults with an appropriate worship area of their own on academy grounds.
"May 4, 2011
Lt. Gen. Michael C. Gould
Superintendent, U.S. Air Force Academy
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Dear Lt. General Gould:
The Colorado Springs Gazette reported today about the dedication of a shrine for earth-based religions on academy property. I feel I must weigh-in, as a high priest in the North American Temple of Dionysus, Colorado Springs Chapter.
While I applaud your efforts to accommodate earth-based groups such as Druids and Wiccans, we Dionysians do not belong in this over-broad category. Nor do we view ourselves as an earth-based religion or “new age” fad. A little research will indicate that Dionysianism dates back to very ancient times, making Druidism look like a flash in the pan. Moreover, we have strict rules against associating with many of the “new age groups” with whom we are expected to share this space.
We therefore find that your efforts to be inclusive have fallen woefully short. We will be contacting the American Civil Liberties Unions on this matter because we believe your unequal and unfair treatment of Dionysians may constitute grounds for court action.
Just lumping Neo-pagans in with so-called earth-based groups, and expecting us to share the same facilities, not only indicates a poor understanding of Dionysianism. It’s disrespectful and possibly discriminatory. It’s crude stereotyping of the type we Dionysians have suffered from for too long. We therefore request that you end this clear pattern of discrimination and authorize the construction of a shrine suitable for Bacchanals and other Dionysian-oriented worship on Academy grounds as soon as possible. A failure to do so invites legal action.
We stand ready to work with you on the thoughtful design of this facility, but here are the broad parameters of what is required. We note from newspaper photos that the Academy’s earth-based shrine is on a hilltop, exposed to the elements. That simply will not do for Dionysians or our rituals. A secluded and wooded setting is more appropriate for the sort of orgiastic, free-roaming festivities we host. And many of our members wear little to no clothing during these rites, and engage in activities not suitable for viewing by minors, so such an exposed space simply isn't suitable.
We also note that the academy’s earth-based shrine forms a circle, though triangular or rectangular worship areas are favored by Dionysians. Animal sacrifices are a part of certain Dionysian rites, so we’ll need some rudimentary pens nearby, sturdy enough to hold everything from baby goats to brahma bulls (no offense to any Hindus out there). We of course will provide our own livestock, our own wine, our own maenads. Fire-burning alters also are needed, which we like to have simply constructed out of local natural materials, but which must meet all applicable OSHA safety standards, of course.
A clearing in the forest, large enough to accommodate several hundred heavily-intoxicated revelers, dancing in serpentine lines, will also be necessary. We generally hold our Bacchanalias after dark, during new moons, and they often go on through the night, until all our primal appetites have been sated, so we’ll need appropriate permits to be on academy grounds after hours. Animal fat-fueled torches are used for illumination (incandescent bulbs are strictly forbidden, due to the damage they do the planet) and moderate human bloodletting sometimes occurs at these events, so we’ll need fire and ambulance crews standing by, at a respectful distance, in times of celebration. (We’ll of course compensate you for the expenditures such crews will require). Handicap-accessible restrooms would also be appreciated, since our rituals can stretch on for many hours and the wine and other libations flow freely.
The North American Temple of Dionysus, Colorado Springs Chapter, stands ready to meet with you and your staff, at your convenience, to discuss in greater detail how we can avoid a nasty legal battle and get the fair treatment federal and state law requires. Prompt action on your part will not only avoid the need for legal action, but will earn the U.S. Air Force the undying gratitude of Dionysians everywhere. And we are sure that Dionysians who attend the academy, or send their children there, will also be grateful.
Thank you for your time,
High Priest Sean Paige
North American Temple of Dionysus
Colorado Springs Chapter