Accommodating Religion at College
A student at Eastern Michigan University who has been a practicing Wiccan since age 14 contacted the ACLU of Michigan when the public safety department refused to allow him to keep his athame on campus. Wicca is a pagan religion, and an athame is a ceremonial blade used in Wiccan ritualistic exercises to channel psychic energy and demarcate the boundaries of a magic circle.
In November 2015 we wrote a letter to EMU officials warning them that their failure to accommodate the student’s religious practices violated the Michigan Constitution. We then arranged a meeting with EMU officials during which we were able to dispel various misconceptions about the athame and Wicca. In December 2015 an agreement was reached allowing the student to keep the item in a locked box in his room when it was not being used during a ceremony.
(ACLU Attorneys Dan Korobkin and Michael J. Steinberg, and volunteer Carl Bookstein.)