By Christopher Knight, The Asheville Tribune (NC), August 24, 2000
ASHEVILLE, NC (AgapePress) - Reynolds High School, scene of last week's "We Still Pray" rally, might soon be seeing another religious gathering on its grounds. This time, a regional pagan group is asking to use the facilities.
The Appalachian Pagan Alliance sent letters to Reynolds principal Tony Baldwin and Buncombe County Superintendent Cliff Dodson on Friday asking to hold a "We Still Work Magic" rally, citing that if Reynolds had been used by one religious group, it should be made available for all others.
"I thought it was an inappropriate place to have it at the public school," said Ginger Strivelli, leader of the Alliance. "I'm all for them having their religious gathering, but it struck me as being a poor decision to have it at the school system."
Strivelli said the idea for a pagan rally had come to her well before last week's We Still Pray event, which attracted over 13,000 people who were able to get inside the stadium and an approximately 24,000 who tried but were turned away, congesting traffic for hours in Asheville. "It was actually about a couple of weeks ago when I saw the information about the We Still Pray rally on the public access channel."
The group has asked for a September 22nd date to hold the rally, falling on the autumnal equinox, one of the holidays of the pagan faith. But Strivelli said that "there's just not much of a plan yet. September 22nd was our first option." If the 22nd were to be unavailable, Strivelli said her group would press on until they got their rally at Reynolds. "We'll definitely be doing it there even if we have to be doing it at spring equinox," Strivelli said.
When asked about what would take place at the pagan rally if and when it is held at Reynolds, Strivelli likened it to how the pagans observe Samhain, traditionally called Halloween. "We'll be having the energizing ritual. We plan to do a ritual to further the awareness and acceptance of the pagan religion by the community," Strivelli explained, saying that her groups beliefs should be considered as validly as any other. "We still pray as well, but it was a matter of being different," she said, also asking members of the Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, and any other faiths to join their planned gathering.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Strivelli said her group had not received a response from Buncombe County Schools. "The letter was hand delivered Friday morning and we have not heard from them. They are dragging their feet, and being very difficult, which we fully expect them to be."
Strivelli said that the Appalachian Pagan Alliance covered a wide area. "We have a hundred members, stretched out from Knoxville to Charlotte." She said her group had received a great deal of feedback since announcing their plans on Monday, and that she had been contacted by numerous media outlets, and is hoping to gain support for the pagan rally.
"It'll be at the same place where the other one was," Strivelli said. "I don't think it's the right place to have a religious gathering. But now they've done it, and they need to open up to respect the diversity of the religious groups in this area."