As the daughter of a woman whose parental rights were stripped away from her because of her faith, I’m particularly sensitive to the issue of religion when it comes to so-called Faith-based social programs. My personal experience has shown me that it’s foolish to expect help from Christians, because they’ll only use your situation or your pain against you as they try to convert you to their faith. I have nothing against Jesus Christ, but I often wonder why his followers can’t offer a starving woman a bowl of soup with hiding Jesus Christ somewhere in the chicken stock. “Here’s a bowl of soup, and have you heard about Jesus?”
What has me thinking about all this is a woman in Idaho Falls, Idaho. A Pagan. Her name is Rachel “Raven” Litzau. Rachel was trying to get away from her abusive husband, so she went to a Christian organization called Ruth House in Idaho Falls, seeking aid for herself and her 17-month-old son. The Ruth House is “a non-denominational christian housing center”. They say they’ll accept anyone, but Litzau is Pagan. Anyone want to guess how that worked out?
Litzau was kicked out of the Ruth House. She says it was because of her beliefs.
“It was along the lines of, ‘Oh, well we’ve had a lot of complaints about this,’” said Litzau, “and then suddenly it was like she saw my ring for the first time, and said, ‘Oh, and that’s got to go that’s satanic and your jewelry has to go,’ and I said, ‘I’m sorry I can’t do that. It was really insulting because there’s a big difference between satanism and paganism,” says Litzau.
Danielle Leigh, a reporter for KIDK in Idaho Falls, investigated. She contacted Robert Gulden, director of the Ruth House, but couldn’t talk to him on camera. Gulden said that he’s not even sure Litzau violated any of the organization’s rules. They don’t have any standards on jewelry and the only rules on literature state that the ladies can’t read books with descriptive words or pornographic pictures. Oddly enough, in what was probably habitual ass-covering, Gulden mentioned that Litzau was struggling to get along with the nine other girls in the room, and that probably influenced his staff’s decision.
Rachel Litzau wasn’t buying it. “It’s upsetting because of the fact that it’s supposed to be helping women get on their feet no matter what their faith,” she said. “At least be open minded. At least be accepting of others differences because that’s what it feels like they’re not doing right now.” When asked where she was going to stay for the night, she said; “At the moment it’s looking like a park bench or a bridge tonight because all of the shelters in town are basically filled up.”
So much for Christian charity.
Robert Gulden, perhaps sensing a potential public relations problem, or the possibility of a lawsuit, asked Litzau to come meet with him personally and try to work things out. While chatting with Danielle Leigh, Gulden claimed he hadn’t even heard of the issue. He said he should have been notified and that his staff didn’t follow proper protocol. But he couldn’t resist pointing out that Litzau was being housed through private funds and was required to contribute $30 a week to continue staying at the shelter. She had not paid this week, but Gulden said that’s not an issue because they knew she was actively looking for a job and for that reason wouldn’t kick her out even though she couldn’t pay. So why exactly was she asked to leave? And what exactly was it is that Litzau is supposed to work out with him in order to get back into the shelter? Gulden didn’t elaborate.
In my opinion, this kind of problem is going to happen whenever Faith-based organization try to do social work. They can’t put aside their religion long enough to just help people. All’s well if you’re a Christian and you go to a Christian organization looking for help. But what if you’re a Pagan? Well, the evidence is before you. I’m not saying that it would have worked out the same way in every instance. But every Pagan I know has a long, long list of such problems in their lifetimes. We all know what that offer of help really is. It’s a carrot dangled on a stick. The only real way to get so-called Christian compassion for most Christian organizations is to pretend that you’ve drank the Kool-Aid.