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Miss Toronto Tourism Not Welcoming Wiccans

stephanieconover.jpgSay, who’s that dude with the pitchfork selecting the next queen of Toronto’s tourism industry? Hmmm, could it be…SATAN?!!!
It seems that a Toronto woman was invited to judge a local beauty pageant, only to have the invite retracted because some of her hobbies were deemed a little too demonistic.
Stephanie Conover, an actor, singer, dancer, and current Miss Canada Plus 2007, was asked about three weeks ago if she would be interested in judging the 2008 Miss Toronto Tourism contest on February 2. She accepted, and sent along a brief bio detailing some of her interests, including knitting, reading, yoga, reiki, and tarot card reading. Last Tuesday she got a letter from pageant organizers revoking her invitation because the latter two practices constitute “the occult” and “witchcraft.” Reiki is a Japanese art that seeks to heal the body with energy, while Tarot cards are an ancient way of seeking spiritual guidance or entertaining friends when the cable goes out. (Yoga, another potentially diabolical pastime, passed the holy litmus test, although it’s possible that the upright folks at Miss Toronto Tourism may have confused it with yogurt.)


The rest of the letter was similarly absurd, in that fundamentalist religious way that’s both comic and terrifying at the same time. It notes that reiki and Tarot are not only unacceptable to “Jews, Muslims, or Christians,” but to God Himself, who is no doubt even now cursing his bad luck that he doesn’t get to call down hellfire on the pageant, thanks to organizers who had the wit to dump their Jonah overboard before the Big Guy took matters into His Own Hands.
The letter goes on to quote Leviticus 20:6, where God states: “I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums or spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut them off from his people,” although fortunately for Stephanie, she’s apparently been exempted from the requirements of Leviticus 20:27, which mandates that “A man or a woman who is a medium…shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones.”
The Miss Toronto Tourism pageant has no any apparent affiliation with the Toronto Convention & Visitors Association or other quasi-official tourism organization.
Stephanie, who is a practicing Wiccan, told Torontoist that she was shocked to receive the letter. “They’re attacking my character when they know nothing about me, and based on things that have nothing to do with the pageant. Reiki and tarot card reading are both positive practices that have nothing to do with ‘dark forces.’”
Even granted that beauty contest audiences in general are more likely be populated by Bible belters than by the be-pentacled crowd, the change of heart on Stephanie’s judging credentials still comes off as a little insane old-fashioned. Stepanie says that “they’re trying to burn me at the stake without knowing anything about my character,” a metaphor which probably leaves the anti-witch brigade yearning for the glories of days gone by.
The letter also hopes that “Stephanie Conover will turn from these belief systems and will repent from her practice of them.” However, in her conversation with Torontoist, Stephanie expressed no interest in repenting.
Ironically, one of the virtues that Miss Toronto Tourism trumpets on their website is their commitment to multiculturalism. Presumably they’re thinking of a limited kind of diversity, inclusive only of those who don’t engage in God-pissing-off practices like being gay, eating bacon, or believing in evolution. But hey, you can’t spell multi-culturalism without “cult.”
The Miss Toronto Tourism pageant did not respond to an email from Torontoist requesting comment.
Photo courtesy Stephanie Conover. Thanks, as well, to Mike Strobel and the Toronto Sun.

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