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Aug 24, 2023

by: Rhea Jha

Posted: Aug 8, 2023 / 05:30 PM MDT

Updated: Aug 8, 2023 / 08:24 PM MDT

(WOODLAND PARK) — A Woodland Park mother is taking her fight for religious freedom to the federal level by filing a lawsuit against the school district. This comes after they prohibited her from visiting her children’s elementary school after engaging in oracle card reading ceremonies with them during lunch.

Neo-Paganism, a modern religious movement encompassing diverse beliefs and practices, has found itself at the center of a contentious debate in the local community. In a federal lawsuit filed on July 31, Jessie Pool, a devoted mother, and practitioner of this alternative faith, alleges discrimination after an incident involving her neo-pagan rituals during a visit to Columbine Elementary School.

Distinguished by its departure from the world’s major established religions, Neo-Paganism embraces a variety of spiritual and ritualistic practices. For Pool and her children, whose specific variation is eclectic Neo-Paganism, the practices involve engaging in rituals, conducting spells, crafting potions, and consulting oracle cards to seek guidance and insight.

During a visit to Columbine Elementary School to have lunch with her children, Pool decided to conduct an oracle card reading. The practice raised eyebrows among school officials. As she delved into her oracle cards, she was abruptly interrupted by the school’s principal, Ginger Slocum, who deemed the activity inappropriate within the school setting.

Pool then received a letter from the school district’s superintendent, Ken Witt, informing her that her visitation rights were being revoked. The letter explicitly attributes the oracle card reading incident as a reason for why.

FOX21 reached out to the Woodland Park School District to which they said they would not be commenting on pending litigation.

The crux of the lawsuit lies in the accusation that the school district violated Ms. Pool’s First Amendment rights to freedom of religion. Her legal team argues that the district’s actions amounted to religious discrimination, as the oracle card reading was an integral aspect of her Neopagan faith.

“There is no doubt in my mind that if she had just brought a Bible and was reading a Bible with her son in the lunchroom, we wouldn’t be here right now,” said her civil rights attorney, Igor Raykin.

While the lawsuit seeks to reinstate Ms. Pool’s visitation rights to Columbine Elementary School, her attorney asserts that its impact could extend far beyond her individual case. The legal team aims to set a precedent that safeguards the rights of parents and students to express their religious beliefs within public school settings without facing discrimination or reprisal.

“I don’t want a situation where some kid is worried about bringing a Bible or a Torah, a Quran, or whatever, to school and worry that they’re going to be suspended, or that their relationships with their parents or friends are going to be limited because they have a religion that may not necessarily be the most popular religion in that area,” said Raykin.

If the school does not withdraw its sanctions, Raykin indicated that they would pursue a federal injunction. This legal step could mean months of legal proceedings before Pool is once again permitted to visit her children at school.

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