Principal testifies on satanic prevention

Detroit Free Press/March 3, 1999
By Tina Lam

Lincoln Park High School's principal banned pentagrams, witches and pagans from the school last fall after several incidents involving satanic cults, he said in federal court in Detroit on Tuesday, but he wasn't aware that he was bumping into a religious issue involving witches.

Principal Thomas Kolka testified in a daylong hearing stemming from a student's lawsuit. She has asked U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen to force the school to let her wear a pentagram.

Crystal Seifferly, 17, said she is a wiccan, a witch who practices a pagan religion, and that the pentagram is a religious symbol that she should be allowed to wear at school despite the ban. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on her behalf.

Rosen said he will decide the issue in a few weeks, but Seifferly's lawyer said the two sides will meet today to try to settle the case.

Kolka testified that he was trying to put a stop to a satanic cult at the school when he issued the ban.

The mother of a 15-year-old student testified that her daughter had joined a satanic group and become involved in forced ritual sex, drinking blood, self-mutilation and devil worship.

The mother, whose name was withheld by the judge to protect the identity of her daughter, said she had found a stack of letters and literature describing the activities after her daughter ran away from home. Many of the documents, which were introduced as exhibits, had five-pointed stars -- pentagrams -- on them, she said.

The mother said she took the satanic materials to the high school last fall and asked school officials to take action. "I was very concerned about what my daughter got into when she hit that high school," the mother testified. "I wanted somebody to put a stop to this pagan and witch stuff."

Kolka said another student had been expelled for carrying a satanic bible that had a pentagram on the cover. He said a school investigation found the names of 20 to 30 students in letters, notes and literature involving the satanic group.

Kolka said he banned witches, pagans, pentagrams and a list of other items to try to suppress cults and white power groups that were also surfacing.

"I was trying to make the school safe," he said.

But Kolka acknowledged under questioning from Seifferly's lawyer, Wayne State University law professor Robert Sedlar, that Seifferly is a good student, has never been a discipline problem, and wears a pentagram that is different from that on the cover of the satanic bible.

School officials agreed before the hearing that wicca is a legitimate religion and that Seifferly sincerely believes in it. She testified Tuesday that the points of the pentagram symbolize earth, air, fire, water and the spirit.

She wore in court a pair of pentagram earrings surrounded by circles, which symbolize that life is a cycle of birth and death.

Sedlar asked how Seifferly's wearing of a pentagram contributed to an unsafe school. He said the school should find a way to accommodate her religion just as it would someone wearing a Christian cross or Jewish Star of David.

Edward Ortiz of the Midwest Witches Anti-Discrimination League in Lansing said the case is an important one for witches and pagans' religious freedom.

"We understand the need to limit cults and gangs, but we don't see ourselves as part of those," he said after the hearing. "We are a benevolent religion."

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