Today, I have received a response to my letter (below) requesting an apology and a change in headline from Paul Rowland, editor of Wales Online.
I am very pleased to be able to tell you that he has apologised and the headline of the article has been changed appropriately –
“I apologise for any distress this has caused, and will amend the article immediately to remove reference to Paganism in the headline.”
I highly commend Mr Rowland for his actions and thank him for his prompt response.
As many of you will be aware, the community was shocked on Saturday at the publication of an article entitled “’Pagan rituals, sadistic suicide pacts, and a jar of taxidermy pigs hearts’ How manipulative fiancé Madog Rowlands turned to murder”.
Today I wrote to the editor to express my concerns as well as to request an apology and a change to the title of the article. Here I share that letter with you and I will also keep you all informed of the response I receive…..
Dear Mr Rowland,
As the President of the Pagan Federation, it is my duty to protect and uphold the rights of Pagans. Thus, I write to you today in reference to the article entitled “’Pagan rituals, sadistic suicide pacts, and a jar of taxidermy pigs hearts’ How manipulative fiancé Madog Rowlands turned to murder” written by Philip Dewey and published on the Wales Online website at 5am on 12th December this year.
The title of this article is nothing short of upsetting, offensive, misleading and sensationalist.
My community is angry and horrified that we still have to fight misconceptions about our beliefs and practices in this day and age but here we are so I will attempt to explain to you why we are requesting an immediate apology and for the title of this article to be changed to something more appropriate to the incident in question.
As a parent myself, I can only imagine how this article made the family and friends of this poor young lady feel. I can though, inform you of what it means to tens of thousands of Pagans in England and Wales and so I do that very thing in the hope that you have some professional decency, not only as an editor but also as a human being, and are not only willing to admit your mistakes but also happy to rectify them too.
This has so horrified my community for a few reasons. The first is that our beliefs and practices continue to be linked to horrendous acts such as murder and sacrifice despite the fact that there are no teachings whatsoever that advocate for behaviour such as this, nor is there any actual evidence of practices such as murder ever being a part of them throughout history. This is a serious and offensive misconception that has been peddled about by the likes of movie makers and journalists for a ridiculously long time and it needs to stop because it is nothing short of irresponsible and dangerous.
The second, is that this headline has nothing to do with the actual problems faced by these people. I would suggest that rather than focusing in on their beliefs and faith practices, which might have been of some support to them in difficult times just as it is to millions of Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs et al it would have been more helpful to focus on the real issue at the root of this which is that mental health support in this country is nothing short of dire. Had these people been able to access it without trouble, it is possible that they would have been helped and this tragic incident may have been averted. That should have been the real story here, the travesty of budget cuts and a toxic culture leading to people not being able to ask for or access help without struggle. I have to ask, would the headline have focused on their faith had they have been devout Christians?
Lastly, this headline does nothing more than help those who have little to no understanding of Pagan beliefs and practices to hate thousands of people more with no good reason behind it. It drives misunderstanding and divisiveness within our society as a whole, creating an ‘us versus them’ mentality when we should be trying to drive understanding and communities working together.
As a community leader myself, I understand that my behaviour leads by example and shows others how they should conduct themselves. I feel the weight of that responsibility each and every day and I would very much like to hope that you do too and will issue the apology and change of headline as we request.
I would also like to say that as an organisation, we would be only too happy to help your writers understand our practices and beliefs so as to stop things like this from happening to our community who I can assure you are valuable contributors to our society as a whole.
President of the Pagan Federation