Wiccan Prof Sues Catholic University Over Alleged Discrimination

Wiccan Prof Sues Catholic University Over Alleged Discrimination
Susan Dutca-Lovell

A Wiccan Professor at St. Bonaventure sued the university and her alma mater for discrimination, alleging that she was not allowed to advance in her career because she is a woman and a witch. The reported discrimination began around Halloween in 2011, after she was asked to conduct an interview about her Wiccan beliefs with the university's student TV station, SBU-TV.

Almost ironically, Pauline Hoffman first researched Wicca as an undergraduate student at St. Bonaventure in the early 1990s and joined St. Bonaventure University's faculty in 2006. Though the university follows the Franciscan Catholic tradition, Hoffman has had conversations with a university friar about the similarities between Franciscan and Wiccan values. Many of Hoffman's colleagues are not Roman Catholic.

In 2011, Hoffman notified her administration about an interview she was asked to give on her Wiccan beliefs to the student TV station, referring to herself as a Wiccan in an email to the Vice President of Communications at that time. In spring 2012 - while working to move up from interim dean to permanent dean of the School of Communications - she was asked to sign a "morals" clause promising to maintain the university's Roman Catholic values. Hoffman feared she was being "singled out" for her Wiccan beliefs and asked if she would be forced to sign a clause if she were Jewish, to which the provost responded, "I guess not." She was publicly named permanent dean the following day.

It was allegedly not until Hoffman tried moving up the university's administrative ladder that her Wiccan background became an issue. "When I was named the interim dean and then became the dean outright, I was essentially told that was as far as I was going to get as a witch," claims Hoffman. The lawsuit, which was filed last week in federal court, alleges discrimination against Hoffman - denying her a promotion to university provost in 2016 and forcing her resignation as School of Communication dean at the end of 2017 - because she is a Wiccan and a woman.

If you are of the Wiccan or Pagan faith and are looking for ways to pay for college, there are several Wiccan scholarships and Pagan scholarships from which you may benefit. The Michigan Pagan Scholarship Fund, for example, offers $500 for a rising high school senior, undergraduate, or graduate of Michigan who is of the Pagan faith. Similarly, the $20,000 Judy Wendland-Young College Scholarship is available to applicants of any religious group, including Wiccan and Pagan believers. For a list of Wiccan/Pagan scholarships, visit here.

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