Kenny Klein: Pagan or Pedophile? (why not both)

On several occasions on this little palace of whining I’ve mentioned being Pagan. While each person’s religious and spiritual beliefs are deeply personal, they are also often quite difficult to define.

For me, Paganism is simply Polytheism. I joke to my friends that being Pagan means I haven’t met a god that I didn’t like. I’m not into rituals, ceremony, or anything else like that. I have a modest collection of Pagan books…but I haven’t bought a new one in ten years. I don’t own a wand or Athame, I haven’t performed a ritual in a decade, and I don’t go to gatherings. Sorry, but I’m poor and that shit is stupidly expensive. While I am still Pagan, I no longer really consider myself an active member of the Pagan community.

To far too many within the Pagan community this means I’m not a “true” or “real” Pagan.

This is why the “Kenny Klein isn’t a real Pagan” argument bothers me.

The argument about his being “real” or not is understandable. Our community is a small and often misunderstood one. When others, from more conservative religions, see our community they see sex. Like everyone else, we recognize our sexual selves are a part of who we are…not the definition of who we are. Others, however, tend to use this to try to define everything about us.

They often focus on our (general) lack of concern about someone else’s sexuality or (consenting adult) sexual practices. We have a wide rage of adherents from all walks of life, and that does include a LGBT community, a general acceptance of (consensual) poly-amorous relationships, and a pretty wide acceptance of alternative lifestyles.

We try very hard to be open about the fact that we support an individual’s sexual choices as their own and choose to celebrate love instead of defining it. As well, we accept the human body in all it’s varying forms and celebrate it…meaning that some of us tend to (sometimes uncomfortably easily) get naked without shame.

Which is probably why the more conservative religions tend to see us as a bunch of skeevy pervs. And let’s face it, there’s previously published evidence that some of us are (or rather, could be alleged to be) more than a little outside acceptable social mores.

Unfortunately, we have a secondary flaw we deify our authors. And many of our authors tend to wallow in this deification. Often the definition of “real” Pagan is based on how many books they’ve written and how many adoring fans they have.

Enter the Kenny Klein scandal.

I have to admit, I’ve never heard of Klein. I’ve never met him. I’ve never read his books, I’ve never listened to his music. My first introduction to him was the news that a Pagan is alleged to have committed pedophilia. (alleged is legal terminology, not me saying he didn’t do anything…although I did consider using “confessed” instead, but I have no idea as to his adherents’ reactions to my words and would rather not worry about it, so you get alleged).

But here’s where the question of him being a “real” Pagan or not starts to get to me.

We consider terms that are used in the media, terms like “so-called Pagan” or “self-proclaimed Pagan” to be insulting. After all, no one says “so-called” Christian. When someone says they are Christian we (and the media) take it at face value that they believe they are what they say they are. We hate those terms because it means that someone is making our beliefs less. Making them more imaginary and lessening their validity. (Although we are fine with telling each other whether they are or are not “Pagan enough”)

At the same time though, it’s understandable that our community would want to distance ourselves from Klein. I honestly hate that the only time we ever hear about a Pagan in the news is when they’ve done something bad. The Pentacle Quest is a good example of a case where the media completely ignored the good things we were doing, while still constantly reporting the bad.

I have worked as a Pagan activist. At one point I was so deeply involved in Paganism in politics and the media that it resulted in a four year (literal) Witch hunt by Child Protective Services that culminated with my family being victimized and brutalized by the state, county, and city where we lived at the time, in Dandrige Tennessee. All because of my political activism and want of religious equality.

At the time I was active in the Pentacle Quest. But in the process I was being attacked from both sides. On top of everything I was dealing with from outside the Pagan community, I felt belittled and isolated, by my own community. I hadn’t bought enough books, I liked this author over that author, or I wasn’t wearing certain clothes, or I wore makeup, or I wasn’t familiar with all of the scandals and wasn’t willing to bother taking sides, or I thought that the issue would be better served being helped by others with already established access to political parties….the list goes on.

Which is why I honestly shouldn’t have been surprised by my community’s reaction when I came to them for help and advice concerning my problems with Child Protective Services. This is where the practice of denying Pagans their Paganism end up being very damaging. The little help I did receive was a blessing. But the denial of my Pagan-ness honestly sunk me really low. I was told that I was the bad guy, I deserved what I was getting, and that government agencies wouldn’t have gotten involved if I wasn’t already doing something wrong….by people who had no idea what was actually happening to my family or the terror we were living under.

The exact opposite reaction to what we so self-righteously preach to the outside world. 

Klein is a Pagan because he said he is. Simple as that. If I want people to take me as being a Pagan with no further proof than the fact that I have chosen to identify myself as one, then I must give the same to someone else.

That doesn’t mean that his crimes are in any way invalid, or that the victims’ suffering is in any way invalid. It simply means that he is both. And reactionary exclusion makes us look like idiots. Like we’re denying that something like this can happen in our own community…which just means that it’s going to keep happening…

Wait, isn’t this whole denial thing kind of what the Catholics are doing with pedo priests? How’s that working out for them?

 

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About pynomrah

I like stuff, and things.
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15 Responses to Kenny Klein: Pagan or Pedophile? (why not both)

  1. Kristin says:

    Klein is also a pagan because he was a trained and officially elevated High Priest in a known Tradition of Wicca. Not to suggest that you have to have that to be a Pagan. You don’t. I think often people don’t have the words for what they mean, and when they say he is “not a real Pagan,” what they most often mean is that he is failing to live up to the ideals that most Pagans hold dear. Rather than “not a real Pagan,” it is possible that (if convicted), he’s just an abusive one, or a “bad” one. However, that doesn’t make him not a “real” one.

    We as Pagans need to let go of the illusion that we cannot have predators in Paganism. EVERY religious community can have predators.

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    • pynomrah says:

      That’s basically what I was trying to say. It’s irresponsible of us to deny instead of taking this as a teaching/learning opportunity. We can’t assume that it’s impossible for us to attract the same kinds of predators that every other faith does.

      Like

  2. Rose says:

    Reblogged this on Weaving Among The Stars and commented:
    Why not both? Excellent post. Do not distance yourselves simply because this is a difficult situation. One identifies as Christian, they are Christian. One identifies as Pagan, they are Pagan. Do not insist there are no problems within the Pagan community. There are problems within EVERY community, for each smaller community is simply a microcosm of the larger community of Society and our culture.

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  3. Kristin says:

    I would also like to add a few things to the already excellent post and conversation here.

    1. Kenny Klein has been accused, not convicted. Sure, it has been reported that he confessed, but there have been false or irresponsibly worded reports in the newspaper before. He confessed that the computer was his and that he downloaded and shared the files in question. Someone who was investigating thought the material should classified as child porn. Until a *judge and possibly a jury* decide the same, we cannot know whether the material is simply a bunch of naked Pagan kids frolicking at a fest and a conservative investigator saw this as “sexually explicit” or whether Mr. Klein possessed blatantly criminal material. We don’t know and to assume we know is not responsible. Let’s not convict him before his time in court. Even if you are sure he’s guilty, he deserves due process. By the way, I’m not suggesting that the original does this. I’m addressing the community at large. We as witches, of all people, should understand the harm of rallying because of hearsay and showing up with torches and pitch forks.

    2. It would, in my opinion, be very irresponsible of the Pagan community (if there is a conviction in this case) to say, “Whew! Glad they got that guy! Now we can return to our safe Pagan communities.” It is easy to point to the Kenny Kleins (the high profile Pagan accused of something heinous) and act like improper behavior is the bastion of only one or two of us. The truth is that there have been, for many years, people in the Pagan community who have pushed boundaries, acted creepy, improperly touched others, irresponsibly or aggressively used status or position to get what they wanted, and then resorted to the sparkly Pagan parlance of “sex positivity” and “diversity friendly” to excuse or deflect attention from their actions. We need real conversation here, because whether or not Klein is convicted, appropriate sexual behavior and calling out those who behave inappropriatel is an issue that needs addressing in the Pagan community.

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    • pynomrah says:

      1) hence my choosing alleged over confessed. 🙂

      2) I totally agree with this. I’ve noticed that since our numbers have grown, so have the number of undesirables in our midst. We shouldn’t try to pretend it wouldn’t happen to us.

      I think we need responsible dialogue within our community to help us talk about these issues. If something we see or experience makes us uncomfortable, we should work to foster a positive community based discourse on the subject. I know that I’ve witnessed the occasional moment when something has made me uncomfortable, but since no one else was saying anything I didn’t want to make a fuss. I’m sure a lot of us have felt this way on at least one occasion and I think we should stop ignoring it when it happens. We don’t want to start panicking over everything; but we also don’t want to feel like we can’t openly discuss something that we want more information on. We don’t want to start shouting down behaviors we don’t like, but we should be more willing to discuss their happenings.

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      • Kristin says:

        Hi. I am addressing your readers when I state Klein has not been convicted. I am not saying you wrote irresponsibly. Your post was responsibly written. I said in my post that I did not think your original post convicted Kenny. But in the larger community, people are doing that so in EACH post I make on this subject, on anyone’s blog, I’m going to reiterate and re-reiterate that people MUST refrain from prematurely convicting this man. As a High Priestess and international fest educator, I’m finding it dismaying that the majority of posts (NOT your post) that I see on this subject are a call to arms and that’s not acceptable before a conviction. Thank you for offering us a forum on which to discuss this. But please, please understand that this is not a private letter between you and me and I’m not targeting you when I bring this stuff up.

        Thanks for echoing my concerns about the community and talking about safety issues. The more of us who talk about creating safety, the more of us will feel comfortable doing so. It is more about proactively discussing appropriate behaviors than it is shouting when someone does something creepy, although occasionally, that needs to happen too.

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      • pynomrah says:

        Don’t worry, I didn’t think that. I understood what you were saying…you saying it enabled me to prove the point I made in my blog about my decision to use alleged instead of confessed….basically, you were helping me be righter-er. 🙂

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    • While I understand that Klein hasn’t been convicted, there are many signs pointing to his guilt. First of all, in any state, a written statement by the accused, with their signature, is made. That right there, says he is admitting to downloading and sharing child pornography. Some of the pictures were of children as young as 3 y.o. As welll, his biological son and ex-wife have both come forward to talk about their experiences. There is a hospital report of him beating her. I’ve personally spoken to both of them and their stories ring true to me. There are also a number of people coming forward to say that they were inappropriately approached, i.e. massages, flirting, inappropriate touching, all of which in itself can be quite traumatic for the child. All of these reports, at least the ones I’ve personally seen, are from people who were 12 y.o. or younger at the time. As well, police say that he was part of a ring of about 150 people that were caught up in a sting. So Klein appears to be part of that ring. No child ever volunteers to be in a porn movie or have their pictures taken of them having sex. Someone forced them into it, which is horrendous. So Klein, at minimum, was participating in this kind of operation.
      (please note: I was a psychotherapist for the county and non-profits for 16 yrs and as such, dealt with many, many cases of child molesting. I also had to deal with the molesters. I recognize the signs. I also know that whenever there are this many reports of accused child molesting, something is almost always going on; in fact I never came across anyone who was innocent when this many people came forward with knowledge of molesting. I will leave it to the reader to decide whether they think he’s guilty or not.

      I have started up the Council of the Phoenix to deal with all this. We will deal with reports of suspected child sexual abuse in our community by other Pagans, and we will be an information clearinghouse for the community, so that festival organizers can be aware of who we MIGHT want to look out for. We also have several top notch researchers who can look for any info online that might point to a suspected person being a molester. We are working out the details and are developing a website for all this. We have an email list and if yo’re interested in helping this project in any way or have some ideas that might be helpful, please contact me at:
      greeneggzine@gmail.com

      Blessings, Ariel Monserrat, editor/publisher of Green Egg

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      • Kristin says:

        Hi, Ariel.
        You make some very good points. As a High Priestess in Kenny’s Tradition, I can assure you that Kenny’s Trad is talking a LOT about these things, what should have been (and was) seen, Tziporah and Jo’s testimonies, etc. We are also talking about how we and the larger community can come together to proactively and effectively talk about, discover, and deal with potential abusers, as well as ways the community can engage in education about domestic and sexual abuse. I do want to make it clear though that regardless of reports (some reports are responsively written and some just aren’t), a person has an absolute right to a fair trial. And that was what I was emphasizing.

        While I think it’s reasonable for the community as a whole to discuss organized responses to the problem of abuse in our midst, it’s also important to put some safeguards in place so as to guard against the abuse of those responses themselves, such as those who would make false reports to your council as a way of seeking retribution for a perceived wrong, etc. I think there’s a fine line between keeping folks as safe as possible and creating “black lists” that can ruin a person’s reputation without much proof of wrongdoing. It’s a balancing act to be sure. As a trained domestic abuse advocate and certified crime victim advocate, I have seen the system exploited by abusers themselves. Therein lies the rub. Awareness of how our systems can be exploited is key. That said, I like that you are instigating an organized response to what is clearly a problem that has been too long in the shadows.

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      • Thanks for your reply Kristin. I’m sure that Blue Star has been heavily impacted by this and for that, you have my sympathy.
        In no way do I want this to become a council for issuing edicts, forming a star chamber or starting witch hunts. I am all too aware of false accusations. I very dear friend of mine had accusations of child molesting by him leveled at him a couple of decades ago. The news of Kenny’s arrest hit him squarely in the eye. I am very, very careful about making unfounded accusations, having myself been targeted as a witch in my small town where I live in the Bible belt. It has been horrible. Our house came very close to being burned down, with us in it. People can lose lives, careers, and social standing just by being accused.
        That is one reason why we are starting this community. People will be able to make anonymous reports of suspected child abuse. We aren’t here to judge whether or not someone is a molester, but we are here to quietly gather information and if there’s a strong suspicion, pass it along to festival organizers, HPs and the like quietly. We can also take our information to law enforcement if necessary and they have the resources to launch investigations, etc.
        Having worked with both molesters and molested for 16 years, I know the damage that false accusations can bring. That is why we’re going to be very careful about the information we receive. I hope this puts your fears to rest.

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      • pynomrah says:

        These are excellent points and ideas. Keep your eyes out for my next post, wherein I ask a few questions about this kind of idea. There are several concerns I hope our community would be willing to address or at least talk about concerning this very idea.

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  4. Pingback: Worship and Rape Culture | Magick From Scratch

  5. Brian Henke says:

    OK….I just found out about this last night, so am now just digesting this and feeling rather sick about it too. I know Kenny and have had him sit in with me onstage a few times at pagan fests. I sooo wish now that I hadn’t. I feel kind of as though his playing my songs has somehow defiled them…..as though what he did to his family could somehow infect everything he did.
    Although I’m not totally a part of the “pagan community”, I do play pagan fests at least a few times a year and have found a whole lot of the people I’ve met within the community to be simply beautiful human beings and many are now really close friends.
    I have to admit though that I didn’t really like Kenny all that much and as I got to know him a little better found him to be selfish and kind of creepy. The last time I saw him at an event we were both performing at…I did NOT invite him up on stage with me and at that time I had no idea of how much of an asshole he really was. I just knew he was selfish and creepy and not someone I wanted to share the stage with….
    I did find out that if there was something he felt he could get from you he could at least be superficially charming.
    I guess what this comes down to for me is that I am hurting for his family and other true victims, whom I don’t even know and have never met and even though I’m feeling sad and physically ill about this, I am very hopeful that this will be used as a “teaching moment” for the pagan community and us all….and…I hope that now a true healing can begin for those whose lives he darkened………

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  7. ShinyAeon says:

    Nice article. We all must guard against the “No True Scotsman” fallacy, tempting as it may be to indulge in it in situations such as these.

    Like

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