The internet is amazing in many ways. Just this morning, I came across a news article, that linked me to a few more articles, which all talked about one topic:
Kenny Klein, Pagan Priest, author, teacher, and public persona in the community was arrested on multiple counts of child pornography involving children under 13 years of age. I was really shocked by this. I’ve never met Kenny personally, but I have enjoyed his music and writings for a long time. The fact that he’s a priest (specifically in the Blue Star Tradition) just makes me ill.
From what I can tell, and I’ll update this blog posting as new information is presented, he admitted to police when he was arrested that the computer in question is his and that he used the computer to download and share child pornography, 25 counts worth.
The first I saw of this had many comments from people of different Pagan backgrounds and a majority of them seemed to repeat the same comment: “He was no true Pagan”.
That statement is wrong and I think it’s probably the worst way to handle a situation like this.
I definitely agree with the emotion and disgust underlying that comment, but I don’t think it’s accurate. Kenny IS a Pagan. He’s been a prominent Pagan and Priest doing a lot of work in and for the community for over 30 years and the knee-jerk desire to disavow him from our ranks is not the best idea.
On the one hand, yes, it is important to make it very clear that this action he took is not one that is espoused, protected, encouraged, or condoned in any way by the majority of Pagan traditions. However, I think that denying that Pagans are human, can make poor decisions, and perform disgusting actions is a bad idea.
Being a Pagan (or any other religion for that matter) doesn’t automatically excuse you from doing dumb things. It doesn’t give you a pass to perfection. We can’t pretend that Pagans are all wonderful people, in the past or today.
I think it would be wiser and more correct to say, “This action does not reflect the true beliefs of the majority of Pagans, nor our practices. And this behavior is something that we condemn.” Rather than pull the, “he’s no true Pagan” schtick.
Kenny Klein has been a True Pagan for longer than some of those who disavow him have been alive. That’s what really hurts when something like this is brought out. Yes, the community is going to take a hit for this, and yes that is unfair. But he stood up and said, “Yes, that’s my computer and yes I downloaded those images.” He accepted responsibility for his actions. What’s truer to Pagan ideals and beliefs than that?
He’s Pagan. He’s just a Pagan who did something very reprehensible, and he must accept the consequences of that both through mundane matters of the law and magical matters that I am certain he will be held accountable for due to his position as a Priest of the Craft. I’m not deeply familiar with the inner workings of the Blue Star Tradition, but I’d bet a pretty pentacle that the Tradition doesn’t condone this.
I don’t know if his crimes go farther than viewing and sharing these files. I don’t know if he, himself, has ever physically harmed a child in this way, but the fact is that someone had to do that to the kids in those pictures, put them into sexual positions and photograph them, and that someone was benefiting from it makes him just as guilty in my opinion as if he’d laid a finger on them.
The other danger in disavowing Kenny as a true Pagan is that we need to be aware that we don’t live in a bubble of starlight and rose petals. Every religion has people in it that for one reason or another don’t live up to all the standards set by it. Among religions, the Pagan faiths are probably ten times more likely to attract ‘fringe’ people to them because of the outward feelings of welcoming, non-condemning behaviors and open-minded philosophy and belief. The majority of Pagans want to be helpful and most seem to share an understanding of what it’s like not to feel accepted and what it feels like not to fit in or be comfortable with those close to you because you don’t agree on religious or spiritual matters.
Young people and those who feel insecure or have low self-esteem are easy targets for predators who would take advantage of their trust and desire to belong. Claiming that Kenny isn’t a real Pagan does nothing to help prepare those who might come up against someone who would take advantage of them or abuse them in some way. People coming into Paganism, and even those of us who have been around for a long time and hopefully know what to look out for in this sort of situation, need to be aware that it does exist and can happen.
It is also important to point out, lest the conversation be taken in the wrong direction, that it wasn’t the public media who was the first one to ‘out’ Kenny as a Pagan in the news about this. The first articles written by mainstream media didn’t mention his religious affiliation. It was a Pagan writer, Peg Aloi, who first linked a mention of his beliefs with his actions. I mention this because when the main newswire picks up on this, and they will, it’s only been a couple of days and the internet moves very quickly, Pagans shouldn’t jump onto a busted bandwagon and try to claim ‘religious defamation’. It’s not like that. The media didn’t try to smear Paganism with Kenny’s actions.
Some people think this was a bad idea, that the author who first linked him did a disservice to the community by just loading the shotgun for the media to blast us with. I disagree. I think she did the right thing in bringing this out to public attention first. As a community, we need to be vocal and do damage control as much as possible to ensure that we are proactive and adamant in voicing our disgust with his behavior and making sure that we watch out and instruct others in our community of these sorts of dangers.
Further Articles/Blogs about this issue: