In most of the cases discussed in this article, the combination of a clear violation of First Amendment rights to freedom of religion, a private attorney with a keen personal interest in the outcome, assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union, and positive press coverage that put additional pressure on the municipalities, helped to secure positive settlements without the necessity of litigation or lawsuits. The ACLU is a formidable ally in any religious liberty struggle, the kind of legal "muscle" that spurs a belligerent opponent to swifter settlement.

Also critical in some of these cases was the necessity of complying with all reasonable city/state/federal requirements. Once these requirements are complied with, any exceptional treatment becomes highly visible as discrimination and a clear violation of civil liberties and religious freedom. Under these circumstances, the threat of litigation alone is sometimes sufficient to resolve grave violations without ever having to go to court.

The media can also be critical in a strategy of quick and successful settlement. It has been my experience that the media, once educated, are highly valuable allies; the First Amendment is an area where they share particular sensitivity and sympathy, and press coverage is a source of tremendous pressure on politicians or businesses, who hate bad publicity.

Numerous networks have developed to advise, support, and represent individuals who find themselves on the frontline of the struggle for religious liberties, such as the Religious Liberties Lawyers network, the Lady Liberty League, Witches Against Religious Discrimination, AREN, the Earth Religions Legal Network, and WitchVox.com. In addition, a group of Wiccan attorneys is currently discussing the creation of a lawyers' network to work with existing groups, provide speedy legal assessment and assistance, and heighten visibility, sensitivity, and respect in mainstream society.

High Priestess Phyllis W. Curott is a lawyer; author of 'The Book of Shadows'; founder of the Circle of Ara and the Temple of the Sacred Earth; and president emerita of the Covenant of the Goddess. Visit her site.

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