Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Oct. 5, 2009)


Witching hour approaches


  By John Martin


Having been writing newspaper columns for several years I've received my share of angry rebuttals and hate mail from readers near and afar. Nasty responses have also come from MPs, MLAs and one Senator who trashed me for my lack of credibility. And I can certainly attest that it really hurts when your credibility is trashed by an unelected, trained seal from the Senate.

A former Ambassador to the U.S. was furious with one of my columns and took his concern straight to the university president at my place of employment. I've also incurred the wrath of countless lawyers who demanded I cease any and all criticism of the judiciary. Then there's the vitriol spewed my way from those on the front lines of the drug legalization lobby. The silliest, and most hysterical rants have come from the Al Gore and David Suzuki disciples who blow a gasket every time someone disputes their shady global warming methodology. Come to think of it--this crew has been kind of quiet lately. I wonder if it has anything to do with all this global cooling?

But none of this holds a candle to the backlash I received five years ago this month regarding one particular column. There had been a news report of a school district in Washington State that voted to ban Halloween celebrations because, wait for it . . . because such festivities might be considered offensive to witches. A memo circulated throughout the school district ordered, "the Wicca religion is a bona fide religion under the law, and its followers are entitled to all the protections afforded more mainstream religions. Building administrators should not tolerate such inappropriate stereotyping (images such as witches on flying brooms, stirring cauldrons, casting spells, or with long noses and pointed hats) and instead address them as you would hurtful stereotypes of any other minority."

It was nothing more than a routine case of political correctness gone wild. But this sort of over-the-top, hyper-sensitivity is too good to pass up and I'll be honest; these types of columns literally write themselves. So I mocked the school district, the policy and, apparently, the witch community too.

Overnight the column had been passed around and linked to by countless witch and occult dedicated websites and the emails soon poured in; many cursing me--literally. Some accused me of religious intolerance and others suggested I needed to enroll in a sensitivity workshop. One informed an administrator that the university would be reported to the American Civil Liberties Union. Though I'm not quite sure what jurisdiction the ACLU has in B.C.'s Fraser Valley. Another particularly wicked sort, claiming to speak for the International League of Witches corresponded at length with the university administration, demanding I be removed from the classroom or at the very least, censured.

Making this particularly amusing was the fact it all happened less than a week before Halloween. There was no telling what the witches and warlocks had in store for me on that special evening. Still, I managed to wake up November 1 without having been turned into a toad or my arms replaced by lobster pincers.

Through the whole ordeal though, I did learn a little about witchcraft. And from my vantage point, there was a whole lot more credibility there than over at the global warming lair.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at


Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2009