This was written by Maureen O'Danu and posted to one of my Usenet hangouts yesterday.
The short of it is, Camp Gaea, my spiritual home away from home, has been shut down by the Leavenworth county (Kansas) authorities with very thinly disguised excuses and open allegations of "sodomy, pedophilia, and satanism" occurring. (Yes, sodomy is illegal in Kansas, and no, I never saw it actually occurring at Gaea, but then, I never looked for it, either).
Gaea was created in the 1940's as a nudist colony. It was bought out after many years and did a turn as a Baptist youth camp for awhile before it was bought out in the early 1990's by EarthRising, which is a non-profit (or prophet, for that matter) group that wanted to provide a setting where people of alternative religions and sexuality would have a place to relax.
Nudity occurs. A lot. Mostly in the context of skinnydipping, sunbathing and gardening. There are several major pagan festivals that have their homes at Gaea (the biggest, Heartland Festival, draws upwards of 5,000 people some years...maybe higher than 10,000). Alternative sex happens probably, too. Mostly in tents or cabins, as the woods are full of poison ivy. Satanism? You've got to be kidding.
For those of you who still don't get it, my church has been shut down. The place where I can meet with other pagans in large groups, dance, drum, worship, and revel in nature in safety, away from Mrs. Grundy. It has been shut down solely and openly because it is believed, by a Levinworth county official, to not be a real religion.
The thing that frightens me most about this is the allegations of pedophilia. Folx, I have two sons, ages 4 and 11. They are my life. They have been camping with me at Gaea numerous times, have played and hiked and swam and danced and drummed and worshipped ..... but never, not once, has any one ever been even slightly sexually inappropriate with either of them. NO ONE there would ever dream of such a thing. They giggle at us fat old people airing our blubber in the lake and the gardener who wears only a toolbelt and sensible boots. They are comfortable talking with people in various and sundry outfits (from kilts to sarongs [male and female versions]to renaissance dress to capes to t-shirts to nudity).
This is a positive, peaceful place that only wants to be left alone. They have no objections to putting up a high fence around the property...even though there are no houses within a quarter mile of the 168 acre wooded site. They have no objections to enforcing reasonable quiet hours on campers and day trippers. They have never, despite allegations, condoned or encouraged illegal drug use. They would probably be willing to pay some sort of heavy use fee to accomodate the extraordinary use the dirt access road receives on festival weekends. They were not asked to do any of these things. Because of ignorance and prejudice, their special use permit was pulled. (Special use because, although the land has never been farmed, it is zoned as agricultural).
The ACLU has gotten involved, and one of the lawyers helping on the case is (rumor has it) even a Republican. This has gotten quite a bit of press locally, but it needs to be heard further out than the Kansas City Metropolitan area. They are soliciting money for their defense fund, but they're actually in fairly good shape financially...what they need most is loud, clear voices raised in protest.
Their website is campgaea.org Feel free to visit them. There is a lot of information about what is going on there. Hopefully, with a little luck and a lot of help, they'll be able to open their doors again soon.