Thursday, September 20, 2012

Doctor to patient: your religion is ‘very offensive’

Practicing Witch Kristen Menard and the pentacle necklace she wears every day as an expression of her Wiccan faith.  Image by KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, LA.

Dateline, 1956 – A Louisiana doctor is drawing attention for having asked his patient, Kristen Menard, a practicing Witch for more than 15 years, to remove her pentacle medallion because it was “very offensive to (him) and (his) Christian clientele.”
There’s only one problem with this story so far.  It’s not 1956.  By gawd (sic) it’s 2012!
I suppose it should come as no surprise that ignorance and intolerance of this level still exist in the world.  Even in the United States, the world’s bastion of freedom and so-called democracy (more on that remark in a later article), here in the twenty-first century we are still plagued with widespread bigotry and cultural ignorance (only these days we have the class enough at least to veil it – albeit thinly – under the auspices of groups like the Tea Party).
Like most Witches, Menard wears a silver pentacle medallion around her neck.  The display of this symbol is no different an expression, of course, from the wearing of a cross or Star of David.  Like all such religious symbols, the wearing of the pentacle is an outward testament of a person’s faith and beliefs.
“I wear it every day. It’s a symbol of protection and each point (of the star) represents something different,” says Menard.
“In my faith that is wrong,” says Lake Charles, LA chiropractor Shaine Rider, “It’s very offensive to me and I don't want that in my office.  And if someone can’t respect that enough to put in their shirt then there is going to be a problem.”
Menard claims that for the first month or so she was in Dr. Rider’s care, he frequently questioned her about the medallion, implying through his line of questioning that he believed it to be satanic.  Recently, however, Dr. Rider’s questioning turned into an ultimatum.

Lake Charles, LA Chiropractor Dr. Shaine Rider, who says Menard's "flaunting" of her pentacle is "wrong" and "offensive".  Image by KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, LA.  

     “He said you are going to have to take that necklace, put it away or take it off,” said Menard, recalling the incident, “I said ‘why?’ I didn't understand. And he said something about his son.”
Standing her ground, Menard refused.
“I said ‘I'm not taking this off,’ and that’s when he said basically he couldn’t treat me. And I walked out,” Menard said.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Rider’s explanation illustrates a poor understanding of what Witches actually believe.
 “Those signs and those symbols are very satanic and very new age,” said Rider.
Satanic?  That’s a pretty interesting leap for a religion that does not believe in Satan – or any devil-like figure for that matter.
Himself a devout catholic, Dr. Rider claims he never asked Menard to take her necklace off and that he never refused to treat her, though he did go on to say, “She came in and I very briefly said, and very nicely said, ‘Would you mind doing me a favor? Would you mind putting your pentagram inside your shirt?  …It’s very offensive to me and other patients... those that are Christians.”
For the record, Menard was wearing a pentacle, not a pentagram.  What’s the difference?  A pentagram is a depiction of an interwoven star by itself.  A pentacle is a depiction of an interwoven star – pentagram – inside of a circle.  The latter symbol sees much more common usage among Pagans / Witches than a pentagram alone.  Why would I spend a whole paragraph on this distinction?  I don’t know… call it a pet peeve.
“I don't try to wear this on the outside of my shirt which is a scapular,” said Rider.  A scapular is a small religious object worn by Catholics that represents a particular devotion.  “It’s my belief.  It’s what I wear inside my shirt. That’s all I was asking her to do is put it inside her shirt out of respect for my beliefs, and for the loss of my child and for our faith here. And she got irate and called me names and left,” Rider said.
Dr. Rider may keep his scapular under his shirt, but his Catholic faith is nonetheless apparent.  A crucifix hangs on the wall of his office not far from a portrait of his son, whom he lost to cancer.
While the loss of Dr. Rider’s son is tragic, this writer fails to see how a patient wearing a pentacle is somehow disrespectful to the son’s memory.  Nor do I see how it disrespects other patients – or the good doctor himself for that matter.  Menard was wearing a symbol that expresses her faith.  The wearing of a religious symbol does not malign other religions not represented by that symbol.  It’s a freakin’ necklance, people, not a declaration of war!
“To discriminate against anybody – race, religion anything… is completely wrong,” Menard went on to say, “And it shouldn't happen especially when he’s a doctor and he’s supposed to treat somebody.”
What is perhaps most disturbing to me about this story is not simply the ignorance with which Dr. Rider approached this situation, making stupendous assumptions about the nature of Pagan beliefs, but that it rather illustrates an ingrained dichotomy present in Christianity; the belief that that if something is not Christian, it is satanic.
Facing this kind of intransigent belief which bases itself on blind faith, there is no hope for reason and enlightened discourse.  This is, at its core, the very reason that we, the supposed free-est society in the world, in the year 2012, still face the same ignorance and prejudices that have plagued us since the dawn of man.
To my mind, we will never be a truly free society until we can free our minds of hereditary prejudices, and, as Albert Einstein so eloquently suggested in his “Great spirits” soliloquy, boldly and thoughtfully use our intelligence.
Menard has rightly filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the Chiropractic Association against Dr. Rider.  Sadly though, while it may force him to change his business practices, it will do nothing to change his closed and bigoted mind.


  1. The levels of ignorance and intolerance, in this world, today, are abhor-able to me, but this issue does not stand with Christianity, alone. We, as pagans, have a tendency to act just as rude and ill-mannered towards practitioners of Christianity. This is an ages old, and never ending, battle of discrimination and the ingrained need to be recognized and accepted as at least equal to everyone else. Trying to end it, sadly, is as much a pipe dream as the possibility of world peace.

  2. In olden times people use to visit a primary care physician for referral or treatment or used to just call him home to observe the ailment and cure the patient or at least used to give some effective medicines that are capable of curing the patient at a given point of time. decompression therapy

  3. It’s very offensive to me and other patients... those that are Christians.”

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