A pagan priest has won the right to wear his horn in his ID photo
A pagan priest, Phelan MoonSong, 56 has won the right to wear his horns in his Maine state ID photo. Moonsong was told in August that the goat horns he wears on his head his (which he calls his “spiritual antenna”) would have to be removed for his state-issued ID.
However, citing religious freedom, the “Priest of Pan,” who subscribes to an Earth-based spirituality called Neopaganism, successfully fought for his right to wear the horns after telling Bangor Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) officials he was in touch with the American Civil Liberties Union.
His ID arrived in the mail on Dec. 13 but only after the pagan was made to prove the deep significance of his horns.
“She told me that I had to send in some documentation or religious text to show why it was required for me to have my horns on,” MoonSong said. “I said, ‘OK, I’ll go ahead and do that,’ but it seemed like an onerous requirement,”
MoonSong told the Washington Post of his interaction with the BMV worker. In order for the horns to be approved by Maine’s secretary of state, MoonSong wrote a letter explaining their importance along with a religious text called “Pagan Religions: A Handbook for Diversity Training.”
According to MoonSong, he became enamored with the horns in 2009 at a Pagan men’s group gathering just after the death of a friend’s beloved goat. When no one else claimed the horns, MoonSong took them as his own and attached them to his head with fishing line. He seldom takes them off.
“As a practicing Pagan minister and a priest of Pan, I’ve come to feel very attached to the horns, and they’ve become a part of me and part of my spirituality,” MoonSong said. He added: “The horns are part of my religious attire,”.
After months of waiting for a response from the BMV, MoonSong called the agency to inform officials he was in touch with the ACLU. After the subtly threat, his ID arrived in the mail just days later.
Kristen Muszynski, a spokeswoman for Maine’s secretary of state, said MoonSong never said the horns were part of his religious attire.
“He did not cite religious reasons,” Muszynski said. “There are exceptions for religious headdress.”
In Maine, license photos “may only show the cardholder with headgear, if the cardholder is a member of a religion requiring the wearing thereof and provided that the headgear does not present as an obstruction or present a shadow and render the portrait inadequate for the identification of the cardholder,” according to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators guidelines. MoonSong — who insists he told BMV employees he was “an ordained Pagan minister” — hopes his story will inspire others to fight for freedom of expression.
“A lot of Pagans are in the closet and, as with the LGBT crowd, there’s a lot of misconceptions and discrimination that they face,”. “Many practicing Pagans are afraid of being public, but when they see my horns, it reminds them it’s OK to be yourself,” he added.
MoonSong, who officially changed his name last year, says he’s excited to use his ID to board a plane to California, where there are numerous pagan festivals.