Community Conduct Standards
ATHEOPAGAN COMMUNITY CONDUCT STANDARDS and GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE
As Atheopagans, we endeavor to create an environment which is safe, responsible, and egalitarian. We celebrate inclusion, diversity, love, kindness and mutual respect. Atheopagan events, online spaces, and gatherings should be guided by the 13 Atheopagan Principles, including most specifically Inclusiveness, Social Responsibility, Integrity and Kindness and Compassion.
We embrace as an ethic that we treat one another well, that we respect and embrace difference, and that assume good intentions on the part of our fellow humans. We welcome people of all races, all colors, all ethnicities, all gender identifications, all ages and sexual orientations and those differences of life situation, background, and physical or mental ability, shape or condition that increase our diversity.
In any Atheopagan gathering, either online or in-person, we do not accept:
- Physical or verbal threats, or violence of any kind
- Harassment, bullying, coercion in any way or unwelcome sexual or physical attention
- Hostile and disrespectful speech or actions
When confronted with unkindness–or, worse, with discrimination–we call this out but at first with an eye to the education of the person who expressed it. Maybe they didn’t understand that what they said or did was discriminatory, and they can learn, bettering themselves and our community; or, conversely, maybe they double down, in which case they may need to be removed from the community for the safety of other members.
This is not to say that oppressed peoples are responsible for educating those who oppress them. There is room for anger in such cases and it is a part of the work of people of the dominant culture to sit with this anger, to seek to understand and learn from it.
Atheopaganism supports consent culture. Affirmative consent to any physical contact or sexually intimate communication (includes hugging–ask first!) must be secured prior to such contact.
Affirmative consent is a knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in physical contact or sexual activity (which can include online sexual activity). Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create clear permission regarding willingness to engage in the activity. Silence or lack of resistance, in and of itself, does not demonstrate consent. The definition of consent does not vary based upon a participant’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
- Consent to any act or prior consensual activity between or with any party does not necessarily constitute consent to any other act.
- Consent given once does not necessarily constitute consent to perform the same act again.
- Consent is required regardless of whether the person initiating the act is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
- Consent may be initially given but withdrawn at any time.
- Consent cannot be given when a person is incapacitated, which occurs when an individual lacks the ability to knowingly choose to participate in activity. Incapacitation may be caused by the lack of consciousness or being asleep, being involuntarily restrained, or if an individual otherwise cannot consent. Depending on the degree of intoxication, someone who is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicants may be incapacitated and therefore unable to consent.
- Consent cannot be given as a result of coercion, intimidation, force, or threat of harm.
- When consent is withdrawn or can no longer be given, activity must stop.
Consent policies apply to online communications as well. Unwelcome and uninvited sexual advances constitute harassment. Harassment can include:
- Attempts to initiate or solicit unwelcome sexually explicit conversation or personal details
- Sending unsolicited explicit images, or soliciting such images
- Abusive language, insults, slurs, threats or attempts at coercion
If you are feeling harassed, ask the harasser to stop, if you are willing. If you are unwilling or unable to ask or the harassment does not stop, approach a group or event organizer and ask for help. Organizers will investigate and intervene in what they see as an appropriate manner. If you wish, organizers will contact authorities, nonprofit resources such as a sexual assault crisis center, and/or the Atheopagan Society Council for you.
If you are asked to stop any harassing behavior, you are expected to stop immediately. If a participant engages in harassing behavior, Atheopagan events and groups retain the right to take any action to keep our spaces a welcoming environment for all participants. These actions can include warning the participant(s) or expulsion from the group, event or future events. Any admission fee to the group or event will not necessarily be refunded if this occurs.
Atheopagan event and group organizers are not, however, arbiters of interpersonal conflict. We expect participants in all Atheopagan events and activities to maintain the standards of conduct outlined above at all times and to resolve their differences in a civil manner if no harassment has taken place.
At both online and in-person Atheopagan events, children under 16 must be under the supervision of a guardian (or other arranged adult supervision with the consent of a guardian) at all times. Children aged 16 and 17 may participate independently in the activities of the group or event with permission of their guardian, so long as the activity is not explicitly defined as adults-only.
There is no photography or recording during rituals. Outside of ritual, photography is only allowed with the advance permission of the subject(s). Please be considerate that not all Atheopagans are “out” in their communities, and they may wish not to be photographed.
What transpires within Atheopagan spaces is meant to stay there. Recording, communicating, screenshotting or otherwise disclosing content from Atheopagan online and in-person spaces is expressly disallowed.
Atheopagan groups are intended to be flat in power structure. We are anti-authoritarian and choose to lift one another up together rather than to have people who are “in charge”. Our path encourages egalitarian participation in decision making and group dynamics. This doesn’t mean that temporary leaders aren’t sometimes chosen (say, to coordinate a ritual, lead a meeting or take on a task assignment), but these should indeed be temporary. As we suggest with the lower-case spelling of Atheopagan cleric, leadership roles in Atheopaganism are service rolesto the broader community, not power-over positions of authority.
The ritual container provides a space for creative exploration. It is an open space where we come together to empower one another.
In ritual, you have an opportunity to explore creatively, test your boundaries, and challenge your limitations. We all have a role in making this circle safe. Making a personal commitment to your own safety is a powerful way to support your creative process. You are empowered to be the guardian of your own experience. You choose when and how you wish to interact with other members of the circle. If you are uncomfortable, challenged, or overwhelmed, ask yourself how you can respond constructively to the situation. Do you need transformational support? To talk directly with someone? To set an explicit boundary with someone? To take a break from the circle? To stick with your process? Do what you need to do, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If you feel drawn to interact with someone in the circle, please be conscious of whether that person is inviting you in. Don’t take it personally if someone declines to interact with you. Respect that request. They are doing their own work. If someone approaches you looking for help, please take the time to listen and take his or her concerns seriously. If you are not in a place to help, find someone who can. We support each other with our attention and understanding.
Being part of this community carries an agreement to treat each other with respect and to honor each other’s boundaries.
Atheopagan events are intended to be places where we can bring our whole selves – not just what’s wonderful but also the imperfections, the parts that feel broken, the parts we may be ashamed of. We may not agree with everything that each person does or says, but we hold space for each other to come together in our imperfection and our humanity and to be transformed.
If you have a complaint that is very serious or you do not feel safe going to event or group organizers to notify them of abuse or harassment, you may contact the Secretary of the Atheopagan Society Council at APGrievance@comcast.net. Please specify the events as you experienced them, with details. The Council will investigate and take appropriate action. This can take a few days. If you are in immediate danger, get to a safe place and/or contact police immediately.
If there are problems in your group and you really aren’t able to resolve them yourselves, assistance may be available from the Atheopagan Society. Send a request from the contact form at https://theapsocietyorg.wordpress.com/contact/ and someone will reply to you shortly.
Updated March 2023
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It looks good. I don’t see any problems, and for now, can’t think of anything to add. Great to see this being made and available! – Jon Cleland Host
Very excited to see these put into place!
I’d suggest replacing “his or her” under Ritual Etiquette with “their” (the rest seems to use they pronouns, so I assume one spot was just missed).
In the future, I’d like to see more discussion around restorative and transformative justice practices for the community, but I think these are a great first step!
Thank you, Linas! Yes, I missed one–will make that change!
I just have a few comments on the draft for the Community Conduct Guidelines. For the most part I really like what’s in it. A few parts concern me tho: language that is not symmetrical or reciprocal is not really inclusive.
“When confronted with unkindness–or, worse, with bigotry–we call this out but with an eye to the education of the person who expressed this. Maybe they double down, in which case they may need to be removed for the safety of the group. But maybe they learn, and better themselves and our community.
This is not to say that oppressed peoples are responsible for educating those who oppress them. There is room for anger in such cases and it is a part of the work of people of the dominant culture to sit with this anger, to seek to understand and learn from it.”
What, or who, defines what is the “dominant” culture? Population size? Social prominence or power? How can these things be objectively measured? People are inseparable from their culture(s), so ranking cultures is a fine line away from ranking people. If Atheopaganism is to be a religion that aims to have no power structure this ranking language seems inconsistent.
Second, I question the idea that it is only the angry person’s task to seek understanding. In a conflict between people there is always at least two people who do not understand each other, and I believe both have a responsibility to exercise curiosity and try to understand the point of view of the other. Trying to beat education into an angry person is just going to fuel the flame. If would feel more balanced if different points of view could be discussed and considered, with the goal being understanding, not imposing the “correct” view.
“If you are feeling harassed, ask the harasser to stop, if you are willing.”
Miscommunication is the base of many instances. If one person has the responsibility to communicate, both do. What one person sees as harassing behavior, might be another person’s playful banter. Some people might not even realize that their actions/words are causing another person to feel harassed, and it is necessary for the person feeling harassed to first make them aware of what they are doing, and give them that chance to stop. The social consequences of being thought of as a harasser are too severe not to. Organizer intervention should only be used on people who have been made aware.
Hi–thanks for your comments. I’m afraid I disagree with them in two fundamental ways.
On this point: “What, or who, defines what is the “dominant” culture?”, the answer is: depends on the players in the exchange. If it is a Black person getting angry at bigotry from a white person, it is very clear that the person of the “dominant” culture is the white person, who enjoys all sorts of social advantages that a Black person does not. If it’s a woman getting angry at a man, the man is clearly of the dominant culture. These things are situational, but they are not hard to read.
The reason this is important is that “tone policing” is often used to suppress expressions of anger on the part of the oppressed. We’re not going to do that. Nor are we going to tell a Black person who had expressed anger about being treated in a discriminatory way that they “also need to learn from the situation”. It is not the Black person’s job to educate the person who demonstrated bigotry–it is the white person’s responsibility to educate themselves on why their communication was offensive.
In the case of your second concern, there are times when a person may feel harassed but also feel unsafe telling the person harassing them that they feel harassed. In such cases, it is appropriate to go to a third party even if the harasser has not yet been made aware of the problem. Safety is more important than “fairness” in such cases. The third party’s role at that point is simply to tell the offending person that they have been perceived as harassing, and to stop the behavior that has been so perceived.
The alternative–expecting a victim of harassment to confront their harasser in all cases–would be that people who feel unsafe confronting their harasser will simple go silent and continue to take the abuse. This is completely unacceptable.
I appreciate your input and understand the concerns, but they appear to be too accommodating of those committing harassment or discrimination, at the expense of their victims. If something is a simple misunderstanding, when brought to the offender’s attention they can simply apologize and stop the harassing behavior. That doesn’t brand them as a harasser and it doesn’t have to be done in a very public way (in fact, it should not be if possible). But we should err on the side of the oppressed and victimized, rather than the opposite.
Since we are going forward with the dominant culture ranking system, would you please write out a list so we can all be on the same page? I understand the clear cut Black and white situation, but I am still wondering about the details. Are LGBTQ+ and/or disabled individuals on this scale? What if someone is half Mexican? How does it work when people have multiple oppressions? It would be really helpful to have a chart or graph of some kind so I can understand. It is important to me to know where I stand in this hierarchy so I can feel safe. I wouldn’t want to accidently offend someone who outranks me.
I see that you are being sarcastic, and I don’t think that helps. Each situation is different, but if one person is protesting about being treated in a bigoted manner, it’s a pretty good bet they are not the offender in the dynamic.
We’re doing our best to recognize and be responsive to the uneven playing field that exists for oppressed minorities. If you feel someone is being angry at you undeservedly, you can say so.
I mean, think about the alternative, with white people protesting “reverse racism” when called out for the privilege that often informs their speech. All discrimination is not equal; I can certainly understand why–with good reason!–a Black person might have a dim opinion of white people in general, and that anger deserves a place to exist. As it says in the draft guidelines, it isn’t the job of those discriminated against to educate the discriminators.
I agree. I think this is a good thing.
I wasn’t being sarcastic. I was trying to bring attention to the hypocrisy of assuming someone’s rightness based on their demographic while claiming to be “inclusive” and without a power structure. But you won’t look into it. No answers for my questions. I will consider any notions I had about equity of race and gender in this group to be excluded. If someone is angry with me I’ll just assume I’ll be considered in the wrong, and as such I probably won’t say much of anything anymore. I’m not the only one in the group to have been silenced like this. I loved your book and I was so excited to find this religion. Now I’m just incredibly disappointed that you have pruned it into a closed-minded cult of the authoritarian left.
I do not think that characterization is supported by the available evidence at all.
It is not “closed-minded” to acknowledge that institutional, systemic racism and sexism and homophobia exist, and that they serve, among other things, to silence the voices of people who are oppressed.
This is not about who is “right”. It’s about taking people seriously when they say they are being treated with bigotry.
Believing victims isn’t “cult” like, nor does it have anything to do with the “authoritarian left”, whatever that is supposed to mean.
You have truly missed the point if you think this is about prejudging who is “right” on any given topic. It’s about prejudging that when an oppressed person says they’re being oppressed, the odds are good that they are telling the truth.
If your “notions of equity of race and gender” don’t acknowledge the (mostly blind) privilege of white, male, heterosexual and cis-gendered people, how are they in any meaningful way about genuine equity? “I treat everyone the same” is a thing white people with serious blinders around their privilege say, not a legitimate approach to equity.
There are easy ways not to have to worry about ANY of this: don’t say racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic things. If that expectation qualifies in your mind as a “closed-minded cult of the authoritarian left”, you’re probably just not in the right place.