Let me open this with the Statement: I have left ADF, I am unlikely to join again, and it feels that this is the correct path for me to walk.
Each person has a path (SlÍ) which they should walk, and I believe I am still on my path. We shall see.
Next let me lightly touch what set this off:
Many of you will have heard that ADF had a member recently arrested and subsequently convicted of a crime, involving pictures of children. He has blogged about his side of this at length (note his blog may disappear at some point, I’ve saved a screen shot copy of his story, just in case, I can provide these at request). His initial statement of “I was tricked by a malicious torrent, when I was trying to download a movie” was believed by many. So when his conviction (via a plea deal, he was only charged with Disseminating an obscenity (a level 1 felony), ordered to undergo sex offender re-education, submit to warrantless searches of his electronic devices, but he avoided having to register as a sex offender (the crux of the plea deal)). He sold his conviction as “he was not convicted of anything major, and was the victim here”). ADF did not investigate further, and released a statement, that they did not expect him to run of a position of authority again (he had been a Protogrove leader, and assistant regional druid) but he was not excluded, nor was he under special observation.
Skip forward a fortnight, someone (no not me!) obtained the court transcripts. They tell a vastly different tale. The prosecutor states that he admitted to downloading over 300 pictures, for the purposes of self-gratification. These were pictures of pre-teen children, undressed, or provocatively clad and posed. When this information came to light. Scott Holbrook changed his story slightly to account for the discrepancy. He claims he was ambushed by the claim, and did not have a chance to refute these claims (he later has changed this to he did not feel he could refute it, least he loose his plea deal). A constant shifting of goal posts is a sign of a logical flaw in an argument. Take from this what you want. I certainly have.
Now here is the problem, the story which Scott has sold, is an improbable one. Torrents tend to only house malicious files like viruses, if there were indeed almost 400 picture files, you would notice, as movies tend to only have say 5 files associated with them (less if its one which does not have multiple subtitle or sound tracks). Not hundreds of files. Given Scott knew where to look for a movie to pirate (which is what he has admitted) one would assume he was nuanced enough in this sort of behaviour to check what he was getting. He probably also was smart enough to turn of the reseeding (essentially sharing) setting. This is what got him caught. A more probable explanation, is that Scott wilfully downloaded a file (or files) containing these objectionable pictures, and for personal use. He may well have found them on a torrent site, which insists that members, seed to perpetuate the files.
So we have two possible explanations (there are more, but I am picking the extremes), one which is told by an admitted thief, and one which is told by the legal system. I know which one sits right in my brain.
When this discrepancy came to light, many of us in the Pagan community were aggrieved to say the least. Our main media out let (the wild Hunt) had allowed Scott to tell his side of the story, but had not investigated how factual that was. To be fair, since the management changed at TWH, this does not surprise me. What did surprise me, is that ADF has implemented a Risk Management strategy (which my wife and I initially (2010) had been involved in). The Mother Grove choose (in haste) not to follow this strategy. In a rush to wash their hands of the smelly incident, they did not follow due diligence. Now many of you may say “oh but is that a bad thing?”. The answer in this case is. Yes indeed, they made a mistake, which they then had to sit in an emergency session to rectify.
Stepping away from ADFs problems (they are not important here). What is important is, despite the new evidence, a sizable chunk of the vocal membership, defended “poor Scott”, and implied he had been set up, buy corrupt officials. Scott had already implied he took a plea deal due to being a Pagan, in a Pagan Unfriendly ™ Upland South. So any who questioned this, were a mob of “torch bearing, pitchfork wielding peasants” who were “out for blood” (I am quoting a prominent ADF member here). Those of us who questioned the story, received abuse. Indeed, I actually got an email, sent from an anon email service (I am good at IP tracking, and I recognized the service, it stopped resolving in Asia).
Thus, when I noted that ADF either did not care, or denied he was on record, and had not refuted being a paedophile. I questioned my membership of ADF. Clearly, I was in a minority. Indeed, I was one of the few to stand up and ask that he be reclassified, as per the ADF rules. When I got the abusive email, and a couple of messages in FB. I made my mind up, and I left. Its caused problems (I vacated my Gael Kin Chieftain position (sounds impressive, but I just administered the Kin).
My reasons were this.
- I cannot be part of an organization, which allows a member to be dishonest, when dealing with a matter of sexual abuse. The fact I had to be in essence an antagonistic arse to get them to take the matter seriously, told me, they wanted to sweep it away.
- If the membership, can’t be “excellent” when it critically reviews a clear cut document, it does not aspire to “excellent” and I question how many of them follow the virtues.
- Speaking of Virtues, Scott claims to be a follower of the Morrigan, just like me, meaning that I can leverage our apparent shared cultural values. The Gaels had several measures of trustworthiness. Your “Face” (oineach), which is shown to the tribe. It is your honor, and you have an honor price (enech-lann). The fact Scott is a convicted felon, in a crime that involves children (it does)), means his enech is much reduced. On top of that, he has (apparently) been caught in a lie, meaning his honesty (indracus) is beyond being in question, it is non-existent. His reputation (clú) to the greater community is abysmal. This means that he would need truly extraordinary evidence to regain any of his credibility. Instead he writes weasel words, and has a small group of closely related individuals try to repeat the story enough, to make it appear to be true.
- I had no way (within ADF rules) of replying to the abuse levelled towards me. I bear ADF very little ill will, and did not want to be the barbarian at the gates, throwing my sword on the scales because someone questioned the cost of settlement.
Thus I left. I do not regret it. I fondly remember much of my time in ADF, and have made friends who I treasure. Sadly many of them are also leaving because of this, and I value my indracus over my loyalty to an organization which would give *ghosti to a criminal, and not a long standing member (I refer to the members, not the organization as a whole).
Here is the thing, technically I won, Scott is not allowed to hold a position of authority (unless he can disprove his charges) and is hopefully a person non-grata at events with children, or at least a leper who is escorted EVERYWHERE. But I also lost, I saw the value I was ascribed, for doing the right thing (yet again). Time to go, and be happy.
I have been asked to reconsider, but to do this , I will require a truly extraordinary reason to stay. I don’t mean a bribe, or compensation, or even the removal of Scott. But if I were to return or stay, I’m going to need to see something that makes me reconsider, not appeals to my ego. My ego is not fragile, I can’t be bribed.
What is next? I am not sure. I identify as a Gaelic Reconstructive Polytheist now, I never used the term Druid, so I will continue not to use that.