Friday, October 31, 2014

One of the main principles of ethics is to "do no harm." A discussion of the meaning of this principle as it applies to the clergy-lay relationship

                The idea of “do no harm” is a very vague ideal to live by. The way this phrase has been stated it leaves very little room for any unintentional harm that might be done. No matter what choices we make in life there is always the possibility or likelihood that someone or something will be harmed in our decisions. I think a better way of looking at this is “strive to never intend to do harm.”

               Now with that said, I have always believed that the role of clergy to the lay person is to strive to help better their lives by being a source of comfort, knowledge, and wise advice. To do that, we as clergy need to learn how to listen, learn our limits both personally, professionally, and ethically, and always have available resources we can refer the lay person to.

               I feel this also applies to our relationship as clergy to the Kindred. We are responsible for maintaining a good working spiritual relationship with our gods, nature spirits, and ancestors so that we are able to serve the people and the Kindred as best we can. We should strive to be the best possible examples as clergy and stewards of our faith, our community, and our earth mother. When we do this we “strive to never intend to do harm.”

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A discussion on the mening of confidential privilege, the laws in my state that provide for this priviliege and the extent to which it applies to clergy-lay communications in my community

               “Confidentiality refers to the ethical duty… not to disclose information learned… to any other person or organization without the consent of the (person) or under proper legal compulsion.” (M.D.) Privileged communication is defined as:
 An exchange of information between two individuals in a confidential relationship.
A privileged communication is a private statement that must be kept in confidence by the recipient for the benefit of the communicator. Even if it is relevant to a case, a privileged communication cannot be used as evidence in court. Privileged communications are controversial because they exclude relevant facts from the truth-seeking process.
Privileged communications exist because society values the privacy or purpose of certain relationships. The established privileged communications are those between wife and husband, clergy and communicant, psychotherapist and patient, physician and patient, and attorney and client.
These relationships are protected for various reasons. The wife-husband and clergy-communicant privileges protect the general sanctity of marriage and religion.” (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)

Defining these two concepts is very important from the standpoint of a clergy when information is being disclosed by a lay-person. As a clergy person we need to know what the law allows and what it prohibits so that we can make the proper ethical decisions when faced with a situation where it is in the safety of a lay person to act upon information we are given.

               In Arkansas we have the following laws and regulations when it comes to confidential and privilege information/communications: (Arkansas State Code)

Ark. R. Evid. 505 (2012). Religious Privilege
(a)    Definitions. As used in this rule:
(1)    A “clergyman” is a minister, priest, rabbi, accredited Christian Science Practitioner, or other similar functionary of a religious organization, or an individual reasonably believed so to be by the person consulting him.
(2)    A communication is “confidential” if made privately and not intended for further disclosure except to other person present in furtherance of the purpose of the communication.
(b)    General Rule of Privilege. A person has a privilege to refuse to disclose and to prevent another from disclosing a confidential communication by the person to a clergyman in his professional character as spiritual adviser.
(c)     Who May Claim the Privilege. The privilege may be claimed by the person, by his guardian or conservator, or by his personal representative if he is deceased. The person who was the clergyman at the time of the communication is presumed to have authority to claim the privilege but only on behalf of the communicant.

Ark. Code Ann. 12-18-402 (2012). Mandated Reporters
(a)    An individual listed as a mandated reporter under subsection (b) of this section shall immediately notify the Child Abuse Hotline if he or she:
(1)    Has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has:
(A)    Been subject of child maltreatment; or
(B)    Died as a result of child maltreatment; or
(2)    Observes a child being subject of conditions or circumstance that would reasonably result in child maltreatment.
(b)    The following individuals are mandated reporters under this chapter:
(29) A clergy member, which includes a minister, priest, rabbi, accredited Christian Science practitioner, or other similar functionary of a religious organization, or an individual reasonably believed to be so by the person consulting him or her, except to the extent the clergy member
(A) Has acquired knowledge of suspected child maltreatment through communications required to be kept confidential pursuant to the religious discipline of the relevant denomination or faith; or
(B) Received the knowledge of the suspected child maltreatment from the alleged offender in the context of a statement of admission;

Ark. Code Ann. 12-18-803 (2012). Privileged communications as evidence—Exception
(a)    It is the public policy that the State of Arkansas to protect the health, safety, and the welfare of children within the state.
(b)    No privilege, except that between a lawyer and client or between minister, including a Christian Science practitioner, and a person confessing to or being counseled by the minister shall prevent anyone from testifying concerning child maltreatment.
(c)     When a physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, or licensed counselor or therapist conducts interviews with or provides therapy to a subject of a report of suspected child maltreatment for purposes related to child maltreatment, the physician, psychologist, psychiatrist, or licensed counselor or therapist is deemed to be performing services on behalf of the child.
(d)    An adult subject of a report of suspected child maltreatment cannot invoke privilege on the child’s behalf.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Discussing the Importance of ethics to the clergy-lay relationship. Does a clergy person have an ethical responsibility? If so, what responsibilities?

               In Ethics 1 Question #10, I talk about how for me taking on the mantle of Druid Priest and ADF Clergy is not one that I believe can be donned and removed at a whim. I very much believe ethics are the same. When we choose to develop a set of ethics and values they should be practiced in all aspects of our life. However, I do believe that it is extremely important as Clergy members of any faith that we adhere to our ethics even more than the average lay person. If you look at many of the mainstream religions there are examples of Clergy taking advantage of their power and position. This wounds those who rely on us as spiritual leaders, fragmenting their trust and sometimes their beliefs.

               Though no one is perfect, we must strive to life as closely to our ethics and beliefs as possible. When we tarnish ourselves by not following our beliefs and principles, we make not only ourselves vulnerable but we open the door for our tradition as well as others to become vulnerable to mistrust. This can be felt among Neo-Pagan traditions especially. Most of us come from what would be considered “mainstream” religions. So we already have a bit of mistrust when it comes to religion and religious leaders. To come into a form of religion that is viewed as being without those trappings and failures of the mainstream only to see some old actions can be very disheartening.

               So I believe our responsibility is to strive every day to live up to the ethical standards we set for ourselves as Clergy. In so many cases we are what new members and the ‘outside’ world first see of our tradition. We also have the responsibility to the People who have chosen us as their spiritual leaders to uphold those ethics. And in no small part we have a responsibility to the Kindred to be the best Clergy we can, to uphold our traditions morals and values, and to make proper recompense when we falter.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Being A Practicing Druid.... what does it mean?

          I hear people all the time talk about being "this" or "that" spiritual path. I hear people say "Oh I am a Druid too!" But what does it mean to be a practicing Druid? Well there are as many answers to that question as there are people using the term. All I can say is what it means for me to be a practicing Druid.

          I have always believed that the idea of Druidism was more of a way of life than just a religion or spiritual path. It is acts, it is a way of being. Yeah, yeah, I know what you are thinking... "But David, what about all the stuff you post on the blog about religious practices and beliefs?" Well those religious practices and beliefs are hollow if I do not live my life applying them to my daily life. Easier said than done.... right? Not really. Saying that is a cop-out on actually putting effort into living a better life.

          Living a Druid life for me started with how I treated others. I forced myself into the mind set that everyone has the right to feel and believe the way they want. I trained my heart to accept that there are those that will always try to be a force against those not living the life they believe we should. In other words, water off a ducks back. It takes very little effort to walk away from conflict. It actually takes far more energy to fight than to realize something is a pointless battle.

          I started thinking about my impact on the earth. I know like all Americans I really like having the latest greatest thing. Well that's fine but be sure you properly recycle the old or purpose it. Do not just through it away. I do my best to take very good care of my belongings so I can hand them to someone else for use, such as cell phone or laptop. That helps prevent the items from going into the land fill. If it is just totally broken? Well then recycle it. Find the proper place which will take things like light bulbs, old computers, batteries, cell phones, etc so that anything that can be reclaimed is and so that anything toxic is treated. And speaking of lighting... are you using efficient light bulbs? Well why not? LED bulbs have come way down in cost. You can get 60watt equivalents at Walmart for under $5 that use as low as 5watts and last 10 to 20 years! Every paycheck I have gone and purchased 1 bulb until all of the lights in my apartment were replaced. So I was able to reduce the amount of electricity I used as well as cutting the actual power bill.

I also think about how my deal with my waste... The waste from coffee and tea grounds, from the cuttings let over during food prep, etc. each of these aspects gives me the chance to live my spirituality, not just pay lip service to it. I put all my organic waste into an indoor composter that turns the waste into highly rich soil while also making an organic "compost tea" that I feed all my plants. I have learned what veggies will regrow from themselves so I can plant their cuttings to continuously grow my own. I know I know, I hear all the time "I don't have room." Well sorry to say I call bullshit on this. I live in a 620 sq ft apartment with my partner and two cats. I have a potted garden which I grow on my patio and in my windows, I have the indoor composter under my kitchen sink, and house plants that require little actual sun light so they help clean my air while providing the energy that all living things bring to a home.

So just thinking about wht you can do to actually live your spirituality instead of just saying you do. You will find that it becomes so much easier in the long run, you save money, and you are being true to yourself!

A discussion of how an individual's values relate to the decision making process

                Modern psychology defines decision making as “… a cognitive process that results in selecting a belief or course of action from among several possibilities” (Tavris 189). In my Human Growth and Development class we talked about how there were several influences that shaped how we made these choices. The first is the situation; is this a decision that is being made within a set environment such as work or a legal confine? Or is this a choice which solely based within a personal environment? The following were the general questions that were discussed that each person will go through: (Tavris 188: Figure 6.1)

1.      The Rule of Private Gain: if you are the only one personally gaining from the situation, is it at the expense of another? If yes, you may benefit from questioning your ethics in advance of the decision.
2.      If Everyone Does It: Who would be hurt? What would the world be like? These questions help determine the ethically correct behavior.
3.      Benefits vs. Burden: What are the benefits? Do they outweigh the burden that will come with it?

               When we are within a set environment such as work, we usually have rules that are set up to help us with the decision making process. Many times there is very little room for personal values to come into play. This is by design so that the good of the company outweighs the good of the individual. We may struggle with the few choices we have morally but in the end we can only choose from the possible options within this frame work.

               However, when we are faced with decisions on a personal level, our values play a very important part in what we choose to do. To give an example, a person is faced with the opportunity to go outside his/her relationship to engage in sexual activity with another individual. The choice is then weighed against the person’s sense of what he/she sees as being morally right or wrong and with his/her desire to not be unfaithful to their chosen partner. How one decides is most based upon their individual beliefs, their values, and their sense of right and wrong. There is also the factor of what will happen should they choice wrong and what consequences there will be in doing so.