By Michael Cass
Wiccan and pagan students at Vanderbilt University might get to take an excused day off from class to dance around the maypole.
Vanderbilt’s Office of Religious Life recently sent professors a calendar of 2011-12 “religious holy days and observances” and a related policy on student absences. The faith listed next to four of the days on the calendar is “Wicca/Pagan.”
Wicca, whose believers are called Wiccans or witches, is just one form of paganism, an umbrella term for beliefs in multiple gods and goddesses. Some religious believers consider paganism to be outside the mainstream because it bucks the monotheistic tradition of Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
The Vanderbilt policy says students must be excused from classes and other academic activities on days when their religious traditions put restrictions on labor or forbid it outright, like Eid al Fitr for Muslims and Yom Kippur for Jews. It says professors, department chairs or deans can decide if absences will be excused for religious days that are not “work-restricted,” including the Wiccan and pagan days.