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God, witches, queers & beauty pageants

It’s hard to tell who the organizers of the Miss Toronto Tourism pageant would hate more as a participant: a witch or a lesbian.

The pageant — which is completely unaffiliated with the City of Toronto — has been awash in a sea of bad publicity since rejecting a witch as a judge in January.

It turns out the pageant organizers also have a history of attacking queers, especially over same-sex marriage. They didn’t respond to a question about whether they’d accept a lesbian or trans contestant or judge.

The pageant had invited Stephanie Conover, the reigning Miss Canada Plus and a Wiccan, to act as a judge at their Feb 2 contest. But upon receiving her biography — which mentioned her practice of reiki and tarot card reading — the pageant organizers changed their minds.

“We need a judge who has an upright reputation and we would be proud to introduce to the audience,” wrote Karyn Murray, the Miss Toronto Tourism pageant director, in a letter to the Miss Canada Plus group. “Our board of directors has eliminated her as a judge as tarot card reading and reiki are the occult and is not acceptable by God, Jews, Muslims or Christians. Tarot card reading is witchcraft and is used by witches, spiritists and mediums to consult the dark world.”

The letter also quotes from the Bible, including a passage from Leviticus that says, “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spirits for you will be defiled by them.”

In an interview with the Toronto Star, Murray said, “We adhere to God’s principles. We’re God-fearing. I wouldn’t say we’re religious.”

And in an interview with the CBC pageant board member Warren Booth said he feared Conover would do her judging by tarot card. “We want to be in line with God’s word when it comes to this type of activity and this isn’t anywhere near God’s word.”

Booth and Murray have previously interpreted God’s word as opposing same-sex marriage.

Both were involved in a group called Man and Woman Union and Booth helped organize a rally against same-sex marriage on Parliament Hill in September 2006.

“Children are our future and right now they are scared and confused,” Booth told the small crowd then.

No wonder. If God is actually laying down the rules for beauty pageants, religion may have moved into a new and terrifying phase.