Battle in Bayside Heats Up

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Dan Halloran, Republican candidate for city council in district 19, repeatedly refused to be interviewed by the Voice as long as we insisted on asking him about his unusual religion. (Born a Roman Catholic, Halloran is now "first atheling," or prince, of New Normandy, a neo-heathen "Theodist" group he founded in 2002 that worships Norse gods.)

For our lengthy story about Halloran and New Normandy last week, we were hoping Halloran would talk about his tribe, which dresses up in period costume for occasional events that look like fun. (We ended up talking to other longtime members of his faith, including a guy who was best man at Halloran's wedding, in order to learn more about Halloran's brand of neo-paganism.) But the candidate himself begged off, apparently hoping that questions about his unusual extracurricular activities wouldn't become an issue as election day neared.

Instead, he's had to spend the last few days of his campaign dealing with little else.

NY1 reports that Halloran faced protesters over the weekend accusing him of animal cruelty and antisemitism because of his choice in Germanic deities. One member of the nearly hysterical looking lynch-mob referred to our story as the source of his outrage. Naturally, the mob got a lot of facts wrong.

Worked up about the idea that Halloran's New Normandy practices the animal sacrifice ritual of "blot," they made it sound like Dan's oath-holders are slaying creatures left and right. As we reported, however, animal sacrifice is rare, and it's pretty much like kosher butchering. The chicken or lamb or pig is consumed after it's killed, not unusual for those of us who are carnivores.

We did point out that there's an alarming trend in the country's prisons of white supremacists adopting neo-heathenism for their white nationalist agendas. Experts tell us that as much as 50 percent of the country's tiny neo-heathenist movement has connections to white supremacy.

But we also made it clear, several times, that we found no tie between Halloran's New Normandy and those white supremacist groups. Yes, Halloran seems to have found some fans at the white nationalist forum Stormfront, but that's something he can hardly control.

As we stated before, Halloran's religious affiliation is very much a legitimate news story: he will be the first openly-admitted heathen candidate to be elected to public office in this country if he wins. But Halloran's camp continues to insist that his religion is not a news story and was only made one out of political motivation, blaming the Queens Tribune for writing the first story about New Normandy as a political hit. (The Tribune is owned by a company that has been employed by Halloran's opponent, Democrat Kevin Kim.)

That angle might hold water if the original Tribune story had derided Halloran's religion. But the fact is, the original piece, written by Brian Rafferty, was factual and carried not a whiff of condescension. (The rival Queens Chronicle castigated the Tribune for "branding" Halloran a "pagan lord." Which might be a point well taken, except that Halloran is a pagan lord.)

It's simply naive to think that a pagan or heathen running for city council in this city would not have to answer press questions about why, for example, the license plates on his car are dedicated to the Germanic god of single combat.

For his part, Kim isn't having an easy walk to the finish line either. He's been accused by protesters of trying to use Halloran's religion to his advantage. His campaign also complained that two of his volunteers were harassed by Halloran supporters with anti-Asian taunts. The incident, which allegedly occurred in broad daylight, had no witnesses, and the boomerang effect has had the Kim campaign defending itself from charges of race baiting.

It's going to be an interesting election day in Queens.

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