I’m wondering if you might be willing to pass this story of something horrible that recently happened to me along to anyone you think might be interested:
Greetings fellow Neopagans,
I have a story to tell and I hope that you will pass this on to as many other Neopagans, New Age spiritualists, humanitarians or people you know who believe that no person should be harassed or discriminated against based on their religious beliefs.
In August I filed a complaint against an employee of United Airlines who verbally attacked me for my religious beliefs. To date United Airlines and their subcontractor Airserve Corporation, have not made any efforts to alleviate the pain and humiliation I experienced.
I had been traveling through Chicago on my way home to California when this incident occurred. I was waiting for a wheelchair to preboard my plane, but the attendant arrived too late to preboard me, despite the fact that I had asked him several times to ensure he returned for me on time. He then got another attendant who asked me to pray with him and give up my burdens to god.
I am not a Christian and I informed him that I am the minister of a Druid congregation and then asked to change the topic.
At this point he became confrontational and got down in my face; he began to quote scriptures at me and was so vehement that he sprayed spit in my face. He told me I would go to hell, quoted scriptures about false idols and told me that I would be a better person with his god in my life.
I am a disabled veteran of the united states Army and a veterans advocate, I volunteer my time at a transitional house for formerly homeless veterans, I do work in my local municipal park, I contribute my time on our local Homeless Task Force. How DARE he say I could be a better person with his god in my life. How DARE he imply that I wasn’t a good person just because I’m not a Christian? I give so much to my community and no one I know would say that I am not a kind and generous person.
He continued to tell me that his god would help me rise above my disabilities. I hold a Masters degree in Psychology, I am actively involved in my community and my faith, I have hundreds of friends all over the world, I am a well-adjusted, well-educated and well-liked person. I’d say I’ve risen above them already WITHOUT HIS GOD. How presumptuous!
Most people at this point would have walked away.
However, I take muscle relaxers when I fly and since this was a connecting flight I was already unable to walk, hence the need for the wheelchair. At this point he began strapping me into the aisle chair. For those who don’t know, this is a chair the put you in to take you down the aisle of the plane when you can’t walk. He continued to lecture me, with hate in his eyes the whole time.
He was incredibly aggressive, hostile and intimidating and there was NOTHING I could do.
I called to the flight attendant on duty for help but she ignored my requests. Finally, the other passengers, who were also waiting to board, became so disturbed by his behavior that they insisted on letting me board before them. Remember that we were already half-way through boarding at the time because they had failed to pre-board me in accordance with FFA regulations.
He got me on board and into my seat. Before he left I told him that he needed to remember that not all his passengers will be Christian and that there are many paths to sprit. He said, very vehemently, “yes, but there is only one God.” I immediately wrote down his name and as many details as I could remember from the confrontation in my planner.
United’s employee violated my civil rights as a human being and US citizen and he also exercised unfair power over a disabled US Army veteran who had no way to remove herself from the situation. I felt threatened, humiliated, and alone.
As a result of the employee’s abuse I have sought counseling to discuss the distress that I still feel over this incident. I’ve been a Pagan for 18 years and have NEVER been harassed or discriminated against because of my religion before. So this came as a complete shock to me.
When I returned home I filed a complaint on United’s website. I received a return call and was told that no one by that name worked for them. I was then referred to the Airport complaint line who referred me to the City of Chicago, who said they’d look into it. I also filed a complaint with the ACLU (with little success), the DOT Aviation Consumer Protection Division, and the FAA.
DOT investigated and so did the city of Chicago. I was later told by the city of Chicago that the employee worked for Airserve corp., a subcontractor of United. I contacted Airserve and was told that they had investigated the situation and had fired the employee because of his actions.
However, neither United nor the contractor, Airserve corp, has offered any restitution for the humiliation I experienced. United claims to have sent me a certificate for a new flight (no amount has been indicated) but I have NEVER received it and wouldn’t fly with them again if my life depended on it. All I want is my ticket refunded, a small price to pay for the horrendous treatment I received.
I want to send a very clear message that United can not allow its employees to harass customers, no matter their religion, particularly helpless ones that can not remove themselves from the situation.
I am a Neopagan Druid and proud of it. No one in our nation should walk in fear that they will be harassed or discriminated against because of their religious beliefs. Especially the helpless who can not defend themselves against hate and prejudice. This was HATE, pure and simple. United and Airserve, you owe me a formal apology and I expect to be compensated for my pain and suffering at the hands of your employee.
To anyone out there reading this, if you’ve been harassed or discriminated against because of your religious beliefs, STAND UP! I don’t care if you are Wiccan, Buddhist, Sikh, Christian, Druid, Muslim, Jewish or any other religion. You deserve to be treated with respect and so do I.
If you believe in religious freedom I urge you to join me in boycotting United Airlines and their affiliates. If you think you can help me with my case against them, or have a similar case, please let me know.
Blessings and thank you,
Rev. Jessie “Medb” Olson