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#1 Feb 5, 2008
Sun, February 3, 2008
Protest brews over pageant
Beauty judge kicked off panel because of controversial Wiccan beliefs, group charges
By JENNY YUEN, SUN MEDIA
There was definitely some "double, double, toil and trouble" yesterday afternoon outside the Radisson Plaza Hotel Admiral on Queen's Quay W., where the Miss Toronto Tourism pageant was being held.
Local witches picketed for four hours in support of Stephanie Conover, the 23-year-old Miss Toronto Tourism Pageant judge ousted for her Wiccan beliefs.
"They're discriminating her based on their perception of what they deemed to be dark activity that's she involved in," said protest organizer Tracey Hayes. "I've had ministers who practise reiki (a Japanese healing art) who are just flabbergasted."
Conover, who retains the title of Miss Canada Plus, received an invitation to judge the pageant three weeks earlier but after listing her interests as reiki, yoga and tarot cards, the MTT committee kicked her off the panel.
In a letter, the committee said her beliefs were "not acceptable by God, Jews, Muslims or Christians."
At the rally, Conover told the Sun she plans to file a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission next week.
"I think it's a landmark case because there are a lot of religions that might be a little bit smaller and not get as much attention, but that doesn't mean they're any less valid or deserve any less respect," she said.
The pageant's director, Karyn Murray, declined comment.
But Miss Toronto Tourism board member Ainslie Baillie denied Conover's rejection was tied to Wiccan beliefs.
"This pagan conference was calling up our sponsors and threatening them," she said. "I was just told that she wasn't qualified. A lot of it has to do with judging experience, not religion."
Mias Santana-Piler, the pageant's 2001 winner, told the crowd of 25 outside that "everybody's entitled to their own opinion and respect. Karyn believes in her own way and remember,(this) is a privatized pageant. I wish Stephanie the best."
Protester Richard James, a member of the Wiccan Church of Canada, shot back, "If you wished Stephanie the best, why are you working for an organization that calls her not acceptable?"
Miss Toronto Tourism promotes the city's attractions and is not affiliated with Tourism Toronto or the city.
#2 Nov 27, 2008
Just to let everybody know, I was not involved in the decision to disqualify Stefanie as a judge.... I was told after the fact that 2 of the 3 board members (both of them born again Christians - which I am not) - I was the 3rd and not included in this decision which ultimately I resigned from the pageant on Monday,February 4th, as I did not agree with their decision and would never discriminate any human being.
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