We are the Maetreum of Cybele, a 501(c)3 incorporated religious organization and charity. Our mission is to revive the worship of the Great Mother Goddess. Our thealogy is based on the tenets of Immanence – we believe that we and everyone and everything else that exists is an expression of the Goddess, consensus-based decision making and hospitality. Our organization was founded in 1999 and in 2002 we purchased a historic inn the the hamlet of Palenville, New York, located in the Catskill mountains in furtherance of our mission. We use the property as worship space, church offices, retreat space for our priestesses and others who seek it as well as providing emergency charitable housing for women in need.
Over the years, we have provided housing for more than 35 women (and even a few men) in need for periods ranging from one night to over a year. We serve populations that tend to receive inadequate assistance from the conventional shelter system, primarily single women without children and transgendered women. We have also provided donations of food clothing and furniture to needy local people. We raised funds for GLBT victims of Hurricane Katrina and also provided housing for local women who were affected when Hurricane Irene devastated our area last year. We have also held food drives via Pagan Pride Day.
In 2006, we applied to our municipality, the Town of Catskill, for a property tax exemption and were granted it. The next year, following a change in personnel in the town government, the exemption was taken away with no explanation. We have been fighting to get it restored ever since. What should have been a simple judicial review taking no more than six months has dragged on for several years and culminated in a trial last year that did not go our way. The decision was specifically slanted against small groups in general and will affect pagan groups in particular. You can read the decision at our website, http://www.gallae.com
We are now in the process of filing an appeal and this matter will need to go up to the higher levels of New York’s court system. Unfortunately, we have been unable to find a pro bono attorney to take the case and many of the legal advocacy organizations that we contacted were unable to help, either, thus forcing us to foot the legal bills ourselves. These have now exceeded $30,000 over the years (and, mind you, we have never even taken in $30,000 in a year!). According to our best estimates, the Town of Catskill has spent easily six figures of taxpayer money on our case: more than they could ever get from either taxes on the property or proceed from a foreclosure sale! The Town Supervisor even went on the record and tolhtd a reporter for the local paper, the Daily Mail, that the town considers us to be an “illegitimate religion”. They have not done this to any other local religious group or church.
We are asking for $5,000. This is a conservative estimate for what we are going to need to continue this battle.
To us, the property is sacred ground. It features the first temple that has been built dedicated to the goddess, Cybele in 1,600 years, since the Fall of Rome. We believe that the Goddess herself has led us here and wants us to continue this fight.
I took time to donate to the Maetreum and I hope those of you reading will take time to consider it. Even a small donation would help, and the if you’re Pagan or Heathen, supporting Pagan charities and monasticism helps us help ourselves, it helps others realize that we are a real religion and that we are vital, caring, contributing members of our communities. Thanks for reading.