Arnold, Charles

Arnold, Charles

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

A Vietnam War Veteran born in 1947 in Washington, D.C., Charles Arnold moved to Canada following his discharge from the army. There he became involved with the Wiccan Church of Canada and later, in 1984, founded the Spenweik Coven. He became executive director of Wicca Communitas and high priest of the Temple of the Elder Faith.

Arnold worked as a secretary in the Equine Center, Humber College of Applied Arts and Technology, in Toronto. In 1986 he went through the specified channels to apply for religious leave to celebrate the upcoming Wiccan sabbat of Beltane. That leave was denied by the authorities.

The college had a contract with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and in that contract it was stated that paid leave would be granted to employees for religious reasons. Arnold happened to be the vice-president of the local chapter of that union. He filed a grievance, which was also denied.

At subsequent meetings with the college authorities, Arnold was advised that the only way his application would be accepted would be if he could provide (i) a statement from the Canadian Council of Churches, recognizing Wicca as a religion (the Council does not formally recognize any religion); (ii) a statement from Revenue Canada to the effect that Wicca was a church (Revenue Canada recognizes only charitable corporations that have made application); and (iii) a letter from the head of Wicca stating that the holidays in question should be observed (there is no one leader of all Witchcraft, no "Witch Pope" or the equivalent). With the backing of the union, Arnold took the matter to arbitration.

The college's case proved to be a weak one, largely dismissing Arnold's claims as frivolous. For his part, Arnold gave solid testimony and was ably supported by Rev. Donald Evans, a minister of the United Church of Canada and teacher of philosophy of religion at the University of Toronto. The court ruled in Arnold's favor, coming down heavily on the side of Wicca and supporting it as a religion in its own right. In December of 1987 Wicca gained legal recognition as a religion in Canada for the first time.