Religion in Westarctica
The role of religion in Westarctica is currently an area of only limited social concern by the country's government and peoples. Westarctica distinguishes itself from many other sovereign nations in that it does not place religious restrictions nor enforce religious laws or edicts on any of its citizens, nor does it limit the availability of diplomatic visas for entry or exit from the country's borders for religious reasons.
However, previously, religion played a very significant role in the shaping of Westarctica's national character.
- 1 Religion in the Achaean Territory
- 2 Adoption of Christianity as National Religion
- 3 Religion during the Reign of Grand Duke Philip
- 4 Religion during the Reign of Grand Duke Jon-Lawrence
- 5 Religion during the Transitional Government
- 6 Religion during the second reign of Grand Duke Travis
- 7 Ecumenical Church of Westarctica
- 8 External links
Religion in the Achaean Territory
When the territory of Westarctica was first claimed in 2001 as the Achaean Territory, the country largely followed the religious inclination of its leader, Consul-General Travis McHenry. The trend among many of the nobles at that time was a general sense of agnostic irreligion. However, the Consul-General himself was a semi-practicing Classical Pantheist who predominantly worshiped the gods of the ancient Greek Pantheon as well as Alexander the Great (who was considered by the Egyptians and the Persians to be a living god, and later, by the Greeks as member of the Pantheon).
Thus, Classical Pantheism showed its mark on the naming of the territory itself (Achaea is a region of ancient Greece) as well as the naming of Achaea's capital city (Achilles, after the mythological hero of The Iliad). The Coronation of the Consul-General occurred in a castle utilized by Alexander the Great during his conquest of Asia Minor (Turkey) and the crown used was a solid gold circlet carved in the shape of a laurel wreath in the style of a Roman civic crown.
Additionally, the Consul-General made routine sacrifices of food and money to the deities Alexander, Poseidon, and Athena.
Adoption of Christianity as National Religion
In June 2004, the Consul-General underwent a religious conversion and became a born-again Christian as publicly declared in the 13 June 2004 Statement of Faith. As part of a reorganization of the government of the Achaean Territory, all previous legal codes were abolished and the Grand Ducal Mandate became the new law of the land. At this time, the country changed its name to Westarctica, and adopted a new flag with a cross and crown design.
Although the Grand Ducal Mandate explicitly guaranteed "freedom of religion to all religions" (in Chapter II, Article 4, Section 2, Subsection H), Chapter VI, dealing with special religious clauses, declared Protestant Christianity to be the state religion of Westarctica and also awarded remuneration and pensions to religious leaders. Article 60 stated:
Article 60: National Religion
(1) The official religion of the Grand Duchy shall be Protestant Christian.
(2) The state-sponsored church shall enjoy the special protection of the government and the Grand Duke.
Religious activities of the government
Seeing himself as a leader who was obligated to publicly live by the standards of Christianity, the Grand Duke married his partner, the Marquise of Walgreen after dating for only seven months. Just as quickly, he integrated aspects of religion into the foreign affairs of Westarctica when he reached out to the leaders of Christian-themed micronations as well as macronational monarchies with Protestant or Catholic rulers.
On 23 March 2005, the first Minister of Theocratic Affairs was appointed to advise and guide the Grand Duke on religious matters. The following April, a religious order of knighthood, the Holy Order of The Cross was instituted and the first knighthood bestowed upon the recently deceased Pope John Paul II. Sixteen days later, the Grand Duke wrote to the Presidents of Laos and Eritrea requesting the release of religious prisoners kept in their countries.
Religion during the Reign of Grand Duke Philip
Following Grand Duke Travis' 2006 abdication from the throne, power was passed to his successor, Grand Duke Philip, who listed his religious affiliation as "eclectic," but was essentially a practicing Neopagan.
This was at a time when 70% of Westarctica's population officially identified as Christian and, when discounting the agnostic population, the various sects of Christianity were followed by 93% of all citizens who identified with any religion.
Less than two months after the transfer of power, there was an explosive series of arguments between the cabinet ministers in Westarctica's government forum. A variety of charges and accusations were made against Jon-Lawrence Langer, the Duke of Moulton-Berlin by several of his fellow ministers. According to His Grace, the accusations included:
I have been publicly accused of treason, sedition against the United States of America, not being christian, being evil, and few charges that I fail to recollect at the moment.
Travis, I am truly and deeply disgusted with Westarctica. They lied about me. They hid evidence of their wrong doing. I can never trust any of them in the future. You are a good man. Sadly, you are also the exception.
This altercation, where religion was not the central issue, but still included on the periphery, marked the beginning of the end of Westarctica's prestige and ability to function as a sovereign government. The fact that the new Minister of Theocratic Affairs was involved with the turmoil only made matters more difficult to resolve.
In 2007, an announcement was made on Westarctica's official website by the Minister of Affairs, Lady Thurston that a new religious enclave would be carved out of Thurston Island, which was ruled over by her daughter, Her Highness, the Princess of Thurston. Although it was presented with the caveat that the project would not interfere with Westarctica's freedom of religion policy, the core idea was described as:
We desire to create a place where officials from governments around the world may come to find out the collective Protestant view on various social, political, moral and faith issues of the day. “I lift my eyes up unto the hills from whence cometh my help,” say the Psalms.
Since the Vatican is simply the name of a hill, the Princess of Thurston has kindly set aside a hill on a portion of the Isle of Thurston for the development of an actual edifice. As befits its future installation, it shall be called “The Thurston.” Until such time as we have a visual embodiment of our ideals, the Thurston is currently “virtual.” Hebrews teaches us that faith is belief in both the seen and the unseen, so we should have no difficulty with the idea of a virtual Thurston!
Although the project never came to fruition as intended, its mere existence highlights the importance of Christianity and religion in general during the reign of Grand Duke Philip.
Religion during the Reign of Grand Duke Jon-Lawrence
As a Knight of the Holy Order of The Cross, the new Grand Duke had already been recognized for his devotion to Christianity, but having learned from the mistakes of the previous ruler, after he assumed the throne in 2008, Grand Duke Jon-Lawrence did not make the advancement of religious principles a significant part of his government's agenda.
Religion during the Transitional Government
By the time Travis McHenry seized control of the government of Westarctica again in mid-2010, he had renounced religion entirely and was no longer practicing any form of religious worship and considered himself an atheist. Or, as he once phrased it: "A spiritual atheist. I might believe in ghosts, but not God."
To highlight the lack of religious influence in the new government, the flag was changed from the cross and crown to a more republican tricolor. The Prime Minister, the Duke of Waesche, a Wiccan High Priest, ordained through the Universal Life Church, was the real power in the government and had total authority to create laws, sign treaties, and engage in relations with other countries.
Religion during the second reign of Grand Duke Travis
In November 2014, Travis decided that he would once again bear the cloak of royalty and was elevated from being "Protector of Westarctica" to Grand Duke of Westarctica. At this time, he redesigned Westarctica's flag and created a more attractive version of the original cross and crown motif. He also declared "God Save Westarctica" to be the nation anthem again. These very public changes were intended as an overture to citizens who joined during the years when Christianity was the National Religion to let them know their presence was welcome in the nation.
Current legal status of religion
The Charter of Westarctica guarantees freedom of religion for all citizens. Grand Duke Travis has stated that in the future, his own personal religious choices shall remain his own and will not permeate the national identity of the government or the country.
Ecumenical Church of Westarctica
On 20 December 2018, Grand Duke Travis informed the Royal Council that he had approved the creation of a ecumenical church in Westarctica. The idea for a Westarctican church was first proposed by Dr. Hans Kempe, the Duke of Howe, and Westarctica's Consul-General to the European Union. Since Dr. Kempe had been an ordained Senior Bishop in the Philippine Ecumenical Christian Church since 2005, he was uniquely suited to serve as leader of the new church.
The Ecumenical Church of Westarctica is not a state church, nor does it represent an official religious position of the nation. It was officially incorporated as a church on 25 December 2018.