Wiccan professor sues Catholic university in New York for discrimination

National and World

ALLEGANY, NY (CNN Newsource) – A former associate professor in New York says the fact she is a practicing witch cost her promotions at her university. Now she’s suing the school.

Pauline Hoffmann is an associate professor at St. Bonaventure University. She’s also a practicing Wiccan — a witch.

She claims to be the target of discrimination by the university based on her religion and gender.

“I felt pressured to be quiet about being Wiccan and then after a certain point, I did just feel the pressure that, ‘OK, they clearly don’t want me in this job,'” Hoffmann said. “It almost wasn’t worth it for me, and it was emotionally and physically taxing for me.”

According to a federal lawsuit, Hoffmann claims St. Bonaventure University caused her to resign her position as dean of the school of communication, which caused a reduction in pay.

The suit also alleges she was denied a promotion to the position of provost.

Both jobs eventually went to men.

“In my regular meetings with the provost, my boss at the time, he would say, ‘We need to solve the Pauline problem. They’re telling me this and they want me to fire you, but I’m in charge so I’m not going to.’ But, again, they couldn’t tell me what the problem was,” Hoffmann said.

She claims the university required her to sign a document vowing to uphold Catholic values in May 2012.

“When I was asked to sign that paper, it didn’t seem odd to me necessarily because I shared those same values, share the mission of the university. Just because I’m a different religion doesn’t mean that I don’t share those values,” she said.

According to the lawsuit, Hoffmann was told by the school’s provost at the time, “You might not want to be so overt about being a witch if you want to move up.”

The suit also claims Hoffmann was told by another university official, “I took a big chance hiring you as a Wiccan.”

“When I went up for the dean’s job outright, they kind of hemmed and hawed,” she said. “Then they had told me that one of the issues that they were having is that I’m Wiccan.”

Hoffmann is being represented by Atty. Lindy Korn, who says her office has seen a dramatic jump in discrimination cases based on religion.

“Compared to the past, the caseload based on religious discrimination has doubled. It’s an emotional trigger because most people’s faithbase is spiritual and emotional,” Korn said. “So when it goes to the core, then discrimination can raise its ugly head.”

Richard Perry, who serves as co-counsel with Korn, said discrimination cases are about intent.

“We know what they’ve done. They’ve taken certain steps. They didn’t give her the provost position, they wanted her to resign as dean. Those things came to pass and they made those happen. The question here is why did they do it?”

“I’m still persevering,” Hoffmann said. “I love my job. I love my students. I love what I do.”

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