Background: Lady Ronna is a member of the SCA who, along with her chosen fighter, achieved the office of successor to the Prince and Princess of the Arizona group of the SCA Inc.
Lady Ronna does not and will not swear fealty to the Crown.
This caused a furor with the then Crown ...... much of which was apparently based on a personal dislike of Ronna and a neurotic need for fealty oaths as a means of controlling everyone around them.
Our story opens with Ronna's letter to the governing body of the SCA Inc, the Board of Directors (BOD):
Dear SCA Board Members: I understand that the Crown of Atenveldt and the Coronet of the Sun have asked you to hold an emergency Board meeting by conference call over the controversy in the Kingdom of Atenveldt arising from my inability to swear an oath of fealty to the Crown and Kingdom of Atenveldt. Her Grace Sedalia has told me our Crown wants you to sanction Their banishing me from the Royal Presence, because it would cause less harm to the Populace than an edict denying me the privilege of giving awards: and, our Coronet wants you to declare the October 1995 Solar Coronet List invalid, on the grounds that I, or His Excellency Danu and I, did something improper in entering the list without declaring my inability to swear fealty. I believe it is in the best interests of the SCA, the Kingdom of Atenveldt, and the Principality of the Sun for you to deny both requests, and respectfully ask you to do so. Instead, I ask that you uphold Her Grace Sedalias interpretation of the Governing and Policy Decision, that any SCA member who cannot give an oath of fealty be permitted in alternate form of oath. To now, many do not contend in lists, seek baronial thrones, or attempt to hold any office, because Atenveldt Law requires fealty; they cannot forswear their faith (i.e. Jewish, Islamic, and Jehovahs Witnesses, to name only a few) in favor of their recreation. Until recently, I faced the problem every time I wanted to contribute my energies in anything other than an informal venue. These posts can be opened to all members on an equal basis with a Governing and Policy Decision clarifying that :(1) anyone who cannot swear fealty must be permitted an alternate oath; and (2) no member may inquire into or use ones faith as a basis for determining whether one can contend in lists or hold any post or office. G&PD 6, particularly the last phrase, appears to mean this, but is unclear: nor shall any member discriminate against another upon grounds related to eithers system of belief. My husband, Master Petruccio, and I follow a faith that does not permit us to give an oath of fealty to the Crown and Kingdom of Atenveldt, or the Coronet and Principality of the Sun. Please bear with me as I explain only some of the strictures we observe: First, our faith governs all aspects of our lives, including our personal, business, and recreational pursuits. There are no distinctions between our mundane or real and SCA persons. The personae we present are the people we are: whatever oaths we give are binding on us in every aspect of our lives. We cannot carve out purposes or exceptions when we give an oath -- if we give it, we must stand by it in its entirety. This makes us extremely careful of the rare oaths we do give. Second, our deity is the only incorporeal, conceptual body to which we may give our oaths. We may give oaths to tangible sentient beings -- people -- but not to that which is not a conscious entity, such as the concepts of crown, kingdom, coronet, or principality.Third, and because of this governance, we cannot give oaths of fealty to groups of people that, largely, we have little if any deep personal knowledge of. By our faith, one pledging fealty quite literally says, I lay down my life for you. Using the word fealty requires us to take a personal stand and hand in the well-being, and conflicts, of the pledgee. Regrettably, fealty to varied, diverse and battling interests would doom one of our faith to being hopelessly mired in dispute, controversy, and out-and-out feuding. With such a drain on ones time and resources, however could one hope to pursue the gentler ideals of chivalry, honor and grace? In addition, such an oath permeates what others perceive as our mundane lives. Although an extreme example, it is very real to us that to honor the oath means we are duty-bound to try to pull a stuck pledgee out of a burning car, even to risking our lives. While these are not all the restraints we observe concerning oaths, or fealty, they are the paramount ones that prevent us from offering an oath that includes that particular word. We have similar constraints with homage and obey.'Consequently, neither Master Petruccio nor I have ever given a fealty oath to the Crown or Kingdom of Atenveldt, or to the Coronet or Principality of the Sun. Not can we give an oath to give such an oath. And pretty much anyone who knows us knows it.We have, however, not let our inability to give an oath of fealty stint our service to the baronies, principalities and Kingdom of Atenveldt. We have held office; autocratted events (including Master Petruccio co-autocratting Estrella War two years in a row); participated in demos; encouraged new and sustaining membership; bought the materials for and built over 150 costumes for others; and otherwise have done whatever we could to support and promote the SCA, both locally and at events beyond our local group. Where one of us serves, the other supports that sevice. Which brings us to a history behind the current conflagration. In 1992, Her Majesty Katerina was Katerina, Tanista of the Sun. I was then the Solar Regalia Officer. I came to that position under Their Excellencies Christopher and Katerinas predecessors, who understood my problem, and permitted me an oath of sevice so I could hold the office. In the week following Sir Christophers win at Coronet List, then-Tanista Katerina telephoned me at home. She was concerned that I did not give fealty. I confirmed that my faith doesnt permit it, and explained most of the above problems to Her. She then told me that I would either swear fealty or relinquish the office. Corpora, Kingdom and Principality Law then permitted this, so I resigned before the Investiture. I relate this incident only to make clear that Her Majesty Katerina has known for years that I dont give an oath of fealty. Since then, other Royalty have permitted me to give an oath of service rather than lose or quell my willingness to help. Then, sometime in the last year, Master Petruccio found himself in line for the Kingdom Heralds Office. Both Kingdom and Principality Law still required all officers to swear fealty, which, of course, he cannot. The problem prompted him to call Duchess Sedalia, the SCA Seneschal. Interpreting the Governing and Policy Decisions, She told him that no member of the SCA may be forced to give an oath of fealty, but must be permitted an alternate oath, i.e., that of sevice. We come forward now to early this fall, when Viscount Danu asked to champion me for Crown Tournament. I knew that, as a Knight and former Prince of the Sun, He gives fealty; I explained to Him I couldnt. Worried because Kingdom Law required me to do so, Master Petruccio spoke with Her Grace Sedalia. Her Grace said I had to be allowed an alternate oath. She also said for us not to worry about it until and unless His Excellency Danu won. On October 12, 1995, Viscount Danu delivered our letter of intent to Their Majesties, Mathghamhain and Katerina. Their Majesties told Him He was acceptable for Their list, but I was not. He asked Them why, and They ultimately said it resulted from the Newman situation that happened a couple of years ago. I wrote Their Majesties for written details after I learned of this exchange. It sits where Her Majestys telephone message refusal left it: I didn't pursue it then, in part because Viscount Danu specifically asked both the Crown and the Coronet if they had any difficulty with us participating in Coronet List. Both of them responded with No. Part of the reason Viscount Danu and I wanted to sit hat was that we hoped for the chance to bring back good humor and to inject the concept of fun back into things. We wanted to at least try. Before the Coronet List, Viscount Danu and I had several discussions about fealty. I am just as confident He didnt have a thought about it being a problem, as I am that I didnt; and from Her Graces assurances, we simply quit thinking about it. It was during the week following the list that I first talked with Her Grace Sedalia myself. I now had a responsibility to the people of the Principality, and I wanted to hear with my own ears that what Master Petruccio conveyed to us was true (I know doing that irritates him, but if I stop, I worry myself frazzled). If I had to step away from the Principality Throne because I cant give fealty, I wanted to do it right then, before anyone was hurt or harmed. And Her Grace assured me, again, that it was not a problem; that I must be permitted an alternate oath. She also asked us to wait to say anything about needing an alternate oath, until after She sent the Crowns and the Crown Seneschals reminder letters about the interpretation. She said Shed be doing that around the first week of December. But, She said, dont wait until the last week before Investiture to tell Them; They might not take kindly to such a surprise, and might think I was trying an end run around them. Well, that made perfect sense to me, though Id wanted to tell Them right then. So we waited. I called Her Grace during the week of December 10, on other matters. In our conversation, I asked Her if Shed sent the reminders; She said She had (I dont recall now if She said Shed sent them November 28 or 29, but theyd gone out). She was surprised the Post returned the one to our Kingdom Seneschal for insufficient postage; all were the same weight and postage. But our Crowns had not come back to Her, so She believed it would be okay now for us to talk with our Crown about structuring an alternate oath. Viscount Danu talked with our Crown about it. When He was done, He told me it went well: They ultimately sounded like they had no problem with it, and we were to submit a proposed oath. I was shocked when, in the afternoon of Thursday, December 21, Danu called me and said Hed started getting calls from former sitting hats who were His fighting friends. The gist of it was our Crown called selected past Coronets and Crowns, telling Them I wouldnt swear fealty. Only one Ive talked to said They said anything about an alternate oath. Instead, the rumors were our Crown would decree our Level 1 banishment; They would not let us sit court; They wouldnt let us give awards; and they wouldnt let us sign anything during our reign. Our Crown did not call or discuss it with me, or with Viscount Danu beyond Their conversation related above. To Her credit, Her Highness Brianna called me that evening. In our talk, I explained I was trying to work out wording for an alternate oath. She said She understood my reasons, that the Coronet was going to stay out of this conflict, and to ask our Kingdom Seneschal if I wanted to know what actions the Crown was contemplating. At Her Graces urging, I personally presented alternate forms of an investiture oath and oaths to peers, officers, and populace (copies are reproduced following this letter) to Their Majesties Mathghamhain and Katerina on December 27. Please note, the Consort only began giving an investiture oath with the changes in Corpora, Kingdom and Principality Law of the last few years. Those changes define the Crown and Coronet as the Sovereign and Consort acting together, or in concert. I am disheartened that my inability to swear fealty is the central issue in such a mess. I dont understand how that can be so well known, and by Her Majesty, and any could still believe Ive done anything dishonorable. We specifically gave our Crown and Coronet the opportunity to stop us from entering Coronet List, and They said they had no problems with it. Im having trouble grasping how I can act on the assurances, information, advice and recommendations of the SCA Seneschal, but be the object of Their Majesties and Their Highnesses requests before you.I dont see how banishing me from the Royal Presence, or not letting me fulfill the obligations of this position does the Populace any good. In my view, any upheaval over this will cause controversy and division among the Populace, particularly when they learn the root issue is one of religious faith. Viscount Danu and I have been cooperative and compliant with Her Graces and Their Majesties requests of us. We believe we should be permitted to fulfill the only obligation we assumed by swearing the Sword Oath at Coronet List: to rule to the best of our ability. If any of you need to ask me any questions or clarify anything I am at you pleasure. Please call (phone number deleted). If I am not immediately available, Ill be happy to return your call. As ever, I remain in service to the Kingdom of Atenveldt, the Principality of the Sun, and faithful to the Dream. Ronna, Tanista of the Sun mka: Ronna Hodges
SCA Board of Directors Meeting Minutes July 22, 1995: 6. Policy Ruling - "That should a person be unable to take an oath of fealty, whose exact language is prescribed in Kingdom Law, that might be required to participate in a particular capacity (such as a Kingdom Officer or in Crown Lists) for religious reasons, that person should not be barred from participation for exercising their religious freedom. In such a case alternative wording, acceptable to the Crown as well as the individual involved, must be made available."
..... now let's look at: -Lady Ronna's Alternative Oath- This day do I swear my service, duty and loyalty to my Sovereign Lord and Lady, Their Majesties _____________ and _____________. I will in all ways serve, defend and protect Them, following Their commands faithfully in Their Reign; and will guard, defend, and rigorously protect, against every creature and with all my power, the principles and ideals of Chivalry; the Honor and Rights of the Peers of Atenveldt, my peers, and all subjects of the Principality of the Sun; and this Coronet, my sacred trust,endeavoring ever to prove myself worthy of the noble title [Prince/ss] of the Sun. In swear this day that no person who will not guard, defend and protect the principles of Chivalry; nor the honor and rights of the subjects of the Solar Coronet, and in particular those priveledges ordained by statute and established by custom to be the exclusive perogatives of the Nobility; nor will swear or affirm by this solemn oath so to do, shall if suffer to hold this, the Solar Coronet, after me. Of this, my Oath, I reserve and save only my duty to that which I hold sacred and holy. So say I, [name], [Tanist/a] of the Sun, until the Crown shall pass from Their hands, the Coronet shall pass from my hands, or the world end. ------------------------------------------------------- ...why was the Crown not willing to entertain an oath that was, in all ways save the actual use of the word "fealty," a fealty oath? Were their actions re: Lady Ronna motivated by a concern for the Kingdom, or personal, darker motives? Only they can answer that question. ...note that Viscount Sir Danu was persuaded to abdicate before his coronation, by the Chivalry of Atenveldt. This made the whole uproar moot, realtive to Ronna, but .....
..... THEN the Crown passed THIS law ......
passed into Atenveldt Kingdom Law: Dec 27 1995:III. GREAT OFFICERS AND GENERAL OFFICES OF STATE A.2.a. Be prepared to swear an Oath of Fealty to the Crown of Atenveldt and to the Kingdom, [add: If for religious reasons only, the officer cannot swear an Oath of Fealty and wishes to swear an Oath of Service instead, a declaration must be included in the letter of consideration for the office. The declaration must be submitted to each Crown Prince and Princess one week before their Coronation] IV. LESSER OFFICERS AND OFFICES OF STATE A.2.b. Be prepared to swear an Oath of Fealty to the Crown of Atenveldt and to the Kingdom, [add: If for religious reasons only, the officer cannot swear an Oath of Fealty and wishes to swear an Oath of Service instead, a declaration must be included in the letter of consideration for the office. The declaration must be submitted to each Crown Prince and Princess one week before their Coronation] IV. CROWN TOURNAMENT A.10. To be willing to swear an oath of Fealty to the Crown of Atenveldt and to the Kingdom, should they win. [add: If for religious reasons only, a fighter or consort can not swear an oath of Fealty, they must submit in writing to the Crown and Kingdom Seneshal a declaration. This declaration must be received by the Crown and Kingdom Seneshal one week prior to the Crown Tournament. Should the fighter or consort making the declaration win the tournament, they will not be able to accept oaths of Fealty from, or give oaths of Fealty to, the Landed Royalty, the Peers, any officers, or the populace.] XI. SUCCESSION OF THE CROWN D. The Crown shall call a Curia Regis should either the prospective Sovereign or Consort [add: 1.] fail to appear [add: at their own Coronation] if there is sufficient evidence to suggest that this failure was through personal malfeasance [add: or 2. if they refuse to swear an oath of Fealty at their own Coronation and a declaration was not recieved as stated in Section X/A/10. of this law.] E. Should the decision of the Crown at the Curia Regis be that the prospective Sovereign or consort failed [add: to appear at their Coronation] through personal malfeasance [add: or failed to meet the Fealty requirements as outlined in section X.A.10. of this law] then the prospective Sovereign and Consort shall be disqualified from attaining the Crown and their titles of Crown Prince and Crown Princess shall be [delete: removed] [add: forfeit.]
From CORPORA: (the basic governing document of the SCA Inc)
6. POLICY ON RELIGION (June 1980, revised July 1988) (italics added)Having no wish to recreate the religious conflicts of the period under study, the Society for Creative Anachronism, Incorporated, shall neither establish nor prohibit any system of belief among its members. No one shall perform any religious or magical ceremony at a Society event (or in association with the name of the Society) in such a way as to imply that the ceremony is authorized, sponsored, or promulgated by the Society or to force anyone at a Society event, by direct or indirect pressure, to observe or join the ceremony. However, this provision is in no way intended to discourage the study of historical belief systems and their effects on the development of Western culture. Except as provided herein, neither the Society nor any member acting in its name or that of any of its parts shall interfere with any person's lawful ceremonies, nor shall any member discriminate against another upon grounds related to either's system of belief.
.... do we have a case of religious discrimination here? .... judge for yourself. And now (May 20, 1996) the U.S. Supreme Court has decided -against- the Colorado anti-gay rights law because it establishes a class of people and then discriminates against them. Is that not what this law does?