Los Angeles Times examines Haiti's now-official Voodoo
As Weblog noted in April, Haiti President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former Catholic priest, has made Voodoo an officially recognized religion. Now, the Los Angeles Times reports, Voodoo priests or houngans soon will "be authorized to perform any civil service a Roman Catholic priest can, officiating at births, marriages and funerals."

"Voodoo has done everything for Haiti," Adnor Adely, a Voodoo priest, told the Times. "It gave us our independence, while the imported religions held us by the throat. We owe this to Aristide. He can be considered the president of Voodoo."

Voodoo has been legal in Haiti since the 1987 Haitian constitution. Given Voodoo's deep history and standing in Haiti, Aristide's move could be as much about political advantage as about freedoms. He is rumored to be attempting to change the nation's constitution in order to remain in office for a third term. He may now have the necessary support.

"Aristide is the only president in our history who has done something for us," said Adely. "We will stay with him forever and perform every ceremony necessary to keep him in power. We will not negotiate with any country on this, no matter how much pressure they put on us. We will eat rocks if we have to, as long as we can keep him in power."

The Catholic community in Haiti condemned Aristide's decision. In a statement, the bishop of Port-au-Prince, Msgr. Joseph Lafontant, said that giving Voodoo official status was "excessive." He also said that the application of the decree, that Voodoo priests can lead civil ceremonies and baptisms, is "an obvious mistake."

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