Remember Bert Dahl, the pagan priest who complained that Beebe city officials and residents had prevented him from establishing a church and shop in his home because they learned he was a pagan? A huge crowd attended a City Council at which his zoning request was rebuffed. Many were avowed Christians objecting to a pagan operation.
He’s the subject of an extensive feature today in the New York Times.
Is Mr. Dahl’s dream of opening a Pagan temple next to his house being denied because the idea does not go over so well in this Bible Belt town? Was the 35-foot-tall lighthouse across the street — constructed by a Pentecostal church soon after Mr. Dahl moved to the neighborhood — flashing its light into his windows to harass him? And just what is a 35-foot lighthouse doing in landlocked Beebe anyway?
Mr. Dahl suspects the city government began discriminating against him once local officials realized he was a Pagan.
“If we’d had any inkling we’d have such problems we’d never have moved here,” Mr. Dahl said. “We’re absolutely being discriminated because of our religion.”
Mayor Mike Robertson reiterates what he’s told us — this is just a zoning issue. He suggests Dahl is just out trying to make some money for himself somehow. The mayor insists he never told Dahl that he’d never open anything pagan in his town.
The Pentecostals with the lighthouse also dispute Dahl’s allegation that they’d harassed him. A church spokesman said the lighthouse had long been in the works, to replace one destroyed by a 1999 tornado.
The mayor reportedly told Dahl he could perhaps succeed if he subdivided his property and built a new building, which Dahl said he can’t afford. He’s adamant that the fix is in. He noted the mayor’s posting of the Ten Commandments and our article about a newsletter in which the mayor wrote, “government has allowed nonbelievers far too many liberties taking God out of our daily lives.” Dahl noted that appeals to the city planning commission are to a body headed by the pastor of the church that built the lighthouse.