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MailTribune.com
  • Ashland shaman claims land is sacred

    Couple want to convert their home into a spiritual center; opponents counter that they're trying to create a tax-free motel
  • Divine intervention played a pivotal role in the creation of the Ashland spiritual retreat known as the Circle of Teran, supporters told Jackson County commissioners Wednesday.
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  • Divine intervention played a pivotal role in the creation of the Ashland spiritual retreat known as the Circle of Teran, supporters told Jackson County commissioners Wednesday.
    "I do feel that divine inspiration is tangible there," said Ashland resident Harriett Rex Smith.
    About 24 supporters and several opponents attended a public hearing to consider converting an 11,000-square-foot private residence into a church on property owned by Sulara and Scott Young. Scott Young is an Ashland plastic surgeon and shaman.
    Young said the land historically has been used for sacred ceremonies. "The land is sacred and we are stewards of the land," he said.
    Gary Lake, vice chairman of Shasta Nation, condemned Young's account, saying the Butler Creek Road center is using native religious beliefs to "hawk" its own brand of religion.
    "He's piggy-backing on 1,000 years of Shasta culture," said Lake. "New religious rights are trampling over old religious customs and beliefs."
    Lake said the development of the property will end up destroying sites considered sacred by the Shasta Nation, which he said hasn't been consulted by Young regarding the property.
    Commissioners C.W. Smith and Dave Gilmour listened to both sides and decided to continue the matter until 1:30 p.m. Wednesday (see correction note below) at the Jackson County Courthouse auditorium, 10 S. Oakdale Ave. Commissioner Jack Walker, who is recovering from surgery, watched the hearing at home.
    Ashland attorney Chris Hearn presented a traffic study and a master plan that county planning staff required as part of a zoning exception to allow a church to be built within three miles of an urban growth boundary and to change the zoning from exclusive farm use to limited use.
    County staff also asked for a list of alternative sites where the church could be placed within the area, but Hearn said the residence built by the Youngs was the only place the church could be built.
    "They were led to this site by divine providence," said Hearn.
    Sulara Young said the land-use laws are unconstitutional because they are preventing the operation of their church.
    "To deny this exception is to deny our religious freedoms," she said.
    She said the Circle of Teran doesn't allow drugs, smoking or alcohol on the property. Young said the church has been created to serve God and humanity. "We did not build it for our personal gain."
    Ashland resident Wendy Seldon asked commissioners to consider the higher purpose offered by this spiritual center that may not be easily understood.
    "You have a belief system that you don't understand and that you may not believe in," she said.
    Medford resident Dee Westerberg said the Circle of Teran could become a center that facilitates conflict resolution.
    "I think it could be a world-class retreat," she said, pointing out the irony that the center has become the focus of so much controversy in this county.
    Ashland resident Naomi Marie attested to the inspirational, transcendent feeling she gets visiting the Circle of Teran and the deep religious convictions of the Youngs.
    "Being with them is like praying," she said.
    Marie said it was difficult to discuss something that she thought was so spiritual in the context of land-use laws.
    "I understand you have a difficult task," she said. "You're dealing with a spiritual issue through legislation."
    Lee Weisel, a neighbor and one of the principal opponents of the Youngs' plans, said it was difficult to argue against divine providence.
    But he said the Youngs only had one choice where they could place their house because that's the only location the county had decided it could be placed on the property.
    "For some strange reason divine providence has been very flexible," he said.
    He said the Youngs have previously stated that the place of power on the property was located at Squaw Peak, about a mile away from their residence. "Essentially, they are deceiving the county," Weisel said.
    Squaw Peak is also about a mile away from a new residence the Youngs are building, said Weisel, suggesting that spot could have been just as good for the church.
    He said the religion practiced by the Youngs, Huichol Shamanism, is obscure, and from his research he said a structure wasn't necessary for its practice at a place of power.
    Weisel said the Youngs want a place for events and concerts, which have already been held on the property, that don't have anything to do with this religion.
    "This is nothing more than an effort to create a tax-free motel and event center," said Weisel.
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.
    Correction: The original version of this story included an incorrect day for the continued hearing. This version has been corrected.
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