Fiscal court hears public comment on Crystal Coven Cottage controversy

Published 10:45 am Tuesday, April 30, 2024

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The discussion around a Winchester business shrouded in controversy continued at last Thursday’s Clark County Fiscal Court meeting.

Earlier in the week, a Winchester-Clark County Tourism Commission meeting was the arena for a contentious debate about the Crystal Coven Cottage.

A group of citizens, including District 4 Magistrate Mark Miller, were concerned that the tourism commission promoted an aura photo event held at the business in its monthly newsletter.

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Miller stated that citizens were concerned that an event promoted by an entity funded by taxpayer dollars held at a metaphysics shop violated the separation of church and state.

“It is spiritual in nature, and it is not a government-funded commission, such as tourism, to promote spirituality, such as Christianity,” he said at the meeting.

The shop’s owner, Shannon Tipton, contended that Crystal Coven Cottage is just a business with no religious affiliation.

Tipton was in attendance and spoke directly to the magistrates.

“I’m not here to ask for a resignation. I’m here to ask Magistrate Miller to stop recruiting, stop making statements about my business, and stop putting community members at harm,” Tipton said. “He has now endangered my life, and he has endangered the lives of the people at tourism because this generates hate. We now have a community separated and this is not what this community is about.”

She said that her business is just that—a business. She pays her city and county taxes like any other, and she had one request.

“I’m just asking that the hatred, the bigotry, and all of this stop,” Tipton said.

When asked for comment on the controversy, Miller directed the Sun to an already published statement he sent to Lexington television station WLEX.

“My name is Dr. Mark Miller, I am a Magistrate of Clark County, I am here to represent some of my constituents and other Clark countians in their First Amendment right to have their opinion heard. I’m not here to win, but to educate, clarify and resolve this issue.

In no way is anyone trying to say that the Crystal Coven needs to close its doors. 

The business has the right to be open, as any other small business in Winchester. 

And people in this community have the right to patronize this business, if they so choose. 

The people who object to this believe that the Tourism Department should not promote any business that sells Witchcraft materials. 

Others believe that tourism should not promote any type of spiritual events. Metaphysical shops are not spiritually neutral.

Because this matter is ‘spiritual in nature,’ people feel that it is not a Government Funded Commission’s job, such as Tourism, to promote ‘spirituality’ of any kind, even Christianity. (I may be wrong, but to my knowledge I don’t think that our tourism has promoted any church type of events.) 

Tourism’s focus should be on tourism, which is the practice of traveling for recreation and the guidance or management of tourists. 

They believe that Tourism needs to be neutral on divisive issues and cultural agendas.

Now some people believe that those who are objecting to this event are overreacting, and their view is unfounded. So, after some research, I’m here today to clarify and educate the tourism board on why they feel that way.”

Two individuals signed up to support Tipton and Crystal Coven Cottage during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“She’s a pretty good woman,” said Winchester resident Jamal Morton. “Some of the comments that I saw on the Internet about her and how this whole thing was conducted [were] kind of off to me. It seems like someone has a vendetta against her and her business. She has been running her business for quite a while and there [have] been no problems. So, I don’t understand why her business is in question right now…To me, this is pure bullying.”

Eighteen-year-old Lauren Woodring is a resident of District 4 and shared the following comments.

“This is not an issue about religion. This is an issue about morality. I believe in the separation of church and state. All I ask is this: is it moral to have an elected official mix the two?” Woodring questioned. “Is it moral to have an elected official…harass and incite active and false claims about a small local business? Absolutely not!”

Woodring said that Miller’s behavior set a poor example for the community and called for his resignation.

Winchester resident Tim Sparks said he was concerned about public money being used to promote the event help at the shop.

The fiscal court took no action on the issue.