From the April 2001 Idaho Observer:

2001 Rainbow Gathering: Will Americans retain the right to peaceably assemble?

The Rainbow Family, like every sub group of American culture whose ways challenge federal authority, has been subject to bashing by the media. The intent has been to create fear and loathing in the minds of Americans whose world view is created for them through TV and dominant media hype. Is the stereotype of a Rainbow, an unwashed, disease-carrying, drug abusive shop lifter accurate or has it been created to demonize people who responsibly demand their rights to peaceably assemble in our forests? Rainbows who refuse to give up their (our) rights are going to prison for their beliefs. Shall we allow the dominant media to form our opinions or shall we form them from our own experiences? Shall we presume that freedom is to be granted only to those who believe as we believe or shall we unite and stand against our common enemy -- organized oppression?

by Arelim Steiner

Freedom fighters come in many shapes and sizes. Some carry arms to defend their homeland during war. Others, perched on a 'soap-box', expound on political philosophy. Throwing away their weaponry, some sharpened their quills to carve out a safe niche for themselves and loved ones. The world map is continually changing by those fleeing oppression.

Modern freedom fighters don't all wear uniforms. Microphones and PA systems may be their specialized tools; the airways their battleground. Some wear dresses and suits in cities on weekdays and go to church on Sundays. Some wear loin cloths and face paint in the national forests. For the last 30 years, thousands have gathered each July from all states of the Union defending the right of the people to assemble peaceably, to associate freely, to redress grievances and to worship, each according to their own beliefs, in the cathedral of nature and pray for peace.

The Rainbow Family of Living Light is an amorphous group without leaders or doctrine gathering together in peaceful respect. Peoples of diverse backgrounds and interests gather together as individuals, exercising rights reserved to all in the First Amendment of the Constitution. It is the people assembled.

A self-sufficient community, the Gathering has an economy all its own. All labor is volunteer. Coordinated supply buys food in bulk. Kitchens prepare meals, bake treats and serve teas and coffee 24/7. Latrines and compost pits are dug. CALM (Center for Alternative Living Medicine) is staffed by Docs (MDs and NDs), Nurses, EMTs, specialized healing practitioners, midwives and counselors. Kid Village provides magical, diverse activities to engage kids of all ages. Music is in the air everywhere. The magic hat is circulated throughout camp to receive monies from the able. All is free and none are refused for lack of greenbacks. Although Franciscan friars, Hare Krishnas, Born-again Christians, Muslims, Orthodox Jews and the religiously undefined may pray in circle and break bread together, loving kindness is the one doctrine followed by all.

Consensus is the "rule of thumb" for all matters on the floor from daily operating procedures to banking council to vision planning. Participation is the key. Each opinion is of value. All are encouraged to speak their mind and a general agreement must be reached before the agenda moves ahead.

The question of peaceably gathering on public lands has become an area of bureaucratic disharmony. Over the years the Forest Service has promulgated rules foreign to constitutional intent. Rainbows contend the regs restrict rights guaranteed us by the Constitution and grant the Forest Service broad discretion to withhold permission for the people's use of lands held in trust for them.

Does the process support the public interest? The Forest Service (FS) asks that a representative of any prospective group of 75 or more persons must sign a non-commercial use permit. Under Title 36 CFR 251of their regulations a designated representative must sign a petition and first gain approval from a representative of the FS regulatory hierarchy in order to occupy land held in trust for us and our posterity.

Awareness that the public lands are a precious national asset is at the very heart of the Gathering consciousness. The operating standard of the gatherers has more often than not well surpassed the traditional guidelines of the Forest Service. As a matter of fact, it was Rainbow gatherers who perfected FS Operating Plans for use during Free Assembly Gatherings. It has long been the ethic of the Rainbow gatherers to restore the forest land to its pristine beauty.

The Rainbows, individual citizens with no chiefs or leaders, have consistently refused to acknowledge FS authority to nullify their constitutional rights. Without abrogating any rights themselves, Rainbows refuse to sign and respond with the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof: or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

While the constitutional questions are being raised in the higher courts, local jurisdictions have had to decide the fate of individuals ticketed. Three targeted gatherers have been convicted for gathering without permission at the 2000 Montana Gathering. Three individuals from the 1999 Pennsylvania Gathering have been convicted and have appealed to the United States Supreme Court. At Rainbow-style Free Assembly Gatherings all around the nation, people are being cited and sentenced to Federal prison and still no one will sign away the constitutional rights and liberties of the yet unborn.

The most recent harassment was the expulsion of a Christian outreach group in the Florida Ocala National Forest for ministering to a Rainbow-style gathering. Even though they had paid the fee requested, Logos Christian Fellowship was given 24 hours to leave the forest or face prosecution.

Now big business, the FS Incident Command Team (ICT) has a $500,000 budget to oversee Gatherings.

The militarization of the National Forest is a real threat to the sanctuary of our public lands and the liberty of the people. Selective enforcement without prejudice has not been the way of the past. As has been stated by FS officials, all who attend the Gathering are subject to ticketing, whether participant or spectator, for practicing their guaranteed constitutional rights.

How has mere presence in the National Forest been criminalized? The Forest Service regulations change a right into a privilege forcing citizens from constitutional protection and the Common Law and placing them under the Uniform Commercial Code. The legal question is: Do the people, in order to collectively exercise rights held individually, first have to form a structure in a prescribed or dictated manner?

Securing our freedoms in a country for the People and by the People was the vision of our nation's founders. The mantle has fallen to Rainbow gatherers to safe keep the right of all Americans to assemble on public lands. Maintaining those freedoms rests on all of us.

It has been said that we humans will sacrifice a great deal of freedom for a little bit of security. It has also been said that those who do deserve neither. Review the record, read the FS regulations, reread the First Amendment of the Constitution, support the truth and come gather!


A registered Nurse and Naturopath, Arelim Steiner has volunteered with the American Society of Medical Missionaries at Rainbow Gatherings and other Free Assembly Gatherings for several years. Involved in health education for home and field, Arelim lives and teaches in North Idaho.


Note: Rumors that the 2001 Rainbow Gathering was to take place in north Idaho/eastern Washington was met with media hype that area residents would be forced to pay for increased police presence. For what? To protect the citizens or to help the federal government enforce unconstitutional laws designed to prevent all of us from peaceably assembling in public forests? The Gathering will take place July 1-7. The location has yet to be announced.

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