Before we dive into this story, this is the response that it got when I pitched it to the rest of the staff:
Alright, here it is: A New York City councilman named Dan Halloran is currently under investigation for federal bribery charges after cops say he tried to help a state senator, Malcolm Smith, buy his way onto the NYC mayoral ticket. While undergoing the investigation, cops (and reporters) discovered that Halloran is a member of a religion called Theodism, a pre-Christian Germanic sect. This is a pagan religion. And this would be where shit gets ridiculously weird:
Halloran converted in the 1980s from Catholicism to the pre-Christian Germanic religion, whose believers drink mead or whiskey from horns and dress like characters in a Renaissance fair.
He learned about their tough disciplinary code when he committed an undisclosed act against a female “thrall” — or probationary servant.
Fellow member Nick Ritter refused to discuss the episode, but said the punishment fit the crime.
“He was given a choice, “ Ritter said. “He was going to leave Theodism or stay and pay the piper.”
He was stripped to his waist, strapped to a tree and flogged with a belt 11 times.
Got that? A high-ranking New York politican is a member of a religion where, if you screw up, you're flogged by a man dressed as a Monty Python and the Holy Grail character. And, if you want to break off and start your own Theodestic sect, you must fight a duel with your former leader while using 7-foot-long tree spears. Oh yeah.
[In 1997,] Halloran plotted to “hive,” or form another splinter group.
To do so, he had to duel with Ritter in a treacherous game that involved chucking a 7-foot-long sapling tree spear at each other while 30 paces apart.
Halloran lost by a couple points.
“I didn’t hit him,” Ritter said. “But he missed a catch or dropped it a few times.”
Halloran got another pass, retained the rank of lord and still was able to hive an offshoot called New Normandy.
Halloran's New Normandy still exists—by all accounts, he's been able to balance his rituals with his civic duties.
This is not an Onion story. There are pictures. Go read the whole bizarre thing at the New York Post. I'm still trying to wrap my brain around it.