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Bush Administration finally allows Wiccan pentacle on veteran memorials

Last July the WaPo had a story about the Bush Administration’s insult to fallen soldier, Sgt. Patrick D. Stewart, who was Wiccan. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs refused to allow the pentacle symbol to be placed on the memorial marker, osetensibly because some fundie there heard “Wicca” and had visions of witches on brooms, warlocks casting spells, demon worship and all kinds of BS — nevermind that 38 other religions are recognized and acknowledged on the memorial markers for fallen soldiers’ graves.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit against the VA, and today a settlement was reached because — surprise — Bush is a religious bigot

Americans United’s attorneys uncovered evidence that the VA’s refusal to recognize the Pentacle was motivated by bias toward the Wiccan faith. President George W. Bush, when he was governor of Texas, had opposed the right of Wiccans to meet at a military base in that state. Bush’s opinion of Wiccans was taken into consideration when making decisions on whether to approve the Pentacle.

…”It is rank hypocrisy for this administration to claim publicly that it cares about religious freedom and equality but then to quietly and deliberately discriminate against a minority faith like Wicca,” [Ayesha N. Khan, AU legal director] said. “Until now, this administration’s view has been that Wiccans are good enough to fight for their country, but not good enough to be acknowledged with a proper headstone.”

Under the terms of the Circle Sanctuary v. Nicholson settlement, the federal government will recognize the right of Wiccans to have the pentacle made available as an emblem of belief for inscription on headstones, grave markers and memorial plaques. The VA will add the symbol to its list of available emblems of belief.

Blogger Deborah Lipp, who has been following this case, said:

This settlement happened because of the persistence of Roberta Stewart, widow of slain Iraqi war veteran Patrick Stewart, and of Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary, and of thousands of Pagans who wrote letters, signed petitions, blogged, and more. They all deserve enormous praise. I hope Ms. Stewart rests easier tonight.

Believe it or not, the Freepi were on board with this one…

Actual Freeper Quotes

Good for them. They fought for our country, there’s no reason not to bury them under the symbol of the faith that they’ve chosen.

But you know what? If you have died in the service of your country I figure you have earned the right to have what ever you want on your tombstone.

Whatever they want is fine by me.

Whatever they want is fine by me too. I have my own salvation to worry about.

The only people who will care are the families and friends of the fallen soldiers. Though I might disagree with their beliefs, I salute their sacrifice to their country.

Agreed. We should honor their sacrifice in whatever manner their families wish.

Die for this country, and you have earned the right to put just about anything you want on your headstone.

VA idiots. This should have been settled a long time ago. If you can put Wiccan on your dog tags, you can have a Wiccan symbol on your headstone.

Thank God! (Yes, I see the irony here)…

Why is this a problem? Not all of us bow to Jesus or Allah, you know.

Agreed. If our government allows Wiccans to serve in our military they should be allowed to have their symbol on their headstones.

If a man is good enough to die for his country, he deserves to have his faith respected in this one, final gesture.

How silly. The term “Wiccan” is a made-up word, but is supposed to be an “ancient” variant of the word “witch” in Middle English. So if “Wicca” has any meaning it refers to the pre-Christian pagan beliefs of English. In that pre-Christian milieu the “pentacle” was not a known symbol. It was introduced in the south of France in the 1300s by Christians who were playing at alchemy using symbols they found in Hebrew texts – and these symbols were not associated with pagan magic, but with the numerology of Kabbalah. The symbol has absolutely no ties to the mythical nature paganism that “Wicca” supposedly is.

Hmmmm, I’m sure the Cult of the Huge Phallus will have a neat design.

That all may be true and still be utterly irrelevant in this case. In the eyes of a secular government, all faiths should be treated equally.

Put whatever you want on your loved one’s tombstone, but enough with the “ancient, historic symbolism” of a religion that was made up in London less than a century ago.

“They fought for our country, there’s no reason not to bury them under the symbol of the faith that they’ve chosen.”

Agreed. This is American. They’ve fought for the right to believe any way we – or they – choose. It’s very sad this was the choice, but…

Frankly I don’t care if they want a Hula Girl or a #3 inscribed on their tombstone. If they died in the service of their country then their wished should be honored.

If this hero believed in it, if it was his faith, than it is every bit as legitimate as Christianity when it comes to recognizing his faith on his grave. I personally think that Scientology is a silly religion, but I would never be so crass as to say so to the grieving family of a military hero who wanted that symbol on his gravestone. All faiths were once new, after all. The important thing is honoring the wishes of our dead soldiers, not nitpicking those wishes.

H/t, Shakes Sis.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding