Wednesday, April 25, 2007

God Bless Those Pagans

Administration Yields on Wiccan Symbol

Pentacle to Be Permitted on Tombstones in U.S. Military Burial Grounds

Facing lawsuits by veterans and their families, the Bush administration relented yesterday and agreed to allow the Wiccan pentacle -- a five-pointed star inside a circle -- on tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery and other U.S. military burial grounds.

The Department of Veterans Affairs previously had given veterans a choice of 38 religious symbols, including numerous forms of the Christian cross, as well as the Jewish Star of David, the Muslim crescent, the Buddhist wheel and an atomic symbol for atheism.

But, for nearly a decade, the department had refused to act on requests for the pentacle, without a clear reason. VA spokesman Matt Burns said that approximately 10 applications were pending from adherents of Wicca, a blend of witchcraft and nature worship that is one of the country's fastest-growing religions. more

I for one am glad to see this happen for several reasons. First anyone who lays down their life for this country should be able to to have the symbol of their religion on their tombstone (even the very strange Church of the Sub-Genius whose symbol is this:)

Secondly Wiccans (and other Pagans that hold the same symbol sacred) are the only religious group that I know of that are frequently discriminated against when wearing their religious symbol openly. I know of numerous Pagans that were asked by their employer not to wear their pentacle openly at work and actually saw a lady go ballistic and demand that a cashier be fired for wearing hers in plain view.

Additionally the Wiccan faith has come under attack repeatedly by various members of the House of Representatives.
From Wikipedia

In 1999 a group of conservative Christian groups was formed on the initiative of representative Bob Barr, in response to Wiccan gatherings on military bases. The group asked US citizens not to enlist or re-enlist in the U.S. Army until the Army terminates the on-base freedoms of religion, speech and assembly for all Wiccan soldiers. The boycott has since become inactive. George W. Bush stated "I don't think witchcraft is a religion. I would hope the military officials would take a second look at the decision they made".

In September 1985 some conservative Christian legislators introduced three pieces of legislation designed to take away the rights of Wiccans. The first one was House Resolution (H.R.) 3389 introduced September 19 by congressman Robert S. Walker.

Senator Jesse Helms made an amendment, Amendment 705, in the House Resolution 3036, The Treasury, Postal, and General Government Appropriations Bill for 1986, specifying that organizations that promote "witchcraft" should not be given tax-exempt status.

After being ignored for a while it got attached to HR 3036 by an unanimous voice vote of the senators. Congressman Richard T. Schulze (R-Penn) introduced substantially the same amendment into the Tax Reform Bill of 1985. When the conference committee met on October 30, the Helms Amendment was thrown out since it was not considered germane to the bill. Following this Schulze withdrew his amendment from the Tax Reform Bill. Leaving only HR 3389, the Walker Bill. It managed to attract Joe Barton (R-Tex) who became a co-sponsor November 14. The Ways and Means Committee set aside the bill and quietly ignored it and it died with the close of the 99th session of Congress in December 1986.

Finally its a victory for religious freedom. This is America and you can worship Skippy the Mole Cricket if you want and no one can persecute you for it. Ridicule yes. Persecute No. That is one of the things that truly separates us from oh say Iran,the Taliban, or Al Qaeda.

Hat Tip to Midtopia for pointing me to the WaPo article.