Thursday, March 02, 2006

No marker for Wiccan veteran

A Wiccan sergeant from the Nevada National Guard was killed in action in Afghanistan. Now his widow runs up against the Veterans Administration's refusal to permit a pentacle marker on the graves of Wiccan veterans, notes the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Link may expire, so I will quote at length.)

Stewart's widow, Roberta, said she will wait until her family's religion -- and its five-pointed star enclosed in a circle, with one point facing skyward -- is recognized for use on memorials before Stewart's plaque is installed.

"It's completely blank," Roberta Stewart said, pointing to her husband's place on the memorial.

She said she had no idea the pentacle could not be used on her husband's memorial plaque until she had to deal with the agency after the death of her husband."

Patrick Stewart's dog tags, which Roberta Stewart wears around her neck, carry the word Wiccan on them to identify his religious beliefs. But she said he was never told the Wiccan religion was not officially recognized during his 13 years of military service in different capacities.

"By they way, if you die for your country, your religion won't be recognized, that would be nice to know," Roberta Stewart said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and its National Cemetery Administration prohibit graphics on government-furnished headstones or markers other than those they have approved as "emblems of belief." More than 30 such emblems are allowed on gravestones and makers in veterans cemeteries, from the Christian cross to the Buddhist wheel of righteousness. A symbol exists for atheists too.

So what is the VA afraid of?

Various Pagan groups have been stonewalled, if you will pardon the pun, by the VA up until now, but enough embarassment will cause the bureaucracy to move.

Of course, not all Pagans are Wiccans, but Wicca, broadly defined, is the largest Pagan grouping, so let's start there.

UPDATE: Jason Pitzl-Waters offers additional information and links.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the Pagan community, or anyone who believes that religious freedom is a right worth defending, wants to help by getting involved, the Pagan Veterans Headstone Campaign is a great place to start. Started in 1989, they have an online petition to sign, letter writing campaigns, and many other ways to get involved.

The only way we can change the injustice of the system is to stand up with one loud voice and be recognized.

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The man died for this country. Give him the respect and dignity he deserves. If it was his last wish, then what is wrong with that?

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Charles Arnold, HP said...

Charles, thank you very much for your support on this issue; we need support such as yours from each and every Pagan in the country if we hope to see this, the last official act of religious discrimination by our government, changed.

One thing I do want to add is that the Pagan Veterans Headstone Campaign was founded in 2003, not 1989. And the first group to apply for a Pentacle of which I am aware is the Isia Invicta Military Mission, supported by the Military Pagan Network.

Charles Arnold, HP
Coordinator, Pagan Veterans Headstone Campaign

10:35 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home