Monday, April 23, 2007

VA Approves the Wiccan Pentagram

The first message (from a Pagan staffer at the American Academy of Religion) hit my inbox at 12:28 today, and then the Colorado Pagan email lists lit up: The Veterans Adminstration approved the pentagram for veterans' grave markers.

(Pentagram, pentacle, same thing as far as the news media are concerned. Personally, to me the "pentacle" is a disk with a pentagram engraved or drawn on it, but I won't quibble.)

Credit for the heavy legal lifting goes to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who report the news here. Credit also to Circle Sanctuary for serving as the plaintiff.

The litigation charged that denying a pentacle to deceased Wiccan service personnel, while granting religious symbols to those of other traditions, violated the U.S. Constitution.

“This settlement has forced the Bush Administration into acknowledging that there are no second class religions in America, including among our nation’s veterans,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “It is a proud day for religious freedom in the United States.”

From what I heard last November from the spouse of one of the lawyers involved, Americans United pretty well had the VA nailed for violating their own regulations and were counting on the potential embarrassment of a court trial to scare the VA into doing the right thing. It looks like that legal strategy worked.

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