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Their Irrationality Is More Legit Than His Irrationality
A Wiccan guy dies in combat and the Department of Veterans Affairs won't let him have his pentacle writes Alan Cooperman for the Washington Post:

The department has approved the symbols of 38 other faiths; about half of are versions of the Christian cross. It also allows the Jewish Star of David, the Muslim crescent, the Buddhist wheel, the Mormon angel, the nine-pointed star of Bahai and something that looks like an atomic symbol for atheists.

Stewart, 34, is believed to be the first Wiccan killed in combat. He was serving in the Nevada National Guard when the helicopter in which he was riding was shot down in Afghanistan last September. He previously had served in the Army in Korea and Operation Desert Storm. He was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

His widow, Roberta Stewart, scattered his ashes in the hills above Reno and would like him to have a permanent memorial.

She said the veterans cemetery in Fernley offered to install a plaque with his name and no religious symbol. She refused.

"Once they do that, they'll forget me. They don't like having a hole in the wall," she said. "I feel very strongly that my husband fought for the Constitution of the United States, he was proud of his spirituality and of being a Wiccan, and he was proud of being an American."

Wicca is one of the fastest-growing faiths in the country. Its adherents have increased almost 17-fold from 8,000 in 1990 to 134,000 in 2001, according to the American Religious Identification Survey. The Pentagon says that more than 1,800 Wiccans are on active duty in the armed forces.

Wiccans still suffer, however, from the misconception that they are devil worshipers. Some Wiccans call themselves witches, pagans or neopagans. Most of their rituals revolve around the cycles of nature, such as equinoxes and phases of the moon. Wiccans often pick and choose among religious traditions, blending belief in reincarnation and feminine gods with ritual dancing, chanting and herbal medicine.

Federal courts have recognized Wicca as a religion since 1986. Prisons across the country treat it as a legitimate faith, as do the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. military, which allows Wiccan ceremonies on its bases.

"My husband's dog tags said 'Wiccan' on them," Stewart noted.

But applications from Wiccan groups and individuals to VA for use of the pentacle on grave markers have been pending for nine years, during which time the symbols of 11 other faiths have been approved.

If you die for your country, I think you should get to have Bugs Bunny on your tomb if that's what you want. At least, unlike god, there's some evidence -- probably millions of pictures -- that Bugs exists.

Posted by aalkon at July 8, 2006 9:33 AM

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Comments

My son went through a Wiccan period. I don't know which shocked him more, that I was perfectly O.K. with that ( I didn't raise him and we were reconciled when he was in his late teens ) or that his fiance's Baptist minister told him Wiccans were considered Believers. A lot of the problem of this is in old Papal mischief quoting "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" when the church could not make inroads against the native British religions without demonizing them and frightening the credulous.
Wicca was unknown to the writers of that passage.

Bugs on the grave ? Heck, don't you remember the professional artwork on WW II bombers ?

Posted by: opit at July 8, 2006 1:04 PM

"At least, unlike god, there's some evidence -- probably millions of pictures -- that Bugs exists."


Really? Ever seen the Sistine Chapel?

Posted by: Oligonicella at July 8, 2006 5:40 PM

Stewart should get his star, this injustice is just beyond words. Sigh.

As for the Sistine Chappel. I've always wondered what would happen if aliens found the planet after we all died of the avian flu. What would they think about those two naked men? Would they think we though our divinity was... gay? Cheers!!

Posted by: Olive at July 11, 2006 1:49 AM

The pentacle has been used as a religious symbol by various religions for at least 5500 years, about 3700 years longer than the Latin cross. I would think that would be enough history for the VA to acknowledge it as a valid religious symbol.
For all the "War on Christmas" crap, though, Pagans in America are the most trivialized group of faith. A year ago there was a case in Indianapolis where a Wiccan couple were getting divorced, and the judge decreed they were not allowed to expose their 9 year old to their beliefs, that they were not allowed to share their holiday celebrations with him. I'd like to see a judge try that with a Christian family.

Posted by: Kimberly at July 11, 2006 10:42 PM

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