Monday, April 23, 2007

wistful VICTORY!!!

A long battle with the Veteran’s Administration ended in victory today for Pagan veterans, and all those who believe in equality under the law. Until now, the VA has steadfastly refused to allow the Pentacle- a five pointed star within a circle, symbol of Wicca and other Pagan faiths- to be put on tombstones of fallen soldiers, even if “Wiccan” was the religion listed on their dog tags. (see my previous post an issue worth supporting ) The VA allows symbols for 38 faiths- including Eckankar, Humanism, and even Atheism... but NOT Wicca.

In this press release from the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, a settlement was announced in a lawsuit the AU brought against the VA. “In the lawsuit, Americans United represented Roberta Stewart, whose husband, Sgt. Patrick Stewart, was killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2005; Karen DePolito, whose husband, Jerome Birnbaum, is a veteran of the Korean War who died last year; Circle Sanctuary, a prominent Wiccan congregation; Jill Medicine Heart Combs, whose husband is severely ill; and the Isis Invicta Military Mission, a Wiccan and Pagan congregation serving military personnel.”


“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.”

As a Pagan, a solitary syncretic Wiccan if you want specifics, I’m happy that my government finally recognizes that the blood of our heros spills as red as that of anyone elses’. But I headlined this as a wistful victory... because as a UU, I’m ashamed that I could never get other UUs interested in this cause, that we were not co-sponsors of that lawsuit. I could never figure out whether it was the witches we didn’t give a damn about, or the veterans.

Ok, ok, that last sentence was harsh, and over the top... but the fact remains that in the 55 weeks since I first wrote about it, I’ve never received comment one, not on the blog, not on the letter tacked on the wall at church, nor have I seen anyone else get any better reaction than I have; explain it how you will.

8 comments:

Cee Jay said...

Thanks for posting this. It is a victory for religious freedom indeed!

ms. kitty said...

This is good news, all right, and a long time coming. Yes, UUs should have been more supportive of this struggle. I'm not sure why it didn't happen.

Chalicechick said...

Probably because we are dealing with two kinds of pagans:

1. Those who identify with Unitarian-Universalism, who could just use the chalice symbol. (I'm this sort of humanist. Were I to need a grave symbol, I would chose a chalice over a symbol that just meant humanist alone.)

2. Those who do not identify with Unitarian-Universalism, who did not have a symbol, but also have no connection to UUism.

When one looks at it this way, UUs didn't really have any more reason to lobby for this than any other faith.

That said, I did think it was unfair, but I certainly wasn't going to try to convince the UUA to spend resources lobbying on yet another issue, especially a largely symbolic one.

CC

Joel Monka said...

Many Pagans who are also good UUs would prefer the pentacle over the chalice, because it is more indicative of a specific belief- who knows what a UU stands for, unless he was there to tell you?

As to spending our resources on an issue, at least this was a religious issue, rather than a political one. Secondly, it's exactly the sort of religious issue we should back, as no other denomination would- and in fact, although many individual chaplains and ministers did, no denomination did.

Lastly, it might have reassured many UU Pagans who believe that behind their backs, most UUs agree with Bush that Wicca is not a "real" religion.

Chalicechick said...

((who knows what a UU stands for, unless he was there to tell you? ))

1. I stand for the integrity of the human spirit and refining belief through reason.

2. Perhaps I'm revealing my own ignorance about Paganism here, but my understanding is that if I say "Bob is a pagan," it is very hard to tell exactly what he stands for simply from that.


(((As to spending our resources on an issue, at least this was a religious issue, rather than a political one. Secondly, it's exactly the sort of religious issue we should back, as no other denomination would- and in fact, although many individual chaplains and ministers did, no denomination did. )))

Why? Does the backing of the UUA do any issue, religious or political, any good?

I've never seen the evidence that it does.

(((Lastly, it might have reassured many UU Pagans who believe that behind their backs, most UUs agree with Bush that Wicca is not a "real" religion. ))

People who are looking for reasurrances of such things almost always find them.

CC

Joel Monka said...

"... but my understanding is that if I say "Bob is a pagan," it is very hard to tell exactly what he stands for simply from that."

True enough, "Pagan" is an umbrella term, but "Wiccan" is as specific as "Catholic". In a fairly knowlegeable group, I would call myself "NeoPagan" out of respect for older Wiccans with stricter standards of what they accept as a fellow Wiccan, but among people who don't know Asatru from Hellenistic Reconstruction, I call myself Wiccan, as it's closer to my beliefs than any other term.

"Why? Does the backing of the UUA do any issue, religious or political, any good?"

Normally speaking, no- but in this case, it might have. *IF* the VA was really having trouble deciding if the Wiccans were on the level, then being vouched for by the UUA would most certainly have helped. If the VA were just trying to suck up to what they believed Bush believed, then no, it would not have helped. But the difference is dependent on the integrity of the VA officials- that should not be the basis for our behavior.

If the UUA had never taken a public stand before, I would not ask them to create the Washington Advocacy Office just for this purpose. But since we do in fact have such an office, and we do in fact issue position papers on everything down to the left-turn-on-red law, I though a simple letter affirming the principles of religious liberty and religious equality might have been fitting.

Tracie the Red said...

Now, how about a Thorshammer for the Asatru military fallen?

Joel Monka said...

Yes, and an Awen for the Druids!