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.