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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Symbols of Faith and Honor

Wiccans Settle Military Grave Lawsuit
MADISON, Wis. (April 24) - The Wiccan pentacle has been added to the list of emblems allowed in national cemeteries and on goverment-issued headstones of fallen soldiers, according to a settlement announced Monday.

A settlement between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Wiccans adds the five-pointed star to the list of "emblems of belief" allowed on VA grave markers.

Eleven families nationwide are waiting for grave markers with the pentacle, said Selena Fox, a Wiccan high priestess with Circle Sanctuary in Barneveld, Wis., a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The settlement calls for the pentacle, whose five points represent earth, air, fire, water and spirit, to be placed on grave markers within 14 days for those who have pending requests with the VA.

"I am glad this has ended in success in time to get markers for Memorial Day," Fox said.

The VA sought the settlement in the interest of the families involved and to save taxpayers the expense of further litigation, VA spokesman Matt Burns said. The agency also agreed to pay $225,000 in attorneys' fees and costs.

The pentacle has been added to 38 symbols the VA already permits on gravestones. They include commonly recognized symbols for Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism, as well as those for smaller religions such as Sufism Reoriented, Eckiankar and the Japanese faith Seicho-No-Ie.

"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, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which represented the Wiccans in the lawsuit.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the agreement also settles a similar lawsuit it filed last year against the VA. In that case, the ACLU represented two other Wiccan churches and three individuals.

VA-issued headstones, markers and plaques can be used in any cemetery, whether it is a national one such as Arlington or a private burial ground like that on Circle Sanctuary's property.

Wicca is a nature-based religion based on respect for the earth, nature and the cycle of the seasons. Variations of the pentacle not accepted by Wiccans have been used in horror movies as a sign of the devil.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.


marnanel said...

They've been waiting a long time for this.

Sister Mary Hasta said...

You know, I'm a little cranky this took so bloody long, but I really hope and pray that the families get lucky, and no one defaces the markers, either out of self-righteous anger or bored teenagerisim.

Bill said...

For a country founded on the concept of “Separation of Church & State”, it strikes me most odd that a religion is not a religion until it is recognized by the state. So what we have, is a state, that is supposed to have nothing to do with religion, telling us what religions are valid, which are non-profit, what religious symbols are legitimate and all from a Judeo-Christian point of reference. If we take this to the extreme, fairly soon we will have a cabinet position with a Secretary of Religion in charge.

taomikael said...

Bill, I think you miss the point entirely. The Wicca don't need state recognition for their religion, they need the State to be what it is supposed to be, which is entirely, resolutely, secular.

This lawsuit was necessary because some Xians thought that their governmental positions entitled them to determine what is and is not to be considered a religion. Since they didn't possess the basic humanity to realize that the relatives of the fallen soldiers wanted their loved ones laid to rest under a symbol that reflected who they really were, it was necessary to go to the law to compel what should have been granted without resistance.

No, this will not lead to a Secretary of Religion office, for such is expressly forbidden by the Constitution -- you've read it, haven't you?

Bill said...

Dear taomikael, I didn't really miss the point. What I wrote is called satire. But that's ok, I'm often misunderstood. It comes from a misspent youth trying to impress my elders by trying to be funny.

Weiwen Ng said...

Interested parties might want to read the comments posted on Titus 1:9:

I especially like this one: "Yes, making fun of other people’s religions. That’s the T19 way."

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness u people are so understanding of our religion. Thank you so much <3

Blessed B*