Veterans who are Wiccans may now choose to have a pentacle on their graves in military cemetaries.
It’s also quite interesting so see that in spite of separation of church & state, it took them 10 years and a lawsuit to get this fairly trivial matter (which normally takes only a few months, according to the article) approved.
Formally, all religions are equal before the law, yet an ostensibly secular government authority fought for a decade to banish the symbol of a completely innocuous religious tradition because it gives some Christians the willies.
As is often the case with misunderstood minorities, here unspoken shared culture and religious values within the majority trumped formal commitments and allowed officials to pursue their own agenda even when it is clearly at odds with the law.
It’s a shame that officials aren’t required to make explicit the values that inform them when making decisions affecting other communities. For example, when there’s a controversy in a local municipality over the construction of a mosque, the public would seem to have a right to know how many of its representatives actively opposing such project also "happen" to be fringe evangelicals, hardline Zionists, or members of some other faction likely to have ulterior motives when opposing Muslim initiatives these days.
The advantage of being in the majority is that your beliefs, background and preferences are invisible and, thus, unchallengable by your opponents.
To settle a lawsuit, the Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed to add the Wiccan pentacle to a list of approved religious symbols that it will engrave on veterans’ headstones.
The settlement, which was reached on Friday, was announced on Monday by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which represented the plaintiffs in the case.
Though it has many forms, Wicca is a type of pre-Christian belief that reveres nature and its cycles. Its symbol is the pentacle, a five-pointed star, inside a circle.
Until now, the Veterans Affairs department had approved 38 symbols to indicate the faith of deceased service members on memorials. It normally takes a few months for a petition by a faith group to win the department’s approval, but the effort on behalf of the Wiccan symbol took about 10 years and a lawsuit, said Richard B. Katskee, assistant legal director for Americans United.