Following on the tails of last week’s post on pagans was this news story involving the widows of two U.S. combat veterans suing the federal government for refusing to let them place Wiccan symbols on their husbands’ headstones. As a side note, if you’re interested in more information on pagans, peruse the comments on that post. We received a surprising number of responses with links and info on the wide variety of pagan beliefs in the world these days.
But back to the news story, which was brought to our attention earlier this week by “friend of the blog” Dawn Eden of the New York Daily News. As best I can tell, the AP’s Matt Apuzzo is the only one to cover this story that, as Eden said, “has a religion ghost a mile wide.” Here’s the latest from the AP:
The Star of David is OK, as are more than a dozen variations of the Christian cross. Even the atomic whirl used by atheists gets the thumbs-up from the federal government.
But a Wiccan symbol representing earth, air, fire, water and spirit isn’t recognized by the federal government for veterans’ grave markers.
A federal lawsuit filed Monday accuses the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of violating the constitutional rights of Wiccans because the government does not allow its symbol on headstones in national cemeteries.
“I honestly think there must be some people who don’t want to acknowledge that the Wiccan religion should be entitled to the same rights as other religions,” said Selena Fox, who is senior minister of the Wiccan Circle Sanctuary in Barneveld, Wisconsin.
The problem with the article, as Eden noted, is that there is no mention of the possibility that widows and other family members of GIs might find a pentagram offensive. Another reader, David Perry, noted that GIs fight to defend freedom, including their own religious freedom, and therefore the government owes it to them to respect that religious freedom.
Is this a perspective that ought to be addressed in the news story? Are there families of soldiers out there who would find it offensive to see a pentagram on the tombstone next to the that of their beloved one?
One problem is that Veterans Affairs has not given a reason for refusing to include the pentagram. But if the offensiveness of the pentagram to Christians was stated as a reason, then it would no longer be a religion ghost. It would be part of the story.
There is something unique in that the pentagram is considered a satanic symbol, by some, or in the words of Eden, “a symbol of hell amidst men whose families would wish them in heaven.” In other words, to some Christians, this symbol is offensive. The article gives no voice to anyone with that perspective. Should it? Discuss.