Wiccan Soldier Gets Symbol on Grave

Wiccan Soldier Gets Symbol on Grave September 15, 2006

But not from the Federal government. The Nevada state government decided that they have control of a state military cemetary, not the Department of Veterans Affairs, and they approved the symbol. The DVA has been dragging their feet not only in this case, but in many others, for nearly a decade now, refusing for some reason to approve a Wiccan symbol for headstones when they have nearly 30 others for every imaginable religious group.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Treban

    Now, the symbol for the Flying Spagetti Monster I could understand them questioning – but a legitamate religious symbol? I have got to imagine that it’s hard on loved ones that they can’t just put what they want on the headstones anyways – denying them the symbol of the deceased religious preference – that’s just disgusting.

  • Tulle

    So where are all those people that say the government is out to stop religous practice? Why are they not taking the VA to task for denying this family’s right to display a religous symbol on their lived ones grave? You don’t think it might be because it is not the “one true religion” and “the one true religion” is the only one the should get “equal” rights? Naw, couldn’t be that.

  • Dale Austin

    “but a legitamate religious symbol”

    Ah, but how can a government tell which is and is not legit? And just so you know, your anti-FSM bigotry darns you to heck for an as yet unspecified period of time. (ok, ok, we’re working on the theology-these things don’t happen overnight ya know)

  • somnilista, FCD

    Good on Nevada. I imagine this might have something to do with the Christian defamation that Wicca is actually devil worship.

  • xebecs

    Do any of the anti-Wiccan-symbol people take the position that using the symbol on a headstone would effectively deconsecrate the cemetary? Are cemetaries still consecrated in the first place?

  • Will

    With a headstone being the final marker of your life and military service, shouldn’t you be allowed to have it be whatever you want, even if its not religious in any way? Why shouldn’t a soldier who died in service be able to have a PacMan headstone if they choose?

  • Stogoe

    Because of Jesus, that’s why.

  • Michael Suttkus, II

    Back when he was running Texas, Bush the Sequel said something about the first ammendment only applying to “real” religions, not ones like Wicca. You’ve gotta love his interpretation of the first ammendment:

    In response to a question about allowing Wiccan servicemen to practice their religion on millitary bases. I am committed to the First Amendment principles of religious freedom, tolerance, and diversity. Whether Mormon, Methodist, Jewish, or Muslim, Americans should be able to participate in their constitutional free exercise of religion. I do not think witchcraft is a religion, and I do not think it is in any way appropriate for the U.S. military to promote it.

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/wic_pres.htm

    You have complete freedom to choose any religion at all… as long as it’s one that is approved of by George W. Bush. The first ammendement shall be rewritten: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of Abrahameic religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, but all others can get stuffed.”

  • Ed Brayton

    Holy cow, thank you for that quote, Michael. I’d never seen that before, and I’ve written a lot about the big blowup over Wiccans in the military in 1999. Here’s the first thing that comes to mind when I read it: what his apologists would say. They can’t defend the idiocy of the statement, but they would probably say, “Oh, he didn’t really mean it. He was just speaking off the cuff.” As though he was the Pope and he only means it when he’s speaking ex cathedra. As though if you’re not reading a prepared speech written by someone else, you can’t be held accountable for anything you say.

  • KeithB

    Hey Ed:
    I am surprised you have not commented on that poor persecuted chaplain who got dinged for wearing his uniform at a press conference.

  • NonyNony

    Ed – what do you mean his apologists couldn’t defend the statement?

    Unless you mean the fact that he included Muslims and Mormons as having protected religions under the First Amendment. Yeah, they might claim that THOSE statements must have only been said “off-the-cuff” since those aren’t Judeo-Christian religions (whatever that means), but I can’t imagine any of his apologists would care whether he thought Wiccans should be allowed to practice their religion or not.

    These guys think he should be King (or Unilateral Executive, or Dictator for Life, or whatever they call it these days), why would they balk at his interpretation of the Constitution in this matter when they don’t worry about his poor interpretations in other matters?

  • PennyBright

    It’s about time. Here’s hoping that the VA sees sense as well. My thanks to Ed (and everyone) who helped publicize this, and got in touch with the VA about it.

  • Nini

    “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.”
    What ever happened to that right?

  • Dave S.

    Michael says:

    Back when he was running Texas, Bush the Sequel said something about the first ammendment only applying to “real” religions, not ones like Wicca.

    Which was downright tame compared to what his father Bush the Original said in 1987: “No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”

  • Invigilator

    To dissent here a bit, I think GWBush and his Dad are both fairly tolerant of what they consider to be legitimate religion, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. For them, and for many, legiticmacy only comes with age and respectable establishment, and I would imagine that Wicca (especially with its clear onomatopoetic association with witchcraft) simply doesn’t meet the test. New religions simply seem silly, perhaps because all religions are basically silly. It is only the patina of age, and sometimes a whole lot of great art (Christianities various, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism) that make them seem like serious endeavours. (Not that I consider the Bushes, father and son, as great connuosiers of art.)

  • It can’t be that: Taoists can’t get a symbol, either, and that’s pretty darn old. Nor can Agnostics, Pagans, Spiritualists, Church of Scientologists, Druids, Santerias, Rastafarians, or indeed any not on the list of approved religions – you can get one of the official 38 symbols (see below) or no symbol – that’s an option.

    And note that among the groups that are recognized are atheists (another group Bush isn’t keen on) and some I don’t even recognize.

    1. Latin Cross (generic Christian)
    2. Wheel of Righteousness (Buddhist)
    3. Star of David (Jewish)
    4. Presbyterian
    5. Russian Orthodox
    6. Lutheran
    7. Episcopal
    8. Unitarian Universalist
    9. United Methodist Church
    10. Aaronic Order Church
    11. Latter-day Saints
    12. Native American Church of America
    13. Serbian Orthodox
    14. Greek Cross
    15. Baha’i
    16. Atheist
    17. Islam
    18. Hindu
    19. Konko-Kyo
    20. Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now called the Community of Christ)
    21. Sufism reoriented
    22. Tenrikyo church
    23. Seicho-no-ie
    24. The Church of World Messianity
    25. United Church of Religious Science
    26. Christian Reformed Church
    27. United Moravian Church
    28. Eckankar
    29: Christian & Missionary Alliance
    30: United Church of Christ
    31: Humanism
    32: Presbyterian Church, USA
    33: Ixumo Taishakyo Mission of Hawaii
    34: Soks Gakkai International – USA
    35: Sikh
    36: United Church of Christ
    37: Christian Science
    38: Islam

  • Note – Islam’s on the list twice ’cause it has two symbols to choose from (star & crescent, or five-pointed star)… Seems fair; look how many different crosses there are!

  • Michael Suttkus, II

    Ed Brayton said:

    Holy cow, thank you for that quote, Michael.

    It wasn’t the one I was looking for. Back before he was running for office, he said something specifically about supposedly fake religions not deserving protection under the first ammendment, and specifically mentioned atheists and Wiccans as not deserving of protection. This, incidentally, is why I strongly encourage atheists not to use the “atheism isn’t a religion” argument. The last thing you want is to give the Religious Wrong the firepower they need to pull you out from under the first ammendment’s auspices.

    (By the way, is there any concensus on whether “atheism” should be capitalized? Ditto “agnosticism”.)

    Ed Brayton said:

    I’d never seen that before, and I’ve written a lot about the big blowup over Wiccans in the military in 1999. Here’s the first thing that comes to mind when I read it: what his apologists would say. They can’t defend the idiocy of the statement, but they would probably say, “Oh, he didn’t really mean it. He was just speaking off the cuff.”

    Wonder no more.

    George W. Bush’s staff justifying the earlier remarks:

    On behalf of Governor Bush, thank you for your letter about Wicca. Governor Bush respects the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religious expression for all Americans. His comments regarding Wicca are an expression of his personal views and his faith.

    http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/bushwicca.htm

    I’d comment on that, but I just don’t use that kind of language I would need to express my opinion of it accurately.

    Dave S. said:

    Which was downright tame compared to what his father Bush the Original said in 1987: “No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”

    Oh, for pity’s sake!

    I knew the idiots probably felt that way, but I didn’t know they were dumb enough to go out and say it! Then again, why is it dumb? It’s not like they’re losing many voters. Anyone likely to be offended by that remark likely wouldn’t have voted for him to begin with.

    Well, I’m not an atheist or a Wiccan, but I get a very cold chill down my spine when I read things like this. I think it’s about time we put Martin Niemöller’s words in front of every person in the country to remind them how these things go.

    Oh, and just what symbol do atheists get to put on their tombstones anyway? (I mean, other than the FSM, which I don’t think counts since I’m getting an FSM t-shirt.) I didn’t know atheists had a symbol. Shows my ignorance, I guess.

  • Michael Suttkus, II

    There was supposed to be a link in the previous post to show what I was talking about in my reference to Martin Niemöller. It didn’t come through, so I’ll just put them in myself:

    First they came for the Jews
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for the Communists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Communist.
    Then they came for the trade unionists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a trade unionist.
    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left
    to speak out for me.

    and before anyone says, “That’s not quite right”, there are several versions of the poem floating around and nobody knows what the correct one is. I like this one.

  • Mike Horn

    You can see all the symbols here: Authorized Emblems

    I find it slightly amusing that a few of the emblems aren’t shown and in its place the following text appears: NOT SHOWN BECAUSE OF COPYRIGHT

    Man, talk about a bad advertising move.

  • kehrsam

    Do Unitarian Universalists get to use a big question mark?

    And we let people called Soks Gakkai International – USA join the military but gays are ineligible?

  • twincats

    Wow! As a Wiccan, Pagan and polytheist (who has not yet been “touched by His noodly apppendage” praises be to FSM!) and ex-Christian, I am amazed and touched by the responses here!

    I think a majority of Wiccan/Pagan types are accustomed to either being mistaken for ‘devil worshippers’ or not taken seriously. We continue to fight centuries of Christian propaganda and dis-information on these points and it’s so heartening to see that it’s not all in vain!

  • Nini

    I wonder if either of the Bush boys realize that their religion of choice is steeped in Pagan beliefs. Paganism is, what, twenty some thousand years old, and Christianity in around 2000 years old?!

  • Anuminous

    Welcome to a civilized forum, twincats. It is nice to play with the adults, isn’t it?

  • Nini

    Things that make me go HMMMMMMMMMMMMMM;
    My Grandparents were devout Christians. My Grandfather was a Mason & my Grandmother was in the Order of The Eastern Star (they do not allow women to be actual Masons). One of the symbols on my Grandmother’s headstone is an upside down 5 pointed star with symbols around it! Isn’t that a Pagan Symbol?

  • Nini

    HMMMMMMMMM Continued;
    I got all heated and hit the wrong button.
    Back to the Masons. My Grandfather was in WWII and when he died he was buried with military honors. His headstone also has the compass symbol associated with Free Masons. Aren’t these Pagan symbols??
    Again, I say hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…….

  • kim

    Hummm, looking over the list, there is one missing that, as far as I know, is also accepted: Asatru or Odinism

  • twincats

    Nini: The pentagram you described is indeed a pagan symbol; it is sometimes used to identify a third degree Wiccan priest or priestess, but most U.S. pagans have abandoned it in favor of the right-side up pentagram because of the upside-down pentagram being associated with satanism. BTW, the swastika was an native American holy symbol before it was co-opted by the Nazis, too!

    I’ve never seen the Mason’s compass used in any pagan religion, but was told by church-folk as a yougster that the Masons are evil occultists, which lumps them into the pagan/Wiccan category for a lot of people.

  • Michael Suttkus, II
  • Indeed, the whole swastika thing is a real shame, and just another thing to be mad at the Nazis about. It’s a pretty cool symbol with thousands of years of history and a deep connection with a great many traditions in varied cultures… Yet a bunch of street thugs decide to coopt it, and suddenly you can’t show it around anymore without being associated with genocidal maniacs. Oh, well.

  • Invigilator: Wicca and Paganism in general aren’t nearly as young as you seem to think. If you don’t believe me, read either “The Triumph of the Moon” or “Witches, Druids and King Arthur” by Prof. Ronald Hutton (Bristol Univ.), or preferably both.