VA finally relents and OKs Wiccan symbol on headstones.

I originally wrote about this last July when the first suit was filed against the Veteran’s Administration over their refusal to place a pentagram on the headstone of a deceased Wiccan soldier. I was surprised to learn how many symbols for various faiths had been approved including, oddly enough, a symbol for atheists.

Since then a couple of other suits have been filed on behalf of other Wiccans and yesterday the VA decided to settle the case:

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.

I’m pleased the Wiccans have finally won out. It’s another one of those religions that I don’t mind that much because its practitioners tend to be pretty tolerant people and don’t knock on my door early in the morning to try and convert me to their faith. They deserve to be recognized for service to their country just as much as any other religion.

29 thoughts on “VA finally relents and OKs Wiccan symbol on headstones.

  1. As a “true believer” this is good news. Anytime the government stands in the way of allowing someone to express their beliefs (either alive or dead) it serves as an injustice for all regardless of the level of acceptance for their current beliefs.

    The world would be a better place if we all viewed each other (and our beliefs) as being first class.

  2. As a “true believer” this is good news. Anytime the government stands in the way of allowing someone to express their beliefs (either alive or dead) it serves as an injustice for all regardless of the level of acceptance for their current beliefs.

    The world would be a better place if we all viewed each other (and our beliefs) as being first class.

    Curious ? Does that include Devil Worshippers who believe in Blood Sacrifices on innocent animals and possibly even people, and also the folks over at Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. Do they fall into the category ” Better Place ” for allowing them to practice their Religion ?

  3. Curious ? Does that include Devil Worshippers who believe in Blood Sacrifices on innocent animals and possibly even people, and also the folks over at Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. Do they fall into the category “ Better Place “ for allowing them to practice their Religion ?

    I think there needs to be an obvious qualifier on Fall Downed’s comment, “that as long as you are not hurting anyone…”

    Which is an issue brought forth previously from the great Moses

  4. Yayyyyy!!!  I’m guessing that the VA knuckled under simply because they want to be in the news anymore, but it’s still wonderful news.

  5. Bottom line, I cannot see how they could have won a suit in such a blatantly discriminatory case.  I suspect the likely added bad publicity when they lost prompted the settlement.

    Regardless, a good outcome. 

    For those who want to see the current approved list … it’s kind of interesting.

  6. I’d like my grave to have flashy lights and music as people walked past, perhaps have pressure sensors on the ground so as to bake a different noise/light display depending on where they stand, almost have a kind of puzzle people can solve to take the attention away from the more serious matter of death and lighten things up a little. If I want to be green (not in the mouldy sense) it could have a solar panel for charging, and/or a wind turbine somewhere

  7. wow thats beautiful finnaly more acceptance of other religions wicca in general im very pleased.

  8. I’d like my grave to have flashy lights and music as people walked past, perhaps have pressure sensors on the ground so as to bake a different noise/light display depending on where they stand, almost have a kind of puzzle people can solve to take the attention away from the more serious matter of death and lighten things up a little. If I want to be green (not in the mouldy sense) it could have a solar panel for charging, and/or a wind turbine somewhere

    Now that’s my kind of geek!

  9. Curious ? Does that include Devil Worshippers who believe in Blood Sacrifices on innocent animals and possibly even people, and also the folks over at Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. Do they fall into the category “ Better Place “ for allowing them to practice their Religion ?

    Ummmm….no.

    I think there needs to be an obvious qualifier on Fall Downed’s comment, “that as long as you are not hurting anyone…”

    Exactly! Thanks for adding the clarification.

  10. “This settlement has forced the Bush Administration into acknowledging that there are no second class religions in America, including among our nation’s veterans,”

    We can blame the Bush Administration for many, many awful things.  Without knowing much about this case my first reaction is, did the Bush Administration really have a hand in this?  I have a feeling this case would happen under nearly any administration, because of the people’s lack of knowledge about-thus-fear-of Wicca.

    Wait a minute!  That can’t be right.  Why would there be a symbol for atheists?  There are no atheists in foxholes (or other similar dangerous war zones).

  11. In the NYT article on the subject, it said:

      In reviewing 30,000 pages of documents from Veterans Affairs, Americans United said it found e-mails and memoranda referring to negative comments that President Bush made about Wicca during a 1999 interview with the ABC program “Good Morning America,” when he was governor of Texas. The interview had to do with a controversy at the time about Wiccan soldiers being allowed to worship at Fort Hood in Texas.

      “I don’t think witchcraft is a religion,” Mr. Bush said at the time, according to a transcript. “ I would hope the military officials would take a second look at the decision they made.”

      Americans United did not assert that the White House influenced the Veterans Affairs Department. Under the terms of the settlement, Americans United had to return the documents and could not copy them, although the group could make limited comments about their contents, Mr. Katskee said.

    I’ve no idea how usual that sort of “you have to return the documents and you can’t talk about them” kind of a rule is, but it strikes me as odd.

  12. Paul, show me a documented example of an actual group of Devil Worshippers who believe in Blood Sacrifices on innocent animals and possibly even people and then we’ll worry about whether or not they’re included.

    So far those sorts of people are a complete myth.

  13. At last someone realised men fought for ideas and their mates; mostly their mates.
    None I ever knew died for a god; gods are for the living.

    Well, it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for

    A little barracks humour.
    It’s ANZAC Day here in Oz, 25th April.
    This is the day that all diggers put on their best clobber and medals and do a coupla laps round the cenotaph and partake in a xian service to commemorate those who gave their lives in wars just so’s we could be free.
    Well, that’s how the story goes anyway.

    Then we stroll back to the club to drink beer and swap truths and lies.

    As I gave up smoking and put on a bit of weight first thing I did this morning was try on my shirt on and made sure it fit, and then I put on my jacket. It still fits, sorta, and the medals clink together; still there from last year and the year before, etc.
    It’s weird marching with a buncha blokes and having a few thousand people cheering and clapping whilst stuff goes thru your head and the occasional tear forms – the good thing about the tear is that I’m not the only one.

    Lest we forget.

  14. The world would be a better place if we all viewed each other (and our beliefs) as being first class

    Well Sadie and Les… I was responding to Fall Downed. I personally don’t see Wicca, Christian, Jewish whatever as a valid source of Intelligent thought. I see organized religion as an enemy of the Human race. So I will quit with the Jokes.

    Putting a symbol ( any symbol ) at the grave of any person is completely ludicrous to begin with. That is not what the land is for, the land is for the living. The dead should be burned and thrown to wind. Burial of a Human Body should be against the law, it should be mandatory that everyone be Cremated. The only exception would be if you are healthy enough (I.E. died in an accident )to be thrown into a Hog Farm. The Human body is 97% water. Just like a Lake or Piss for that matter. Recognizing a waste product as opposed to making it an object or bi-product of worship is silly and ignorant. Just get rid of the Fucking thing. Feed it to the Coyotes, the Buzzards or another creature that is a little down on his luck today.

  15. I see organized religion as an enemy of the Human race.

    Well, based on the Wiccans/Pagans that I know (and I do know far more than the average ‘merican, purely by virtue of the crowd I run with) I’d have to say that the creed more readily qualifies as “disorganized religion”.  Great folks—don’t get me wrong—but working with ‘em can be like herding cats at times…  wink

  16. The only exception would be if you are healthy enough (I.E. died in an accident )to be thrown into a Hog Farm. The Human body is 97% water. Just like a Lake or Piss for that matter. Recognizing a waste product as opposed to making it an object or bi-product of worship is silly and ignorant. Just get rid of the Fucking thing. Feed it to the Coyotes, the Buzzards or another creature that is a little down on his luck today.

    Oh, c’mon, Paul:  Go the Full Monty already.  Soylent Green is Wiccans!

  17. Putting a symbol ( any symbol ) at the grave of any person is completely ludicrous to begin with. That is not what the land is for, the land is for the living.

    Never heard anyone say something along the lines of, “Funerals are for the living”?

  18. There are no atheists in foxholes

    We try to stay away from foxholes whenever possible…

  19. Lest we forget.

    Every Rememberence day I watch the telly as the old blokes march past the cenotaph. Blokes who did it not because Dulce et Decorum, but because they were told to, and then because their mates were there.

    [Raises a e-glass to LJ.]

  20. because they were told to, and then because their mates were there.

    Exactly.  (clink)  smile

  21. Oh, Les, you know we Pagans have some crazies too.

    Though this is a nice outcome to that dilemma. I hadn’t heard about it anywhere else, so thanks for posting this.

  22. Every group has its crazies, religious or otherwise. There’s always a handful a people who somehow manage to get so caught up in an idea that they take it to insane extremes.

    Some of us are just off our fucking nut and that’s all there is to it.

  23. Elwed- when I said “we atheists”, I of course meant “we pacifist chicken commie atheists”.

    This is a little off-topic, but I want to put in a plug for the VA.  My experience with them is limited to dealing with helping my cousin Ken (Korean War veteran) get into the Veteran’s Home in Yountville, CA, and dealing with VA doctors and staff there, in Martinez, and in San Francisco.

    I have seldom had such good experience with a bureaucracy- everyone I have had to do with at the VA has been helpful, competent, and willing to go the extra mile when necessary.  Thanks to the Veteran’s Administration for doing a good job.

  24. Love that signature, Zilch.

    After reading it aloud, I had to pry my tongue out of my throat, though.

  25. Im happy to hear this, its a small but significant win for not only Wicca, but against ignorance by and large.

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