Saturday, March 04, 2006

Religious Tolerance

The widow of a National Guardsman who was killed in Afghanistan last September has had to deal with the VA's ongoing refusal to inscribe a Wiccan pentacle on his headstone.

....National Guard Sgt. Patrick Stewart's Northern Nevada Veterans' Memorial Cemetery memorial is blank. Stewart died in Afghanistan in September when his Chinook helicopter was shot down. He was a member of the Wiccan religion, which is not recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs for use in veterans' cemeteries. Consequently, his widow's request that a pentacle, the symbol of Wicca, be placed on his memorial, was denied.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and its National Cemetery Administration prohibit graphics on government-furnished headstones that have not been approved as "emblems of belief."

So they're happy to use his godless pagan ass in war, but he's not good enough to have his faith respected this little bit? Mind you, in terms of approach to rational thought and empiricism, I have about as much use for Wiccans as I have for Opus Dei or what have you. But a Wiccan has never knocked on my door and tried to recruit me, nor have they insisted on some divine right to indoctrinate everyone's children with their brand of mumbo-jumbo. So in terms of live and let live, I'm pretty fuckin' okey-doke with 'em, especially in comparison to the rest of the lot.

Maybe that's why they don't get as much respect -- it hasn't yet occurred to Wiccans that most Americans just pretend to have faith, and just go through the motions, while what is really expected out of the faithful is political activism. Perhaps Wiccans should organize better and find a few congresspersons to rent. That's the way it's done in Jeebusland.

On the good foot, it seems that Sgt. Stewart will eventually get the inscription. His battalion commander and even his congressman are trying to help:

The battalion commander in charge of the Nevada National Guard unit that lost Sgt. Patrick Stewart in Afghanistan in September said Thursday that he believes the Department of Veterans Affairs will act favorably on a request to allow a Wiccan religious symbol to be used for Stewart's memorial at the Fernley veterans cemetery.

Wonder what Marion Robertson and the rest of the screamers will do when they find out that the congressman, Jim Gibbons, is a Republican. Apparently Rep. Gibbons didn't get the memo. Good on him, but it would have been nice if Mrs. Stewart didn't have to deal with this for six months running. They should have just done it; if they had wanted a dog inscribed on the thing it would have been done right away. There is just an inherent hypersensitivity in the bureaucratic infrastructure over anything that might ruffle the Christofascists' wittle feathers.

Perhaps the mouthbreathers in the great state of Missouri can bring Rep. Gibbons and any other free-thinkers up to speed:

Missouri legislators in Jefferson City considered a bill that would name Christianity the state's official "majority" religion.

House Concurrent Resolution 13 has is pending in the state legislature.


The resolution would recognize "a Christian god," and it would not protect minority religions, but "protect the majority's right to express their religious beliefs.

The resolution also recognizes that, "a greater power exists," and only Christianity receives what the resolution calls, "justified recognition."

State representative David Sater of Cassville in southwestern Missouri sponsored the resolution, but he has refused to talk about it on camera or over the phone.

How do ya like them apples? More on this later this weekend, but suffice to say that this is but one in what looks to be a lengthy series of shots across the bow.


RonB said...

Thanks, Dan. Interesting post for which I have little to add-like you, I haven't got much in the way of "care" for off the wallish "religions" like Wicca, but there is a heapin' helpful of them in the service as it tends to accumulate the ostracized and the weird and the DOD and America might want to get up to speed on who their bullet catchers are.

To the brass, I guess there's still no atheists in foxholes. I watch with amusement as they wrangle over the actual meaning of a pentagram, see how they dance around this supposedly satanic symbol.

The Missouri law is an interesting one, something I am not opposed to Constitutionally speaking as the dcoument really only prohibits Congress at large from declaring a sect the real deal, but certainly something we havent seen in a long time in America, at least not so overtly. I'm fairly tolerant of Christian values, it don't bother me none to bow my head in silence when they do their little rituals before something important.Whatever gets you by, I say. But that said, both stories are evidence of a growing failure of Christians to keep their end of the bargain re tolerance of other faiths. If it ain't the god of Abraham, they dont want to hear anything from it.

Rev. Jenene Hammers said...

This does not surprise me. I mean, Congressman Gibbons statement did not surprise me.

I am a Pagan married to a Heathen.

I also worked for Congressman Gibbons.

Of all the polititions I have worked for and with in my life, I have always but Gibbons on the "good guys" list. And believe me, that list is short. :)

He honestly CAREs about people. Not their votes, but as people. He really listens to them, and does his best to help. And he does so quietly.

Many people are complaining that all he did was issue a press release. But I know him. I am certain that he has and will do more than that - but will not shout out to the public everything he does to get a pat on the back. That's just not how he is.

I wish I was still living in NV, as he is running for Gov.

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