I began writing this post on Monday, and I felt I didn’t have anything interesting to say, that I was just parroting a press release. I saved the draft, and decided I’d think about it, to see if I could come up with a new angle. I’m not sure I really have one.
A lawsuit filed by a religious freedom organization against the Veterans Administration over permitting the use of Wiccan symbols on headstones for deceased soldiers was settled on Monday. “The Bush administration has conceded that Wiccans are entitled to have the pentacle, the symbol of their faith, inscribed on government-issued memorial markers for deceased veterans, Americans United for Separation of Church and State announced today.”
Fallen soldiers can have a symbol of their religion inscribed on their headstone. Except, until now, for Wiccans. Why? It appears to be a case of systemic bias from the Bush administration:
Americans United’s attorneys uncovered evidence that the VA’s refusal to recognize the Pentacle was motivated by bias toward the Wiccan faith. President George W. Bush, when he was governor of Texas, had opposed the right of Wiccans to meet at a military base in that state. Bush’s opinion of Wiccans was taken into consideration when making decisions on whether to approve the Pentacle.
“Many people have asked me why the federal government was so stubborn about recognizing the Wiccan symbol,” said AU’s Lynn. “I did not want to believe that bias toward Wiccans was the reason, but that appears to have been the case. That’s discouraging, but I’m pleased we were able to put a stop to it.”
I know several Wiccans, can name a half-dozen off-hand and probably a dozen more if I sat and thought about it. It’s disappointing to me that the federal government would discriminate against a religion just because then-Governor Bush of Texas said “I don’t think that witchcraft is a religion.” It’s unfortunate that a country founded on religious freedom would show intolerance toward a fallen soldier’s beliefs because it was different.
This is why I’m glad I waited. Science-fiction author Kevin Killiany wrote about this on his LiveJournal. Until I read Kevin’s LJ post, I didn’t know he was an ordained minister. I thought he had some interesting things to say on Wiccans having the right to have their beliefs respected by the Veterans Administration, in particular this (which applies, I think, to any religious interaction):
What a person believes, and how they express that belief, is that person’s business. I will, if invited, share my own. But I will not impose my beliefs on others since that very imposition violates the very foundation of faith. Forcing others to conform outwardly to your standards was described by Jesus Christ as “whitewashing.” (Didn’t know you were quoting Scripture, did you?) He was against it: it changes nothing of substance.
Why do I say this applies to any religious interaction? It’s very simple. People approach life from different perspectives, they formulate different beliefs and different ways of looking at the world. There are different paths to truth.
Star Trek got it right with the concept of IDIC, “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.” Doctor Who got it right, too, when the first Doctor said, “Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me I am not mistaken in mine.” Life isn’t a race. There are different paths. Kevin Killiany has the right perspective. Respect someone else’s beliefs because they came to their beliefs by all the roads life has taken them down. Especially in this country which was settled because of religious freedom.
Wiccans are now having their beliefs respected by the Veterans Adminstration, and that is a good thing. A very good thing. It’s unfortunate that it’s taken as long as it has. :/