Pagan Veterans Headstone Campaign|
by Rev. Charles Arnold, HP
Today, just a few days short of the 60th anniversary of the Allied landings that
eventually led to the end of World War Two, there is much attention being focused on
veterans of the US Armed Forces, and rightfully so. Whether one agrees or disagrees with
US policy in Afghanistan and Iraq, one cannot doubt the loyalty and depth of commitment
exhibited by American military personnel who daily face the chance of violent death
while serving their country as they have been ordered to do. It is truly shameful that,
in this time of both remembrance of past sacrifices and daily reports of current
sacrifices, the same government which ordered American GIs into harm's way is also
actively involved in discrimination against some of these same brave men and women
simply because of their religion.
At this very moment, the Department of Veterans Affairs and its National Cemeteries
Administration refuses to grant Pagan veterans the same respect that it shows to members
of the Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Moslem faiths. It refuses to grant Pagan veterans
the same rights it grants to such groups as the Native American Church of America,
Konko-Kyo, Sufism, Tenrikyo, the American Humanist Association and even Eckankar and the
Atheist Association of America. Each of these groups, along with several others, has
achieved the right for members of their faiths to have an emblem of spiritual belief
placed on veterans' headstones. We, as Pagans, do not have this same right, although we
have applied several times. This is a clear instance of religious discrimination by a
government agency operating under a President and Commander-in-Chief who, as Governor of
Texas, advocated the immediate discharge of all Pagans from the US Armed Forces and who
did not believe that what we shared was even a real religion.
Until this situation changes, the Department of Veterans Affairs will not provide a
headstone, with a Pentacle or any other Neo-Pagan religious symbol, paid for by the
service and the blood of the veteran, to the family of the veteran. Even worse, until
that policy changes, the Department of Veterans Affairs will not allow the family of a
veteran who is buried in any of the hundreds of veterans cemeteries to place a headstone
with a Pentacle at the grave of a veteran, even if the family paid for that stone.
It is time for this situation to change.
It is time for General John Nicholson, the National Cemeteries Administration and the
Department of Veterans Affairs to provide us with open and honest responses defending
this discrimination or swearing to us that it will end.
It is time.
It is time that bureaucratic discrimination, based on the fact that the Department of
Veterans Affairs and other bureaucrats at all levels of government see us as
insignificant, come to an end.
It is time!
It is time that every Pagan in America refuses to accept less than equality, especially
at the hands of our elected and appointed government!
IT IS TIME!
It is time for every Pagan in the country to set aside our differences and join together
to end this discrimination and to provide for our fallen sisters and brothers. Election
campaigns are starting to swing into high gear across the country and this presents each
and every one of us with a whole new set of opportunities. Each time an incumbent member
of the House of Representatives or the Senate makes a public appearance they present us,
the Pagans of America, with an opportunity to question them on the topic of religious
discrimination by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Each time a candidate running
against an incumbent appears, they present us with the same opportunity.
The idea of confronting any candidate on this topic can be frightening for the majority
of Pagans. But compare the fearfulness of this situation with that of our sisters and
brothers in the military, facing bullets, mortars, rockets, landmines and all the rest.
I, for one, know how they feel, for I was once there myself, unwillingly fighting for my
country and trying to stay alive to make it home to the people who loved me. Speak with
every candidate for the House of Representatives and Senate you can possibly reach. And
speak to them in public forums. Ask whether or not they support an end to
discrimination. Then ask them where they stand on this one issue. AND DO NOT LET THEM
TRY TO EVADE THE ISSUE!
Start writing letters to the editor of every newspaper and magazine within fifty miles,
and not just once; write to them all every week. Keep raising this topic over and over
again until they get so sick of us that they start writing news stories about our
campaign. Do the same to every public, college and talk radio station you can hear. Keep
writing to your elected representatives and start writing letters to all the other
candidates. Tell each and every candidate of our concerns and keep writing until we bury
them with letters or they finally speak to those concerns.
It is time.
And it is time that every Pagan in this country spread this message until it blankets
our community so that no Pagan can later say that they would have supported this
campaign if only they had known about it. And it is time that every Pagan group and
organization set aside whatever differences there may be and join together as part of
the Pagan Veterans Headstone Campaign, a grassroots movement to achieve this token of
respect for our own. To date, the Pagan Unity Campaign, the Military Pagan Network,
United Pagan Temples of America, the New Temple of Astarte, the Firedance Church of
Wicca, the Plano (Texas) Pagan Alliance, the Southwest Texas Pagan Alliance and many
other groups are already deeply involved in this issue and for this support we thank
these groups and their members. We appeal to groups such as the Covenant of the Goddess,
the Lady Liberty League, the Aquarian Tabernacle Church and other national and regional
Pagan organizations: Please join with us.
It is definitely time.
You don't have to support these wars to support Pagans who are obeying lawful orders and
trying their best to do the right thing while trying to stay alive. Mail them letters.
Send them packages of goodies. You are supporting individual Pagans who are following a
path that has led them to where they are and who just want to make it home alive. For
those who support these wars - and there are Pagans who do support American involvement
in Afghanistan and Iraq - you have a very clear duty to support our Pagan compatriots as
well. And the entire American community has a responsibility to support our cry for an
end to religious discrimination and a new day of equal treatment in this one final act
that the Department of Veterans Affairs can perform for those of us who have passed.
Let the falling petals of the cherry trees in Washington, of the petals falling around
you wherever you are, remind you that opposition to equality will fall as well if we can
become the wind and the rain that blows away those petals so that the fruit may grow.
It is time. So let us act before one more Pagan veteran leaves this sphere; let us do
this one small thing for these people who have given years of their lives - or even life
itself - for us.
Rev. Charles Arnold, HP
Pagan Veterans Headstone Campaign
United Pagan Temples of America
Bio: Learn about
Charles Arnold at his Witches of the World Profile.