Wiccans Seek Justice: Religious Liberty Is Still Not Secured For Minority Faiths - Part 2
Article ID: 11363
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Aradia Beatnik Betty
Posted: December 10th. 2006
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By Bethany Moore
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
First Freedom First Project Manager
Nearly one month after litigation was filed to force the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recognize Wiccans’ right to have the Pentacle on the list of “approved religious symbols, ” the Department of Veterans Affairs has yet to uphold the American promise of religious freedom, and to stop blatantly discriminating against more than 1, 800 Wiccans serving in the military.
Active duty Wiccan military personnel have seen this battle drag out for nine years now. Patience has been endured for these nine years as their request has remained stuck in the "approval pending" file at the VA. For religious freedom, believers are only a step closer.
Thankfully, and quite appropriately, Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn has stepped up to honor religious freedom for Wiccans at the state level. Gov. Guinn ordered the plaque for Sgt. Patrick Stewart to be placed over what was a blank space in the Fernley, Nevada Veterans Memorial Wall.
So, the Stewart family has "won" their battle for the Pentacle! Or so said the Associated Baptist Press in a December 5, 2006 article.
Stewart may have won this battle, but the war is not yet over. The VA has still not named the Pentacle to the list of "approved religious symbols." Any grasp of reason for this stagnation is a mystery. To add insult to injury, other religious symbols were approved by the VA in a matter of months over these last nine years. In 2004, the paperwork for the Sikh symbol was approved in merely three months.
After nearly a decade, efforts and actions to see this battle truly won are now increasing, and Wiccans and Pagans are now determined to stay the course.
After seeking solution through education and outreach, exchanging letters, making phone calls, and meeting with government officials, AU was left with no choice but to pursue litigation. At a Nov. 13 press conference, Americans United Assistant Legal Director Richard Katskee announced that we are now turning to courts to demand the well-deserved, decent respect of the government toward Wiccans. The AU legal department sent two letters to the VA demanding approval of the Pentacle.
Roberta Stewart described her experience as being "put in a position above dealing with the loss, and also having to discuss this again and again just so her husband’s actions to defend religious freedom were not done in vain." She questions, as many of us do, why her husband is being punished for upholding his oath to protect the US Constitution?
"Gold Star Wife" Roberta Stewart, a title she has earned because her spouse died while on active duty, feels that she has not only filed litigation for her husband, but also on behalf of all Wiccans and Pagans.
Until the VA approves the Pentacle and recognizes equally the Wiccan and Pagan faith, the phrase of Sgt. Stewart’s battle call, "Peace and Freedom Will Prevail" rings hollow in the hearts of those who must fight this battle with the VA to uphold that same freedom for Wiccans.
Please visit http://www.firstfreedomfirst.org/ to sign the First Freedom First petition. Learn about the issues. Watch videos. Take a stand against religious discrimination. Safeguard separation of church and state. Sign the petition, and encourage your friends and community to do so as well! Contact me for volunteer opportunities.
Barry Lynn, Executive Director at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, conducted an interview with Roberta Stewart and Selena Fox about the case on his radio show, Culture Shocks. You can listen to the archived show on AU's website.
(see: http://www.au.org, and direct link to audio: http://22.214.171.124/qtmedia/mp3/722.mp3)
Rob Boston at Americans United for Separation of Church and State has published an interesting and popular piece this week about Jerry Falwell, and Pagan flyers sent home in school children's backpacks! Americans United supports religious freedom for ALL religions.
Since 1947, Americans United has led the way in defending the separation of church and state, the cornerstone of religious liberty in America. As a non-sectarian, non-partisan organization, AU's membership includes Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Wiccans, people with no religious affiliation and others.
Please feel free to contact Bethany Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com with comments, questions, support, feedback, etc. You can also visit my blog at http://enlightened77.livejournal.com/.
Coming Soon!: Part 3 will expand on more philosophical concerns, and historical examples of discrimination and persecution against followers of Wicca and Paganism. Please feel free to write me at the above mentioned email address if you would like to express your personal views, concerns, experiences, or ideas in relation to this topic. I will be composing the next part of this series over the course of the next week or so, so all suggestions during that time are more than welcome.
Some questions to consider:
Have you been a victim of religious discrimination because of your Wiccan or Pagan faith? How did you handle this situation? Has it been resolved?
Why do you think some non-Wiccans are fearful of us? Has Hollywood contributed to this false stereotype by portraying us negatively in television and movies? What have you done to dispell the negativity?
How can we bridge the gap in understanding that exists between Pagans and Christians? What do members of both faith groups share in common? What is the major disconnect? Do you think members of other religious groups feel the same way toward Pagans and Wiccans as some Christians do?
Your responses will be well received and appreciated.
I appreciate this opportunity to share with others at Witches Voice. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com with your responses.
Copyright: Bethany Moore
Aradia Beatnik Betty
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
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