“On Monday morning, April 23,2007 Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) will hold a national press conference in Washington, DC announcing a major development in its lawsuit against the US Department of Veterans Affairs for barring the inscription of the Wiccan religious symbol on government-issued memorial markers for deceased veterans.”
Now the news has come forward that a settlement has been reached over addition of the Pentacle to the VA list of Emblems of Belief.
“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. The settlement agreement, filed today with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, brings to a successful conclusion a lawsuit Americans United brought against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in November.”
It seems the settlement had been reached after lawyers for Americans United uncovered clear and unambiguous evidence of bias towards the Wiccan faith on the part of the VA and the government.
“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.’”
In other words, VA officials were taking statements against Wiccans made by Bush as a policy guideline when considering approving the Wiccan pentacle. One wonders what other military organizations are using such a “guideline” in their decisions regarding the rights of Wiccans and Pagans. It would certainly explain the discrimination that military chaplain Don Larsen faced in his attempt to become the first Pagan chaplain. But despite this very troubling revelation, one hopes this is just the start of a new day concerning the rights of Pagans in the military. Congratulations to Circle Sanctuary, Roberta Stewart, and Americans United. This is a great day!