Al Gore wasn’t the only surprise appearance at this year’s Netroots Nation conference. Libertarian Party Presidential candidate Bob Barr also happened to drop by. Ed Brayton, who blogs at Dispatches From the Culture Wars, was on-hand and managed to ask Barr a question that has been on the minds of many politically-oriented Pagans. Does he now repudiate his anti-Wiccan campaign from 1999?
“I got to ask Barr a question I’ve wanted to ask him for quite some time. He’s repudiated and apologized for many of his previous positions and I asked him if he would repudiate his absurd anti-Wiccan crusade of 1999, when he wanted all Wiccans banned from the military. He said yes, with a bit of hemming and hawing. He said that he had reports from several military leaders that Wiccans doing rituals on military bases were causing problems and that’s why he did what he did, but that since that time it’s become clear that there are no problems with allowing Wiccans to serve and to practice their religion on military bases like any other religion. I did ask him for any specific problems that were reported to him back in 1999 by these military leaders, but he said he didn’t want to get into specifics. I’m sure that’s because there are no specific incidents and those military leaders who complained to him did so out of bigotry, or because the problems it caused were really caused by bigotry against Wiccans.”
So you see, Barr was merely concerned by “reports” he had received. Reports that he doesn’t want to get into “specifics” on. That deep concern is obviously what led him to say things like this:
“A print of the painting, “The Prayer At Valley Forge,” depicting George Washington on bended knee, praying in the hard snow at Valley Forge, hangs over the desk in my office. If the practice of witchcraft, such as is allowed now at Fort Hood, is permitted to stand, one wonders what paintings will grace the walls of future generations,”
“And we wonder why we have kids that are drifting around aimlessly when the United States Army allows not faith in God, but witches to worship on military bases by active duty military personnel; and the best that we can tell our young people and our service people is that we have to struggle through this.”
It is obvious that these statements stem from a deep concern about military order, and not from religious bigotry. I mean, it isn’t like he tried to ban Pagans practice from the military entirely, oh wait, you mean he did?
“The $290 billion defense bill allowed lawmakers to fund Stealth bombers and tanks, but for Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), it also meant a chance to keep witches and peyote out of the barracks and bunkers. Barr’s two amendments to the defense appropriations bill would outlaw the practice of Wicca — a form of witchcraft that worships nature — and the use of the hallucinogenic drug, peyote, on military bases … Barr was unimpressed by the fact that some bases, such as Fort Hood in Texas, have allowed the practice of Wicca for three years without any problems. “I perceive it as a problem,” he said.”
If only he had told us then about those super-secret reports (from “military leaders”) that he can’t divulge “specifics” from. Maybe his anti-Pagan amendment wouldn’t have been tabled. But that is all in the past now! Bob Barr loves Pagans, especially Libertarian Pagans, and wants you to vote for him in the upcoming election. I’m sure his new-found support for religious freedom and free exercise will be unwavering from now on*.
ADDENDUM: I neglected to mention that Joe Max at the Chaotic Good blog tipped me off to this story in the comments of a previous entry. Thanks for pointing it out Joe!
* Unless, you know, he gets some “reports”, secret reports, telling him otherwise.