Threatened Litigation Comes To The VA

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Back at the end of September, I blogged about an ultimatum given by military widow Roberta Stewart and Americans United to the VA, the message was simple: approve the Pentacle on military gravestones and markers or we sue. The initial 14-day grace period has long since come and gone, and true to their word litigation has been officially filed by American United.

“Americans United for Separation of Church and State today filed litigation against the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) over its refusal to include the Wiccan symbol of faith on its official list of emblems for government headstones and markers. Americans United is representing Roberta Stewart, whose husband, Sgt. Patrick Stewart, was killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2005; Karen DePolito, whose husband, Jerome Birnbaum, is a veteran of the Korean War who died last year; Circle Sanctuary, a prominent Wiccan church; and the Isis Invicta Military Mission, a Wiccan and Pagan congregation serving military personnel.”

The press conference held yesterday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., made the national press and was broadcast on CNN’s Pipeline on the Internet. The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, stressed that this was litigation long overdue.

“For far too long, the VA has discriminated against service members of the Wiccan faith. After asking the VA on a number of occasions to stop its unfair treatment of Wiccans in the military, we have no alternative but to seek justice in the courts.”

Litigating the case will be Americans United Assistant Legal Director Richard Katskee, and and AU Litigation Counsel Aram Schvey. The lawsuits were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Perhaps now after nearly ten years of attempts, Wiccans will be able to chip away at another inequity, opening the doors for all modern Pagan veterans to be properly honored with a symbol of their faith.