Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A step further towards religious tolerance?

While debatin religion in the US, many of us forget that while atheists are considered second-rate citizens by some, they are not the only group of people who encounter religious bigotry. Wiccans regularly face relgious intolerance and discrimination. Now, there is one less such discrimination happening.

Use of Wiccan Symbol on Veterans’ Headstones Is Approved

To settle a lawsuit, the Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed to add the Wiccan pentacle to a list of approved religious symbols that it will engrave on veterans’ headstones.

The settlement, which was reached on Friday, was announced on Monday by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which represented the plaintiffs in the case.

Though it has many forms, Wicca is a type of pre-Christian belief that reveres nature and its cycles. Its symbol is the pentacle, a five-pointed star, inside a circle.

Until now, the Veterans Affairs department had approved 38 symbols to indicate the faith of deceased service members on memorials. It normally takes a few months for a petition by a faith group to win the department’s approval, but the effort on behalf of the Wiccan symbol took about 10 years and a lawsuit, said Richard B. Katskee, assistant legal director for Americans United.

The group attributed the delay to religious discrimination. Many Americans do not consider Wicca a religion, or hold the mistaken belief that Wiccans are devil worshipers.

As the article shows, it appears that President George Bush follows in the steps of his father when it comes to relgious bigotry - just look at these remarks.

“I don’t think witchcraft is a religion,” Mr. Bush said at the time, according to a transcript. “I would hope the military officials would take a second look at the decision they made.”

This is from an interview with “Good Morning America” in 1999.

I am of the opinion that if people self-identify as religious, and define their belief in a way that can be considered a religion, then who are we to say otherwise? Here I should perhaps add, that it's quite reasonable to point out that someone's self-definition contradicts common usage among other people self-identifying as belonging to that religion (e.g. lack of belief in God and Jesus when considering yourself a Christian), but that's certainly not the case with the Wiccans.

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Blogger Kaethe said...

Bigotry is weird. The military had already approved the designation of Wicca as a religion for dogtags and chaplains, but had to pick on dead soldiers' families? It's amazing how often someone has to file suit to point up something which is blatantly wrong.

April 25, 2007 3:48 PM  

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