"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Monday, April 23, 2007

Emblems of Belief

Some of you may remember the story of fallen Sgt. Patrick Stewart and his widow's quest to have his VA-issued gravestone inscribed with a pentacle, the symbol of their Wiccan religion.

Mrs. Stewart and other families of Wiccan soldiers both deceased and living had submitted requests for the approval of the pentacle symbol to the VA only to be stonewalled for years, without even being given the courtesy of a decision in the negative. Nor were they given any reason (however lame) for this consignment to bureaucratic limbo. All despite the facts that Wiccan soldiers can (and do) have that listed as their religion on their dog tags and are allowed to hold religious services/ceremonies in military installations.

Well, the VA finally caved.

Wiccan symbol OK for soldiers' graves

The Wiccan pentacle has been added to the list of emblems allowed in national cemeteries and on government-issued headstones of fallen soldiers, according to a settlement announced Monday.

A settlement between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Wiccans adds the five-pointed star to the list of "emblems of belief" allowed on VA grave markers.

Eleven families nationwide are waiting for grave markers with the pentacle, said Selena Fox, a Wiccan high priestess with Circle Sanctuary in Barneveld, Wisconsin, a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

The settlement calls for the pentacle, whose five points represent earth, air, fire, water and spirit, to be placed on grave markers within 14 days for those who have pending requests with the VA.

"I am glad this has ended in success in time to get markers for Memorial Day," Fox said.

The VA sought the settlement in the interest of the families involved and to save taxpayers the expense of further litigation, VA spokesman Matt Burns said. The agency also agreed to pay $225,000 in attorneys' fees and costs.

The pentacle has been added to 38 symbols the VA already permits on gravestones. They include commonly recognized symbols for Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism, as well as those for smaller religions such as Sufism Reoriented, Eckiankar and the Japanese faith Seicho-No-Ie.

Now, is it just me, or would it not have saved more taxpayer dollars and been more immediately "in the interest of the families" to just allow the pentacle on the gravestones from the get-go? 'Cause then there wouldn't have been the lawyers and the settlement and the families without even a damn gravestone to put over their fallen soldiers who died in the service of the great and mighty US of A and its freedom of religion.

1 rejoinders:

Fourth pew, center sounded off...

(mini-rant): If you're not willing to put their preferred religious emblem on their gravestone . . . don't send 'em out to die.