Editorial: "VA Plays Favorites With Beliefs" by The Virginian-Pilot

July 13, 2006

Source: The Virginian-Pilot


On July 13, 2006 The Virginian-Pilot wrote an editorial: "Sgt. Patrick Stewart, a member of the Nevada National Guard, was over Afghanistan in September when his helicopter was shot from the sky.

He was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, and his ashes were scattered in the hills near Reno, Nev.

The Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley, a couple of dozen miles away, offered to install a brass plaque to commemorate Stewart’s service to his country, which included Army stints in Korea and Operation Desert Storm. Such plaques usually include a symbol of a soldier’s faith.

But not Stewart’s.

The Department of Veterans Affairs allows only approved symbols, and it has a list of 38, including a cross, as well as signs for soldiers who were Muslim , Hindu, Buddhist, even atheist.

Stewart’s faith, however, isn’t among them...

Wicca is a fast-growing religion, recognized by the IRS and the Pentagon, but in the nine years its pentacle has been under review by the VA [Veterans Affairs], symbols for 11 other faiths have been approved, The Post reported.

'I really have no idea why it has taken so long,' a VA spokeswoman told The Post.

Neither do we. Perhaps it’s because some folks wrongly confuse Wicca with Satanism. In any case, the government has no business deciding which symbols it will allow and which it won’t, especially at a time when we’re fighting a war that much of the world sees as religious.

Approving the Wiccan pentacle immediately will show Americans of all religions, not to mention the world, that the VA isn’t in the business of playing favorites with faiths."