"Witch Trials And Tribulations In The Land Of The Free," a Commentary by Charles C. Haynes

April 8, 2007

Author: Charles Haynes

Source: North Country Gazette


People accused of witchcraft in America aren't executed anymore (we are 300 years and a First Amendment away from Puritan Massachusetts). These days they just lose their jobs.

Don Larsen discovered this the hard way. A year ago, Larsen was a Pentecostal Christian minister serving as an Army chaplain in Iraq. But then he converted to Wicca, whose members are self-described witches, and applied to become the first Wiccan chaplain in the U.S. armed forces.

Today Larsen is a former Army chaplain back home in Idaho. As reported last month in The Washington Post, the Army not only denied his request to change religious affiliation, but also removed him from the chaplain corps (despite an outstanding record) and sent him packing.

The Army denies any discrimination against Wiccans and cites a maze of Catch-22 bureaucratic reasons for Larsen's dismissal. But earlier attempts by Wiccan groups to obtain a military chaplain have also failed - in spite of there being more than 130 other religious groups on the approved list.

True, Wiccans make up only a small percentage of military personnel (around 1,900 by the Pentagon's count, though the real numbers are likely much higher). But other religious groups with similarly small numbers already have chaplains.