Thursday, July 06, 2006

The War on Terror II: A Wiccan Is Dishonored

Patrick D. Stewart has become the first Wiccan to die in combat in the War on Terror, but the Department of Veterans Affairs has refused to allow a symbol of the religion – a five-pointed star within a circle – to be inscribed on his gravestone at a veterans’ cemetery in Fernley, Nevada.

The department has approved the symbols of 38 other faiths, about half of them versions of the Christian cross.

Stewart, 34, was serving in the Nevada National Guard when the helicopter in which he was riding was shot down in Afghanistan last September. He previously had served in the Army in Korea and Operation Desert Storm. He was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

His widow, Roberta Stewart, scattered his ashes in the hills above Reno and would like him to have a permanent memorial. She said the veterans cemetery offered to install a plaque with his name and no religious symbol, but she refused.

The widow told The Washington Post that:
I feel very strongly that my husband fought for the Constitution of the United States, he was proud of his spirituality and of being a Wiccan, and he was proud of being an American.

Wicca is one of the fastest-growing faiths in the country. Its adherents have increased from about 8,000 in 1990 to 134,000 in 2001, according to the American Religious Identification Survey. The Pentagon says that more than 1,800 Wiccans are on active duty.

Wiccans still suffer from the misconception that they are devil worshipers. Some Wiccans call themselves witches, pagans or neopagans, but most of their rituals revolve around the cycles of nature, such as equinoxes and phases of the moon.

No comments: