Morale: Pagan Soldiers Get Some Respect


April 25, 2007: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed to recognize dead soldiers who were Wiccans. The recognition comes largely in the form of a Wiccan symbol (a five pointed star representing earth, air, fire, water and the spirit) on grave markers (Christians get a cross, Jews a six pointed cross of David and Moslems a crescent). Wicca is basically repackaged pre-Christian "paganism." It was introduced half a century ago in Britain, partly to celebrate the repeal of the witchcraft laws.

Wicca is basically nature worship, as were most pre-Christian European religions. There are nearly 200,000 practitioners in the United States, and at least eleven families of soldiers killed in action, have let the U.S. government know that they are Wicca and they want their deceased soldier buried under that symbol.

Wiccan soldiers have long encountered resistance from the military establishment, but have gradually been accepted. Earlier, Wicca was allowed as a religion identifier on dog tags, and Wiccan troops can hold religious services on base. Despite that, it took a lawsuit to get the government to allow soldiers to be recognized as Wiccan in military cemeteries. Other established religions protested partly because, all of them are based, in part, on their success in replacing the older "pagan" religions. The scriptures of the established religions are full of material on combating religions similar to Wicca. It is something of an insult to have people returning to the ancient beliefs. But the U.S. is based on religious tolerance, and this includes a broad array of beliefs.




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