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Wiccan widow's war...

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Devious Viper:
While families celebrate the nation's independence with barbecues and fireworks, a Nevada soldier's widow continues her fight for a veteran's memorial plaque that recognizes her husband's Wiccan religion. Roberta Stewart of Fernley will be the Fourth of July guest speaker at an interfaith religious rights rally a couple of blocks from the White House in Washington, D.C.

Stewart's husband, Nevada Army National Guard Sgt. Patrick Stewart, died Sept. 25 when the Chinook helicopter he was in was shot down in Afghanistan. "I should be spending the Fourth of July with my kids," Stewart said. "This is a family that they are torturing. We're a family that needs to lay their fallen hero to rest."

The Wiccan faith is not among the 38 religions recognized by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Since her husband's death, Stewart has petitioned for recognition through the Memorial Programs Service Office and received the assistance of Nevada politicians. On Memorial Day, she organized the Sgt. Patrick Stewart Freedom for All Faiths Memorial Service at the Out of Town Park in Fernley, where about 300 people gathered. Josephine Schuda, spokeswoman for the VA central office in D.C., said no action has been taken but department lawyers recently said the process the National Cemetery Administration used to established its directives regarding the approval process may not be "legally sufficient."

"They are reviewing the process," she said. "It's apparently contributed in further delay."

While in the capital, Stewart said she has an appointment scheduled with William Tuerk, undersecretary for Memorial Affairs, in her final attempt to get the pentacle recognized before taking legal action. "I have sought legal counsel and I will be retaining it to pursue things to the next level," she said. "I will do what I have to do to put my husband to rest and stand up for the constitutional rights of all Americans."

With all that she has been through, Stewart said she is still grateful to be an American and live in the United States.

"I don't quite feel as free as I used to," she said.


--- Quote from: Devious Viper on July 03, 2006, 06:02:03 PM ---"I don't quite feel as free as I used to," she said.

--- End quote ---

I don't know anyone that does these days.  Phone taps, computer recording, etc. by our own government.

However, I was under the impression that the U.S. Army recognized Wicca as a religion about four years ago.  I'll have to research that because I was fairly certain of it.  A witch friend of mine has a son in the military and she was glad about it.  She organizes the Pagan Pride festival in New York, Buffalo I think.


Devious Viper:
That was my initial thought, too, but then I realised that the Veterans Affairs department might be an organisation totally independent of the actual military, and probably has quite a culture-lag.

Devious Viper:
Trawled for a few more articles about this case, and found this quote

--- Quote from: Religion News Service,  June 27, 2006 ---Stewart says her husband was always an accepted member of the military community, and said Wicca has been recognized by the armed forces; the Pentacle star was on her husband's dog tags. In an opinion piece for the online version of Christianity Today, a respected voice for American evangelicals, constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead also has come out in favor of the Wiccan cause. "Whatever one's opinion might be about the Wiccan faith, there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that the First Amendment to our U.S. Constitution provides for religious freedom for all individuals of all faiths - whether they are Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, Wiccans and others"

--- End quote ---

Devious Viper:

--- Quote from: Christianity Today June 5, 2006 ---By refusing to place the Wiccan symbol on Sgt. Stewart's memorial plaque, while permitting symbols of other religions and non-religions, the government is clearly engaging in viewpoint discrimination—which is a shoddy way to treat someone who has died in service to his country... Although our country was founded on a Judeo-Christian base, the Framers of the U.S. Constitution understood that religious freedom was for everyone, not just Christians. In other words, the only way that freedom can prevail for Christians is for Christians to stand up and fight for the minority beliefs and religions of others. Without it, freedom will most likely be lost. And we will be left wondering whose freedoms we are really fighting for.
--- End quote ---


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