Monday, April 23, 2007

A Victory for Freedom of Religion

posted by The Sailor @ 6:06 PM Permalink

First the good news:
U.S. Says Wiccan Symbol Can Appear on Veterans' Headstones

To settle a lawsuit, the Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed to add the Wiccan pentacle to a list of approved religious symbols that it will engrave on veterans’ headstones.
Until now, the Veterans Affairs department had approved 38 symbols to indicate the faith of deceased service members on memorials. It normally takes a few months for a petition by a faith group to win the department’s approval, but the effort to win approval for the Wiccan symbol took about 10 years and a lawsuit, said Richard B. Katskee, assistant legal director for Americans United.
"I was just aghast that someone who would fight for their country and die for their country would not get the symbol he wanted on his gravestone," said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, which litigates many First Amendment cases. "It's just overt religious discrimination."
Exactly what he said. This is excellent, if long overdue, news.

Now the bad news:
"The government acted to settle in the interest of the families concerned," he added, "and to spare taxpayers the expense of further litigation."

In reviewing 30,000 pages of documents from Veterans Affairs, Americans United said it found e-mails and memoranda referring to negative comments that President Bush made about Wicca during a 1999 interview with the ABC program "Good Morning America," when he was governor of Texas. The interview had to do with a controversy at the time about Wiccan soldiers being allowed to worship at Fort Hood in Texas.

"I don’t think witchcraft is a religion," Mr. Bush said at the time, according to a transcript. "I would hope the military officials would take a second look at the decision they made."
Under the terms of the settlement, Americans United had to return the documents and could not copy them

Previous post here.


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