The Military and Paganism
"I don't think that witchcraft is a religion.
Lowell McFarland, contributing editor
The VA has settled! They will permit pentagrams on Vets' headstones and pay a quarter million dollars for legal fees and costs. Thanks to all our allies who helped make this happen!
On this page (or links) you'll find:
Additional Military Pagan RESOURCE PAGES
Returning Warrior/PTSD program: http://www.ravensgrovefoundation.org/
|Military Pagans in the News|
Bob Barr Recants Call to Drive Witches from Military?
Bush Denies Military Women Emergency Contraception
In a military averaging around 75% Christian, Pagans are still struggling to have equal treatment under the law, and written policies to that effect are somehow just not being followed consistently. A recent issue of STARS AND STRIPES deserves commendation from the Pagan community for raising these issues. -- cl, ed.
Military Pagans Struggle for Acceptance
Stars and Stripes | By Jennifer H. Svan | June 12, 2007
The Stars and Stripes story above described how the Pagan community is still fighting just to be treated like any other religious group on the Masawa Naval base.
For 6 years, there has been a study group for Pagans of all kinds there, the Misawa Earth-Based Religions (M-E-R) study group. They do have a key to a room in the chapel on Security Hill, where M-E-R meets Tuesday evenings for discussions, but not worship.
Fighting for Parity in Religious Accommodations
Of course, you have to KNOW that, in order to attend. Two years ago M_E_R's study group events were publicized just like any other religious events on the base cable, newspaper and website, www. misawa.af.mil. But now those listings are gone and so the only way to find this group is to come across the Yahoo webpage or call the chapel and ask the question: ‘Do you have a group and, if so, give me a phone number.’
In a meeting last week they requested with Chaplain Lt. Col. Steven Nicolai, six group members asked for the same base exposure afforded other religious groups to publicize their weekly meetings. Nicolai said the chapel "is working on publicizing the group's meeting times" and "would accommodate most of the group’s requests, including making its literature available at the chapel and to Airmen in deployment processing lines."
Chaplains Are Clueless About Inclusive Prayer
Unitarian Universalist clergy have a lot more practice and training in writing inclusive prayers. But every CPE certified chaplain is supposed to be responsible to do so. Accommodation is as simple as beginning a prayer with, "Let us now call upon the Divine, by whatever name each of us may know that Mystery" and let the rest of that prayer use the 1st and 2nd person, "we" and "Thou."
Are Tolerance and Civility Too Much to Ask for?
The Stars and Stripes story also mentions what we've all experienced: a "glare from a woman selling brownies at the base exchange for a Christian religious group on base"; overhearing mothers tell their children 'those are bad books to look at' while browsing earth-based religious materials at the Army and Air Force Exchange Service bookstore.
Off the job, tolerance can't be expected as long as the Culture Warriors are preaching religious supremacism and practicing hatemongering against all who aren't in their sect. But officers, at least, should be expected to carry out official policies of equal accommodations under the law, even if Bush doesn't think HE has to.
Sound Off...What do you think? Join the discussion at Stars and Stripes.
|Eclectic Wiccan Army soldier PFC Stephen P. Snowberger
Wed Apr 25, 2007 10:53 pm (PST)
An Opportunity to Honor a Fallen
Eclectic Wiccan Hero!
|Helping One Another|
Troops. Send a Care-package!
Contact: Laura Wandrie (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As a way to show our appreciate to our troops, Pagans United members will be sending care packages to our troops that are currently serving in Iraq. We are asking that the Pagan community get involved in this worthwhile endeavor by sending our troops care packages. Many of these soldiers do not receive anything from home and would love to hear from you.
A fellow Pagan American and Pagans United member currently serving in Iraq has graciously agreed to pass out care packages to those serving in Iraq. Some specific requests that have been made are: medicated foot powder, bug repellent, ladies ankle socks, GEL candles, incense and mail.
These care packages can be sent to:
SPC Keith Roberts
HHOC STB G2 OPS
APO AE 09342
Well Congregation Accepted for CFC National List
is the Law and Love is the Bond
Freedom of Religion in US Military
A right for one is a right for all
By Charles C. Haynes -- Two court victories by religious groups this month remind us that government must stay neutral toward religion. 04.29.07
More Briefs from the First Amendment
Send your comments to:
Kirt Sickels, Public
Federal judge backs
VA's use of religion in treating veterans
"The choice to receive spiritual or pastoral care, the choice to complete a spiritual assessment, and the choice to participate in a religious or spiritually based treatment program always remain the private choice of the veteran. Accordingly, there is no evidence of governmental indoctrination of religion."
Freedom From Religion Foundation president says group will appeal ruling, which found agency isn't violating establishment clause. 01.10.07
| Navy Sued for Religious Discrimination -- against Evangelicals???
religious-discrimination lawsuits given class-action status
accuse Navy of religious discrimination
|Air Force Academy
Evangelism (most recent
stories presented first)
Fight to Preserve RELIGIOUS LIBERTY At U.S. Air Force Academy
Oppose Any Amendment On The House Floor To Weaken Congressional Oversight Provision Contained In H.R. 2863 For Investigation Into Religious Coercion And Intolerance At U.S. Air Force Academy Click Here.
Track the bill, HR 2863 here: http://thomas.loc.gov
Time Magazine Runs Story on Air Force Academy Evangelism
June 20, 2005 - Time Magazine
Whose GOD Is Their Co-Pilot?
The U.S. Air Force Academy faces charges that it has allowed rampant evangelization on campus.
Christian Emphasis on Evangelism at Heart of AF Academy Scandal
June 6, 2005
by Steve Rabey
Religion News Service
...evangelicals in and out of uniform speak out too aggressively at the Academy, creating an environment that Americans United for Separation of Church and State described as "systematic and pervasive religious bias and intolerance at the highest levels of the Academy command structure."
It's a classic battle between evangelical Christians, who say they are commanded to share their beliefs, and people of other faiths or no faith, who say they shouldn't have to tolerate constant proselytizing or harassment. And the battle lines extend far beyond Colorado Springs, an evangelical epicenter, to similar religious freedom battles around the country, as well as other world hot spots where America's global aspirations seem to be cloaked in Christian rhetoric.
For now, both sides are waiting for an Air Force task force report expected later this summer that will address issues of religion at the Academy, which has been the subject of complaints for decades.
"We have not seen any evidence of this being an issue throughout the Air Force," said Jennifer Stephens, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon.
But she says complaints from Academy cadets and faculty, growing press coverage, and a detailed report from advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State convinced top brass that "this was a good opportunity to take a look at the policies, the procedures, and the religious climate at the Academy."
... It was the spring of 2004 when Cadet First Class Casey Weinstein says he and fellow Academy cadets were exposed to an aggressive promotional campaign for Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ"....The flyers disappeared... but ... such complaints did little to stop the continuing barrage of Christian messages that critics claim are a routine part of daily life at the Academy. ....
An executive with Focus in the Family, a conservative Christian organization based in Colorado Springs, described the campaign against evangelicals at the Academy as "a witch hunt."
... "I don't think there's a pervasive or major problem at the Academy," says Jerry White, president emeritus of the Navigators and a former Academy instructor. "If anything, it's a bit of intolerance among the cadets, who are young kids and sometimes say stupid things. ... it's evangelicals who have been on the receiving end of most of the religious abuse. "
Academy critics say they aren't asking evangelicals to give up their beliefs. They're only asking them to express them in ways that acknowledge increasing pluralism of American life.
"Sharing your faith with another is not a problem," says Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "But in a hierarchy, when highly placed individuals manipulate a chain-of-command structure to pressure others to adopt their faith, that is a problem."
Academy Chaplain MeLinda Morton has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Academy's religious culture. She contends ... "The problem is that the Academy is a regulated market. And many of the evangelicals at the Academy have disregarded and attempted to subvert the regulations about what is or isn't appropriate."
For full article, see Pew Forum http://pewforum.org/news/display.php?NewsID=4919
Center News summary page:
View the latest news stories.
|Roses to the Contra Costa Times for
this story on religious freedom in the armed forces.
Military casts Wicca in the shadows
After U.S. military personnel pelted American Wiccan servicemen and servicewomen in Iraq with bottles and rocks as they worshipped in a sacred circle, the Pentagon turned to Patrick McCollum of Moraga.
The chaplain, a national expert on the earth-based Wicca religion, conjured a little Wicca 101 for the troops.
Most Americans glean their Wicca knowledge from TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" or "Charmed," with their witches and curses, good and evil. Wiccan worship focuses on respect for the earth and its inhabitants with a "do no harm" credo.
"Education is the single most powerful tool," in dealing with misunderstandings in the military, McCollum said.
Wiccans represent a small fraction of the military, roughly 1,500 among 1.4 million active personnel, but the Pentagon wants to accommodate their faith. The military trains chaplains to meet the religious needs of all service members without compromising their own religious beliefs, said Col. Richard Hum, executive director of the Armed Forces Chaplains Board at the Defense Department.
That's where McCollum and a few other Wiccans come in as on-call Pentagon advisers. The military has sought his advice three or four times since he started after Sept. 11, 2001, he said.
An advisory team became a Pentagon priority when Wiccan military personnel reported problems while conducting rites and religious activities.
The Wiccans said that some chaplains were trying to convert them and that commanding officers made it difficult to practice, McCollum said.
Wiccans also have been pressuring the Department of Veterans Affairs to allow a Wiccan emblem, most likely the pentacle, for armed forces burial headstones or markers. Mike Nacincik of Veterans Affairs, said the department authorizes 38 emblems, including one for atheists, but none for Wiccans.
The military should honor the beliefs of Wiccans asked to fight and die to uphold freedom of speech and religion, McCollum said.
"If these freedoms are taken away while they're defending these values, it creates a paradox."
Defending freedom is the essence of the military, said Col. W. Randy Robnett, wing chaplain at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield.
"We provide for freedom of religion (in the military)," he said. "That's why we put the uniform on every day."
An extensive Internet network links McCollum with the faithful. Paganism thrives in California, particularly in the Bay Area and Los Angeles region, he said.
Wiccans exist in nearly all military branches, some in the top ranks, he said.
The Air Force attracts the most, with 1,552 of enlisted personnel identifying themselves as Wiccans, said Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Defense Department spokeswoman. The Marine Corps has 68. The Navy doesn't report numbers, and the Army lists no Wiccans, she said.
The Air Force recognized the religious categories of Pagan, Gardnerian Wiccan, Seax Wiccan, Dianic Wiccan, Shaman and Druid in 2000. Many bases now have circles and hold services. Dog tags can also identify a serviceperson as Wiccan.
Wiccans had their first chaplain-service in 1997 at the Army's Fort Hood in Texas.
At Travis, Wiccan lay leader and high priest Loye Pourner estimates that 60 Wiccans are among the nearly 11,300 enlisted men and women there.
"Those numbers are way low," he said. "One of the difficulties in federal, state and military institutions is that they say they want to know so they can ... help us" but discriminate against those who admit to being pagans.
Pourner began holding weekly informational meetings at Travis in 1996. The recently retired technical sergeant is lay leader for the roughly 15-member Travis Earth Circle. They observe eight sacred cycles of the year, called sabbats.
Practicing Wicca overseas can be challenging, especially in the desert, Pourner said. The Air Force sent him to Qatar days after the Sept. 11 attacks. He used birthday candles and his canteen cup for religious rites. He and four other Wiccans celebrated Halloween - Samhan - in Qatar. Members of the 45-member troop respected their faith.
During intense times, nearly everyone banded together and sought spiritual support from Pourner.
"We prayed nightly to any divine being that we wouldn't get attacked," he said.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has so far refused to allow a Wiccan emblem on the headstones or markers of soldiers. Other relatively obscure religions have the privilege, including Eckankar and the Church of World Messianity.
Wiccans don't meet the emblem requirements, said Nacincik.
The department's bureaucratic hurdles include a written request from the recognized head of the organization, a list of national officers and a membership tally.
The VA demands are impossible, McCollum said: Wiccans have no hierarchy or governing board for the religion's numerous sects.
"If they submit the proper information that is required then we'll go ahead and consider them," Nacincik said.
"That answer is canned government-speak," said McCollum.
Pourner said he has e-mailed requests to Veterans Affairs and never heard a reply.
"We have had requests about the process, but no one has followed through on it," Nacincik said.
That vexes McCollum.
"It doesn't appear to me that the Veterans Affairs has any burning desire to make this happen.
"The Veterans (Affairs), above all people, should be fighting for each and every one of these men and women who have given their lives for their country."
Reach Randy Myers at email@example.com or 925-977-8419.
|Article published by Contra Costa Times at http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/9380053.htm?1c
Used with permission.
Religious Differences Part of Cadet Training
Academy officials could not say whether the task force would issue
a public report on its findings.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State
A new Air Force policy statement urging restraint
".... Senior leaders, commanders and supervisors at every level must be particularly sensitive to the fact that subordinates can consider your public expressions of belief systems coercive," said the statement. "Using your place at the podium as a platform for your personal beliefs can be perceived as misuse of office. ...."
|First, MREs; Now Tracts. What's
American Tract Society Press Release
"But the old practices of the Druids died hard and were denounced by the church as witchcraft. This is how Halloween became known as a witch's holiday."
The Pentagon Chaplain said he came across one Marine who was preparing to ship out to Afghanistan. The soldier thanked him for the Christian tracts throughout the building. "He held a Bible and one of the ATS military tracts and said he knew that day he didn't need to be afraid, because he had eternal life with Jesus."
This fall, ATS is distributing voter registration packs and tracts across the country, ncluding sites in the Pentagon complex. ATS is a partner in the effort with a national nonpartisan Redeem the Vote campaign to especially target young voters who have been missing from the voter registration lists.
"It's not about partisanship, it's about the importance of making a choice to exercise the right to vote and claim the precious freedom for which so many have sacrificed and are sacrificing to give us," according to Southern.
"Literature in these packs also extends the significant opportunity to make an eternal choice, that of choosing Christ as a personal savior, and the eternal freedom that choice brings."
"The Pentagon's voting officer for the Army said he had registered 300 to 500 individuals from the ATS voter packs," Benson said, "I don't know how many the other military branches here have already registered with the ATS voter literature. ... I see a lot of the Pentagon cleaning crews have the ATS voter packs' 'God Bless America' flags waving from their carts as they bustle down the long corridors."
Every autumn, the Society also prints and sends out more than three million Halloween evangelism gospel tracts and tract-and-toy treat bags for carnival and trick-or-treat handouts. This year, Spiderman and Bibleman fight the dastardly with doses of Scripture from the newest Halloween tracts, which use catchy themes, colorful graphics, scripture and text to connect tract readers with Jesus and link daily life with faith and salvation for "kids" of all ages and backgrounds.
This autumn, with ATS evangelism at the Pentagon, tract distribution, voter registration and Halloween treat bags and tracts, we see our mission turning full circle as we strive to fan winds of positive change in a struggling world," said Southern.
ATS gospel tracts can be viewed and ordered by phone 1-800-54-TRACT and online at www.ATStracts.org Contact:
The Green Side:
Pagan Commentary on the News
By Lowell McFarland<firstname.lastname@example.org>
We have contacted the Pentagon to ask if Pagan and other non-mainstream religious tracts are also welcome at the 32 rack positions mentioned in this press release. Also whether Pagan speakers are welcome at Pentagon events. You may also wish to contact the Pentagon Press Office at one of the addresses or number below.
The American Tract Society puts out extensive material about Halloween:
Here's the current material; note that they are getting PART of the truth, while retaining the libel about Paganism being obsessed with death. Hey, we're not the ones with the crucifixes in front of all the classrooms.:
"More than two thousand years ago, a people called the Celts (Kelts) lived in what are now Ireland, Great Britain, and France. Among the Celtic people was an elite intellectual class known as the Druids, who served as religious priests, judges, lawmakers, and scientists. They had an elaborate pagan religious festival, along with certain rituals. Chief among these was the Fire Festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-en), observed at harvest time to mark the Celtic New Year.
The Celts believed that on this night the barrier between the natural world and the supernatural was removed, and the spirits of the dead were able to move freely among human beings. Samhain was the most solemn and important night in the Celtic year.
FACT: Christians had a Part
After the Roman Catholic Church brought Christianity to the Celtic peoples in the seventh century, some of their traditional folk customs were Christianized. In 835 A.D. Pope Gregory IV moved the church's "Feast of All Saints" from the spring to November 1st to replace the observance of Samhain. All Saint's Day, still observed today by many Christians, honored believers who had died. The night before, which featured a sacred vigil in church, became known as "All Hallow's Eve," or Halloween. But the old practices of the Druids died hard and were denounced by the church as witchcraft. This is how Halloween became known as a witch's holiday."
"In this way, a combination of pagan, Christian, and civic elements formed the Halloween celebration we know today. In recent decades, however, a renewed interest in the old pagan beliefs has blossomed in North America. Popular entertainment, including television shows like "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer," and even "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," make occult themes and witchcraft seem fun and acceptable. The result is that Halloween today has become strongly associated with the occult and a preoccupation with the dead -- two influences that Scripture and the church have always warned against."
|Some PRess Releases documenting our history|
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State
Army Should Reject Call For Ban On Wiccans.
Rep. Barr, Religious Right Misunderstand First Amendment
June 28, 1999
Military officials should reject a congressman's demand that practice of the Wiccan faith be banned on military bases, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
U.S. Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) says Wicca, the modern name for witchcraft, is not a bona fide religion and that military officials do not have to permit its practice on bases. Barr recently sent a letter to military leaders demanding an end to Wiccan rituals at Fort Hood near Killeen, Texas, and sought to introduce an amendment to a $290 billion defense bill that would forbid Wiccan worship on military bases.
Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn charged that Barr has a poor understanding of religious liberty and urged military officials to reject his demands.
"Rep. Barr's comments reflect an appalling intolerance and a lack of understanding about the fundamental principles upon which this nation was founded," Lynn wrote Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.
"The Constitution forbids government discrimination against any religious group," observed Lynn, in the letter. "No government official may single out a religious minority group for unfavorable treatment or suppression. In other words, if some military personnel are free to exercise their religious beliefs on base, people of all religious faiths must be extended the same opportunity."
Following Barr's complaint, a number of Religious Right groups took up his crusade. Led by Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation, the organizations called on Christians to boycott the Army until Wicca is banned.
Weyrich mistakenly accused the Army of sponsoring "satanic rituals." In fact, Wiccans practice a pre-Christian, nature-based faith and do not worship Satan.
Lynn accused the Religious Right groups of hypocrisy. "Religious Right activists claim to be for religious freedom," observed Lynn, "but here they are trying to squelch the rights of a group just because they don't like what it preaches. It's positively un-American.
"Thankfully," concluded Lynn, "the First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans, including Wiccans. No amount of Religious Right bigotry can change that."
Americans United is a public policy organization based in Washington, D.C.
Founded in 1947, the organization represents 60,000 members in all 50 states.
Contact: Joseph Conn or Rob Boston
Release of First Amendment Center
Senate Republican joins call to end military accommodation of Wicca
by Jeremy Leaming
First Amendment Center
June 29, 1999
The Senate's oldest member has joined the call, prompted by a socially conservative congressman from Georgia, to bar Wiccan practices on U.S. military bases.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., submitted a statement decrying Wicca, a nature-based faith, as irreligious and saying it should not be accommodated by the military.
"Army soldiers who consider themselves to be members of the Church of Wicca are carrying out their ceremonies at Fort Hood in Texas," Thurmond wrote. "The Wiccas practice witchcraft. At Fort Hood, they are permitted to build fires on Army property and perform their rituals involving fire, hooded robes, and nine inch daggers. An Army chaplain is even present."
Thurmond's letter follows recent congressional attention given to Wiccan worship on military bases. In May, Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., sent letters to base leaders at Fort Hood demanding that they cease permitting soldiers to engage in Wiccan celebrations. Barr's likened Wiccan practices to "Satanic rituals" and said the military needed to stop allowing Wiccan celebrations to occur on bases.
For years, however, military bases such as Fort Hood and ones in Louisiana, Alaska and Florida have permitted soldiers to form groups to honor their goddesses and gods. Moreover, the U.S. Armed Forces Chaplain Handbook contains a section on Wicca and how it can be accommodated. The military handbook states that "the core ethical statement of Wicca, called the 'Wiccan Rede' states 'as it harm none, do what you will.' The rede fulfills the same function as the 'Golden Rule' for Jews and Christians; all other ethical teachings are considered to be elaborations and applications of the rede.
"Social forces generally do not yet allow Witches to publicly declare their religious faith without fear of reprisals such as loss of job, child-custody challenges, ridicule, etc.," the handbook states. "Prejudice against Wiccans is the result of public confusion between Witchcraft and Satanism. Wiccans in the military, especially those who may be posted in countries perceived to be particularly intolerant, will often have their dogtags read 'No Religious Preference.' Concealment is a traditional Wiccan defense against persecution, so non-denominational dogtags should contravene a member's request for religious services."
In his letter to the Senate committee, Thurmond called on the military to reverse its accommodation of Wicca.
"I do not dispute that individuals may believe what they wish, and they can practice their religion in private life," Thurmond told the committee. "However, limits can and should be placed on the exercise of those views, especially in the military. I do not believe that the Armed Forces should accommodate the practice of witchcraft at military facilities. The same applies to the practices of other groups such as Satanists and cultists. For the sake of the honor and prestige of our military, there should be no obligation to permit such activity. This is an example of going too far to accommodate the practice of one's views in the name of religion."
Last week George W. Bush, governor of Texas and 2000 GOP presidential frontrunner, was asked by ABC News about Barr's concerns on Wicca in the military as well as the posting of the Ten Commandments in public buildings.
Bush said that he did not believe "witchcraft is a religion," and he hoped "the military would rethink this decision." Bush was then asked whether he agreed with the recent U.S. House of Representatives' vote that said states have the constitutional power to place the Ten Commandments in public buildings, including public schools. He said that he had no problem with the religious codes being placed in every public building.
In 1984 a federal judge in Virginia ruled that Wicca was a religion protected by the First Amendment, saying the faith occupied a place in the lives of its members "parallel to that filled by the orthodox belief in God."
are on your side. We always were. Now, stop loss has taken
away your freedom. You had no say in the matter. If you want
to defend anyone’s freedom, start by defending your own!
Refuse this involuntary servitude called stop loss.
everyone who fears that they just might be engulfed by draft
"Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."
David Wiggins [send him
mail] is a West Point (United States Military Academy)
distinguished graduate and an honors graduate of New York
Medical College. He left the Army as a Conscientious Objector,
resigning his commission as an Army Captain on the Iraqi front
lines during Operation Desert Storm. He is currently an