Monday, March 13, 2006

Religious Discrimination Against the Dead at the VA Cemetery

National Guard soldier Patrick Stewart was killed in action in Afghanistan. He was posthumously awarded the Air Medal, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Nevada Distinguished Service Medal and the Combat Action Badge, but his service goes unmarked on the memorial wall of the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley, NV, solely because of his religious beliefs: Stewart was a follower of and a believer in the Wiccan religion.

According to that inconvenient document that is rapidly becoming just a goddam piece of paper, the United States Constitution, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." (the so-called establishment clause of the First Amendment).

So what are we to make of this blatant discrimination against a brave National Guardsman who paid the ultimate price and whose remains now linger unmarked in a VA cemetery in northern Nevada because the VA refuses to place the symbol of the Wiccan Religion on his memorial marker? Seems the government didn't have any problem with putting "Wiccan" on Stewart's dog tags.

They also don't have any problem placing crosses, Stars of David, or Buddhist wheels on the markers. Even atheists have their own approved symbol. In fact, there are 33 religions or belief systems recognized by the VA -- fully 17 of them Christian sects or cults -- as being "worthy" of having a marker to memorialize a dead soldier.

But the VA rules prohibit any non-approved graphical representations of "emblems of belief" on government-furnished headstones or other markers.

Why is Stewart being discriminated against? And whose goddam business is his religion?

This is just a VA rule -- it doesn't have the force or effect of US law or federal regulation. And because it is a rule, it can be changed easily. In fact, all VA Secretary James Nicholson has do to is issue an order and it's a done deal.

So why hasn't he done so? I suggest we all write to him and ask him that question:

James Nicholson
Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20420

This is yet another reason why I am proud to be a card-carrying member of both the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State -- Stewart's choice of religion, like mine, is none of the government's business.


NOLAWitch said...

Yes indeed. There are at least four members of my coven who are veterans who won't get their religious symbol on their gravestones. Hopefully, the lobbying effort will work after the criminially corrupt Republicans have been voted out of office.

This is reprehensible as we clearly have an identifiable symbol used by nearly all Wiccans. The only reason for not allowing its use is religious tyranny.

Thanks for being as pissed off about it as we are.


This is bullshit! These facist pigs had no problem recruiting this HERO but, they have a problem with his religon. I will write this horsesass at the VA. Thanks again OPOV for bringing this insult to my attention.

Granny said...

Could have sworn I left a comment earlier. Maybe you're not the only one who posted this.

I sent it over to my Wiccan son who, I believe, still has Wiccan on his dog tags.

moderate said...

it's a goddam disgrace...just like every other thing this asshole administration does...I'll send a letter post haste

Christopher Blackwell said...

Actually I get the general idea that veterans, Wiccan and otherwise are a lot like toilet paper as far as this government is concerned, valuable till used

Anonymous said...

I am an adopted, American Citizen, Gulf War 1 vet. I do remember the USAF asking me what religious preferance I had in the event I was KIA. What I do not remember is them giving me a list of 30 or so to choose from. Widow Stewart just wants some closure for her husband and somthing as simple as this is re-goddam-diculus. God speed, or whomever it may be, to widow Stewert. Shame on the law makers!