Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Pagan rites, pagan rights

Here in Colorado Springs, most discussion around faith and the military swirls around evangelicals and the Air Force Academy.

But, as Fort Carson casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to mount, it's only a matter of time before our community deals with the same sort of thing that snagged attention this Memorial Day in Nevada.

Roberta Stewart, widow of Sgt. Patrick Stewart, who was killed in Afghanistan, wants to have her husband's memorial plaque bear a Wiccan symbol. The Veteran Affairs department says no: It doesn't recognize Wicca as a religion. Roberta Stewart held an alternative Memorial Day service yesterday, which was attended by many of Sgt. Stewart's brothers-in-arms. Find the full story here.

The story says the Veteran Affairs department already recognizes 38 religions, including atheism. It's interesting that Wicca would not be one of those faiths. Wicca is the largest of several earth-based faiths that are generally lumped into paganism. The faith itself is pretty new, but draws its roots and inspiration from ancient civilizations that worshipped a pantheon of gods and goddesses and paid close attention to the solar and lunar cycles. Here in El Paso County, pagan religions such as Wicca are big deals. No one keeps count of pagans locally, but some experts say there are thousands here -- probably outnumbering Buddhists, Muslims, and perhaps even Jews.

Some of these pagans are no doubt in the military, stationed at Fort Carson. So what should the military to do should one of these pagans be killed in action? In today's pluralistic faith society, should the military honor Wiccans just as it would Christians or Jews? Or is Wicca still too uncertain a faith to, literally, carve in stone?


Blogger ColoradoCelt said...

You have to ask yourself this. Isn't it really worth it to carve a new symbol on a tombstone for someone who GAVE THEIR LIFE FOR THEIR COUNTRY? If the soldier wanted the solhouette of a naked woman on thier stone, I think that is the least this country can do for them.

10:06 AM  

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