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The Military and Paganism

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"I don't think that witchcraft is a religion.
I wish the military would rethink this decision."

----- George W. Bush to ABCNEWS, June, 1999

No Frames

Lowell McFarland, contributing editor
Christa Landon, editor

 



VICTORY!

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!

Veteran's Headstone Campaign
News & Tools for Activism
Veterans Headstone Archive


On this page (or links) you'll find:

Current Campaigns
: Military Pagans in the News

  • Bob Barr Recants -- when pressed
  • Save Our Wiccan Chaplain
  • Stars and Stripes carries story on how Pagans in the US military still struggle for acceptance.
  • Military Women Denied Emergency Contraception

Memorials
Eclectic Wiccan Army soldier PFC Stephen P. Snowberger

Abridgements of Freedom of Religion in Military

Helping Ourselves

Draft Predictions

Additional Military Pagan RESOURCE PAGES

Returning Warrior/PTSD program: http://www.ravensgrovefoundation.org/
Religious Liberties and the Military Resource Page
Support Groups & Other Links INTERNET TEXT EXTRACT OF Army Pamphlet 600-75 Accommodating Religious Practices Fort Hood Struggle 1999 (Archive)

Military Pagans in the News

Bob Barr Recants Call to Drive Witches from Military?

Ed Brayton

" I got to ask Barr a question I've wanted to ask him for quite some time. He's repudiated and apologized for many of his previous positions and I asked him if he would repudiate his absurd anti-Wiccan crusade of 1999, when he wanted all Wiccans banned from the military. He said yes, with a bit of hemming and hawing.

He said that he had reports from several military leaders that Wiccans doing rituals on military bases were causing problems and that's why he did what he did, but that since that time it's become clear that there are no problems with allowing Wiccans to serve and to practice their religion on military bases like any other religion.

I did ask him for any specific problems that were reported to him back in 1999 by these military leaders, but he said he didn't want to get into specifics. I'm sure that's because there are no specific incidents and those military leaders who complained to him did so out of bigotry, or because the problems it caused were really caused by bigotry against Wiccans. He likened it to his stance on Don't Ask Don't Tell for gays, which he previously supported but now that it's clear that allowing gays to serve doesn't really cause any problems with unit cohesion and good order, he thinks it should be repealed and they should be allowed to serve openly. "

Source: http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2008/07/day_4_report.php

Bush Denies Military Women Emergency Contraception
Support Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act (HR 2064)

Approximately 350,000 women currently serve in the U.S. military, making up almost 15 percent of all active-duty personnel. But federal law does little to protect their reproductive rights: not only are they banned from accessing abortion care at military medical facilities, but some cannot even obtain emergency contraception, which can prevent unintended pregnancy if taken soon after sex, at their base pharmacy.

Emergency contraception should be stocked at every military health-care facility. Our government should provide the highest standard of care to women who have volunteered to serve our country, plain and simple. In 2002 health officials at the Defense Department agreed, and approved Plan B® to be stocked at military medical facilities. However, weeks later, President Bush's political appointees overruled the decision without discussion or explanation.

This week, Congress has an opportunity to improve health care for women in the military with a bill sponsored by lawmakers in both parties and on both sides of the choice issue. The Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act simply added Plan B® to the list of medications that must be stocked at every military health-care facility.

"We had expected the House to vote this week on Rep. Mike Michaud's amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. Rep. Michaud's amendment would have ensured that military women have universal and timely access to emergency contraception by stocking the medication on every military base.

Unfortunately, there will not be a vote on this proposal.

We can tell you that Rep. Michaud and the other cosponsors of the amendment are fully committed to moving this issue forward in the future—and NARAL Pro-Choice America will continue to partner with them in that effort.

We cannot let up in our push to improve women's health care, so we ask you to take one more action that will push the issue forward: Ask your lawmaker to cosponsor Rep. Michaud's freestanding bill, the Compassionate Care for Servicewomen Act (H.R.2064), which includes the same provisions as the amendment.

Thank you again for all your work. While we share your disappointment that lawmakers did not have a chance to vote on this issue, we are looking to the future on this and other pro-choice issues, as we know you are too."

You can also copy and paste this link into your website browser to take action:
http://prochoiceaction.org/campaign/house_dodec_0507/wgbnwnb4lx3kibi?

Used with permission.

Newsflash ;^)

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

http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,138720,00.html

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
The Stars and Stripes story noted,

"At the start of a recent readiness run, a chaplain prayed “in the name of the heavenly father” ....

“That’s where it gets awkward with me,” McDaniel said. “We’re at a military function and there are prayers. I don’t mind the words of inspiration, as they call it these days, as long as it’s nondenominational, as long as it doesn’t call on particular deities.”

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.

Current Campaigns

Action Alert!
Save Our Wiccan Chaplain
Petition Campaign

The Sacred Well Congregation has been engaged with the Armed Forces Chaplains Board (AFCB) since September 1998 attempting to secure status as an endorser of chaplains to the Armed Services. This would allow us to nominate a member of our faith group to serve as a chaplain in the US military. Through a long series of bureaucratic maneuvers, and both passive and active bias on the part of some key officials, eight years later we still have no Wiccan Chaplain.

The Sacred Well Congregation is currently pending as an endorsing body for military chaplains. We need only to be able to present a viable candidate for appointment without waiver.

In the spring of 2006, US Army Chaplain (CPT) Donald M. Larsen contacted our Congregation to discuss the possibility of changing his endorsement. On July 6, 2006, we received a formal request from CH Larsen stating that he wished to be considered as our candidate for the AFCB certification process and immediately thereafter to change his endorser to the Sacred Well Congregation.

In a deviation from procedure, CH Larsen’s then-current endorsing body, the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches (CFGC) was notified that CH Larsen was considering a change of endorsers and that, also, he was speaking to the Sacred Well Congregation, a Wiccan Church, about becoming his new endorsing body. Within hours CH Larsen’s endorsement was pulled by the CFGC. Without an endorsing body, CH Larsen is unable to act as a military chaplain. Furthermore, with no current endorser, a letter of good standing cannot be issued to the AFCB on CH Larsen’s behalf. This letter of good standing is crucial to his standing as a viable candidate without waiver for the Sacred Well Congregation’s AFCB certification process.

There is a clear and present need for a chaplain of the Wiccan faith in the US Armed Services. The Sacred Well Congregation has met every requirement put before us in our quest to become an endorsing body for military chaplains and this latest roadblock was caused by the unethical, unprofessional and discriminatory conduct of at least two US Army senior officers. This conduct has led directly to the immediate withdrawal of endorsement of a dedicated and distinguished battalion chaplain serving in Iraq.

This petition is in support of the Sacred Well Congregation’s attempt to become an endorsing body for US military chaplains and CH Larsen’s ability to serve in that capacity.
Click here for more information To the Top/Sign Petition Email this petition to your friends

                                                                           
   *********************
Note: This Save Our Wiccan Chaplain petition was submitted by
Dr. David Oringderff. ThePetitionSite.com is a free service provided to help concerned citizens rally support for issues they believe in. The opinions expressed by this petition do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of ThePetitionSite.com or Care2.com. There is no express or implied endorsement of this petition nor any newsletter offers (except those from Care2.com) by Care2.com, Inc, ThePetitionSite.com, or our sponsors. If you believe this system is being abused, please contact customer support.

Questions about this petition? Contact the petition sponsor:
Dr. David Oringderff.
Questions about www.thePetitionSite.com? Visit our FAQ Page.


Memorials
Eclectic Wiccan Army soldier PFC Stephen P. Snowberger


The following was posted by Rev. Kay Ahl (t_iahu@yahoo.com ) who is a fellow member of the Pagan Headstone Campaign.  I would ask all of you to consider helping out.  A mother is asking for the assistance of any and all fellow Pagans to honor her fallen son.  Please pass this email on to other Pagans you know who might be interested in participating.  

Blessed Be,
Heather

Wed Apr 25, 2007 10:53 pm (PST)

An Opportunity to Honor a Fallen Eclectic Wiccan Hero!

Greetings Friends, Troops, and Veterans,

As many of you already know, our SWC sponsored Victory Base Open Circle in Baghdad lost one of our own on May 11, 2006. Eclectic Wiccan Army soldier PFC Stephen P. Snowberger was a courageous and honorable young man, 18 years old; when his humvee was hit by and IED while on patrol in Baghdad. Stephen and the other occupants of the
humvee were killed instantly.

Here are Stephen's memorial pages at Stars of Freedom Pagan Military Memorial: http://snowbergermemorial.tripod.com/

The one year anniversary of Stephen's death is soon upon us, and Deborah Brown is creating a rock garden memorial for Stephen in the backyard of their family home. And she has sent out a request for people who would like to help honor the memory of her son this way, to please send a rock to her to place in this rock garden memorial for Stephen. She is looking for rocks from every state in the U.S., and international support is welcome and appreciated as well.

The rock you may choose to send may be of any size or shape. And though not required, if you want; you may write on the rock something to honor Stephen's memory, an appropriate symbol, just put what state your rock is from, etc. Stephen's choice of emblems is the Encircled Pentacle.

Here are Deborah Brown's mailing and email addresses:

Deborah Brown
1565 Valley Mine Rd
Lexington, NC 27292

lilgertt@aol.com


Helping One Another
Support Our Troops. Send a Care-package!
Contact: Laura Wandrie (lauranewage@aol.com)

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
Camp Liberty
APO AE 09342

Sacred Well Congregation Accepted for CFC National List 
By Dr. David L. Oringderff

Please pardon the cross-posting.

A few weeks ago I was pleased to announce that the Sacred Well Congregation and International Institute for Cultural and Religious Studies had been included in the Greater San Antonio Area Combined Federal Campaign.

Now it is my great pleasure to announce that the Sacred Well Congregation and International Institute for Cultural and Religious Studies have been accepted for listing in the Combined Federal Campaign National List.  This will exponentially expand our services, educational endeavors and outreach programs. 

Again I want to thank Lt Col Ron Schaefer (Astralaya) for his vision, tenacity, and countless hours of work over the last two years to make this happen.  Our listing follows.  Please feel free to forward this correspondence as you deem appropriate.  Thank you all for your support.

============================
Sacred Well Congregation
CFC Organization Number 2660

Promotes inter-faith community benevolence, world peace, and intercultural pluralism through national and international research, education and outreach programs; supports civilian and military distinctive faith groups.

================================================

Love is the Law and Love is the Bond
Aman Nai
Taniquetil

David L. Oringderff, Ph.D.

www.sacredwell.org
210-658-9100

http://shop.gospelcom.net/cgi-bin/atsdirect.storefront/EN/product/31299?AD=halloween#etract


Abridgements of Freedom of Religion in US Military
   Briefs from the First Amendment Center

BRIEFS

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 Center:
http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/news.aspx?id=18555

VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION HOSPITALS

Send your comments to:

Kirt Sickels, Public Information Officer
Iowa City VA Medical Center
601 Hwy 6 West
Iowa City, IA 52246.

Federal judge backs VA's use of religion in treating veterans

In the case
Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Nicholson, Judge Shabaz ruled that none of the agency's practices violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which bars the government from promoting religion. He argued that while the VA's programs do integrate religion and spirituality they are legal because they serve valid secular purposes such as giving patients spirituality services and are voluntary.

"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???

Navy religious-discrimination lawsuits given class-action status
Suits claim military branch favors chaplains who are Catholic or from mainline Protestant denominations over evangelicals. 08.21.02 [On closer review, it appears that the chaplains complaining are from faiths that don't require M.Div. degrees for ordination. cl, ed.]

Federal lawsuits accuse Navy of religious discrimination
Retired chaplain says conservatives, evangelicals don ’t get promoted. 06.03.01
[On closer review, it appears that the chaplains complaining are from faiths that don't require M.Div. degrees for ordination. cl, ed.]

Chaplains sue Navy, claiming religious-liberty violations
Evangelicals are underrepresented, treated with hostility by Navy officials, federal lawsuit charges. 04.20.00
[Yet Evangelical Lutherans -- required to hold M.Div. degrees prior to ordination -- are apparently NOT having this problem. Are clergy from "Free" evangelical and Pentacostal churches asking for exemption from educational requirements which are a national chaplaincy standard? cl, ed.]

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
First Amendment 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


As members serve their country, they also battle the military to accept their faith


By Randy Myers

CONTRA COSTA TIMES

Posted on Thu, Aug. 12, 2004
Used with permission

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 rmyers@cctimes.com or 925-977-8419.

The primary tenets of Wicca, as expressed by Patrick McCollum, include:

WICCA BELIEFS

  • "Honoring all paths and people."
  • "That all people are equal."
  • "That Earth, our universe and everything around us, is sacred."
  • "Harming no one."
  • "The three-fold law. How we act both with each other and the world will be directly eflected back on us."

WICCAN SYMBOLS

  • THE PENTACLE: The five-pointed star in a circle is the symbol most often associated with Wicca. Four points represent elements, the topmost the spirit.
  • THE CIRCLE: A sacred space that can be drawn nearly anywhere. It keeps out unwelcome energy and represents the equivalent of a congregation. 
  • THE COVEN: A group of Wiccans who regularly meet to participate in the rites, magic, study and celebration of the religion. Not all Wiccans are part of a coven; some practice by themselves.
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
Air Force Academy's Program Urges Respect

By T.R. Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 1, 2005; Page A03


COLORADO SPRINGS --
....

Prowling the classroom in her green camouflage fatigues, Rast uses that simulated exchange between cadets in the training video to press home, again and again, a message that is now an essential part of the curriculum here...

"We have to respect every individual's religious beliefs," Rast declares. "We may not approve or agree with them, but we will respect their right to believe what they choose."

All spring, a corps of chaplains, law professors and senior officers such as Rast -- she holds the new position of "Chief, Climate and Culture" -- have been running classes designed to impart the principles of religious tolerance and universal respect. The training program, known as RSVP, for "Respecting the Spiritual Values of All People," is required not only for the 4,000 cadets but also for everyone else, military and civilian, at the academy.

... Some cadets who chose to study rather than attend Christian chapel after dinner were called "heathens."

A study team from Yale Divinity School reported that religious pressure was particularly intense during basic cadet training, the boot camp each summer during which newly arrived high school graduates are indoctrinated into military life. "The whole camp is about authority and discipline," noted Yale professor Kristen Leslie. "And in that setting, the very Christian, evangelical voice was just dominating."
...

Academy officials could not say whether the task force would issue a public report on its findings.

"It's an institution with clear lines of authority," noted Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), one of five dozen members of Congress who wrote acting Air Force Secretary Michael L. Dominguez demanding remedial action. "Well, if a person in authority over you says you are going to burn in hell unless you convert, that carries a lot of weight with a young cadet."
....

Source:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/05/31/AR2005053101301.html
Accessed June 9, 2005

Press Release

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State

A new Air Force policy statement urging restraint

May 27.

".... 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. ...."
Tract Wars
First, MREs; Now Tracts.  What's Next????!!!!

http://shop.gospelcom.net/cgi-bin/atsdirect.storefront/EN/product/31299?AD=halloween#etract

American Tract Society Press Release

Christian Tracts at Pentagon

"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."

http://www.atstracts.org/halloween/tracts.php


"AMERICAN TRACT SOCIETY PRESIDENT TO SPEAK AT PENTAGON; SOCIETY DISTRIBUTES GOSPEL TRACTS, VOTER REGISTRATION AND HALLOWEEN EVANGELISM PACKS

September 8, 2004 -- Dan Southern, President of the Dallas-based American Tract Society (ATS), will be the speaker at a Pentagon prayer breakfast on October 6. ATS, the 180-year-old gospel publisher, is a major distributor of religious tracts in the Pentagon. Pentagon Chaplain (Col.) Ralph Benson, who invited Southern to speak at the Wednesday Morning Pentagon Prayer Breakfast, said ATS gospel tracts are making a tremendous difference nationally and internationally because they are read and taken home by Pentagon visitors from across the world.

"This election year - three years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks - ATS and Christian evangelism stand at the forefront of one of the most open mission fields we've seen, and we're stepping up to the plate this fall to meet the opportunity and the need." Southern said recently. "The tract society has broadened an already concerted effort to mainstream Christian evangelism into every facet of society."

According to Benson, ATS gospel tracts are displayed at more than 32 rack locations throughout the massive Pentagon complex and are available in the Pentagon Memorial Chapel, a new chapel at the site American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon on September 11, 2001."

Benson said he has seen the tracts picked up by such international personalities as Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and the Dalai Lama's Tibetan monks, as well vendor visitors, White House administration, and Pentagon staff. "Every ATS tract has a gospel presentation and prayer of salvation, so we don't know how many decisions for Christ we are influencing in a day or week, but we know decisions are being made," said Benson.

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:

MARCIA DAVIS, 972-824-8626, marciajdavis@joimail.com
MARK BROWN, 972-276-9408, Ext. 118, mbrown@atstracts.org

The Green Side:

Pagan Commentary on the News

By Lowell McFarland<lowell@optonline.net>

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.

Contact the Press Office of the Pentagon:
newsdesk@osd.mil
http://www.defenselink.mil/faq/comment.html
(703) 697-5131

The American Tract Society puts out extensive material about Halloween:
http://www.atstracts.org/halloween/tracts.php

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."

Click Here



Some PRess Releases documenting our history
Press Release from 
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
202-466-3234
202-466-2587 fax
www.au.org
Press 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."

Draft Creep
by David Wiggins

January 9, 2004  -   Say hello to "draft creep." Remember "bracket creep," AKA the "sneaky tax increase," whereby inflation and income growth forces people into progressively higher tax brackets? Bracket creep is a way for the government to raise taxes without seeming to be raising taxes. There is no congressional debate, and no new law is passed for the President to sign. Taxes just go up. Similarly, draft creep is a way for the government to initiate the draft without seeming to initiate the draft.

Draft creep is a sneaky draft. There is no congressional debate, and no new law is passed for the President to sign. Nonetheless, people are being forced into military service against their will. In other words, they are being drafted, conscripted, or whatever you care to call it. The government chooses to call it "
Stop Loss," and it applies to members of the armed forces. After all, what better way is there to initiate a sneaky draft than to start with the group of people least likely to object to a draft, and at the same time, with the least legal rights to fight one?

Prior to September 2001, the armed forces last used stop loss in 1990, during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, under then President George H. Bush. President George W. Bush authorized a new Stop Loss policy on September 14, 2001, in
Executive Order 13223. Since then, the Army has announced 11 stop-loss orders.

On 4 November 2002, a new
stop loss policy affected over 60,000 soldiers. With this policy, a typical Ready Reserve soldier could be affected up to 30 months: 3 months during alert, 12–24 months while actually mobilized, and 3 months for demobilization. Ready Reserve soldiers who also possessed a certain skill or specialty could be affected until the later of 90 days after demobilization or the completion of an additional 12 months active duty.

Over the past year, the Army alone has blocked the possible retirements and departures of more than 40,000 soldiers. Hundreds more in the Air Force, Navy and Marines were blocked from retiring or departing the military. Under the latest Stop Loss iteration, announced in January 2004, seven thousand additional soldiers will be required to stay in the theater for the duration of their unit's deployment and up to a maximum of 90 days afterward, said Col. Elton Manske. Because the stop-loss order begins 90 days before deployment and lasts for 90 days after a return home, those troops will be prohibited from retiring or leaving the Army at the expiration of their contracts until the spring of 2005, at the earliest.

Some Guard troops and reservists complain their release dates have been extended several times and they no longer know when they will be allowed to leave. On their Army paychecks, the expiration date of their military service is now listed sometime after 2030 – the payroll computer's way of saying, "Who knows?" Chief Warrant Officer Ronald Eagle, a member of the West Virginia National Guard, was due to retire last February, but now, draft creep has caught up with him. "I'm furious. I'm aggravated. I feel violated. I feel used," said Eagle. Eagle said he fears his fledgling business in West Virginia may not survive his lengthy absence.

The term "draft creep" might also be used to describe the way a full draft is "creeping" up on us. The draft officially ended in 1973. Registration for the draft ended in 1975, and the military reverted to an "all-volunteer" force. It is important to note that the "voluntary" part only extended until a person had signed up for military service. After that, except in unusual circumstances, one was required under threat of imprisonment, to complete their term of service – voluntarily or not. Only 5 years later, in 1980, President Carter reinstated registration for the draft for all men between the ages of 18 and 25 under an amendment to the
Military Selective Service Act. It is perhaps relevant to note that no person who voted for or signed this amendment was, according to the language of the amendment, required to register.

The law was greeted with overwhelming ambivalence. Millions of men who were required to register for the draft failed to do so. In fact,
draft registration has been called the most widely ignored federal law since prohibition. All this indicated that, perhaps, the people who were required to register for the draft did not think that registration was such a great idea. In response, the democratically elected representatives of these people, in other words, those who made themselves exempt from draft registration, decided to impose penalties on those who were subject to registration, but did not register.

The Solomon Amendment, passed in 1982, as a part of the Military Selective Service Act, requires draft registration for males 18–25 years old as a precondition for eligibility for Title IV Federal Student Financial Aid. This includes Pell Grants, Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, College Work-Study, National Direct Student Loans, and Guaranteed Student/Plus Loans.

As time goes on, more and more penalties are added for those who fail or refuse to register. In November 1985, the
Thurmond Amendment to the Defense Authorization Act required Selective Service System registration for men who are required to register as a prerequisite for appointment to most federal jobs. Currently, any man who arrived in the United States before his 26th birthday cannot obtain citizenship or get federal job training without first registering for the draft. In the worst case, a man who fails to register may, if prosecuted and convicted, face a fine of up to $250,000 and/or a prison term of up to five years.

Most states have added
additional penalties for those who fail to register. Perhaps the most onerous of these penalties is the one that requires a man to register for the draft before he can obtain a state driver’s license. All these penalties for not registering for the draft tighten the noose around those who do not register, and brings the draft that much closer to reality. Only stop loss, however, actually increases the number of soldiers on active duty. But stop loss does have some limitations. With stop loss, the maximum amount of troops the government can raise is equal to those troops that are on active duty or in the reserves, plus those that have been inactive for less than six years (the inactive reserves), plus those that continue to sign up for military duty. Now that seems like a potential pool of one hell-of-a-lot of troops; more, one would think, than the government would ever need. Think again.

Aside from current and ex-military, the government has plans for other specialty drafts.

The "Health Care Personnel Delivery System" was authorized by Congress in 1987 to deal with large-scale casualties that outstripped the active-duty military's ability to handle them. If implemented, the bill would require a mass registration of male and female health care workers between the ages of 20 and 45.

The Pentagon is considering other
"special skills" drafts, to include military linguists, computer experts, engineers, or other specialties. "We're going to elevate that kind of draft to be a priority," said Lewis Brodsky, acting director of the Selective Service System.

And what happens when, even with all the specialty drafts, the government cannot satisfy it’s voracious desire for "fresh meat?" Universal conscription is reinstated, that’s what.

A bill before the House Armed Services Committee would require the induction of young men into the military "to receive basic military training and education for a period of up to one year." In 2001, Representatives Nick Smith and Curt Weldon sponsored the bill, called the "
Universal Military Training and Service Act." The measure is currently before the Armed Services Committee. On 23 Sept. 2003, the Defense Department web site called "Defend America" posted a notice for people to join local draft boards. The announcement, which ran under the heading "Serve Your Community and the Nation," had read: "The Selective Service System wants to hear from men and women in the community who might be willing to serve as members of a local draft board." It went on to say that, "If a military draft becomes necessary, approximately 2,000 Local and Appeals Boards throughout America would decide which young men, who submit a claim, receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service, based on Federal guidelines. "That notice started to receive media attention, with articles from the Associated Press, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Oregonian, the Toronto Star, the BBC, and London Guardian. Then, for some unknown reason, the notice suddenly disappeared.

But the appeal for draft board members returned shortly thereafter. There was some politically correct fine-tuning and a disclaimer, but there it was, right up front on the home page of the Selective Service System’s web site. "Selective Service continues to invite interested citizens to volunteer for service on its local boards that would decide claims from men if a draft were reestablished." Henry "Pete" Van de Putte, husband of State Senator Leticia Van De Putte of Texas, puts all of this into perspective. If the draft were reinstated, Van de Putte says, "This whole system would be up and running full-tilt literally in a matter of a few days." Van De Putte has served on his local draft board in San Antonio since 1991.

All this amounts to draft creep, and that brings us back to the current stop loss situation. Here are some questions for all those soldiers who say that, though they personally disagree with some of the things they have been ordered to do, they knew what they were getting into when they signed up. What is your excuse now? You didn’t sign up for stop loss. You are now on military assignment involuntarily. Are your actions contributing to suffering, death, and destruction in a war you disagreed with? Will you refuse to continue against your will, or will you magically come up with another reason that rationalizes your continued participation?

Here is a message for all those soldiers who insist that they are defending our freedom even though many of us disagree. Here is a message for those soldiers who may have thought us ungrateful when we told them that we believed their participation in this war was doing us a disservice. Here is a message for all those soldiers who thought us unpatriotic, or worse, called us cowards because we insisted that their actions were making us less safe, not safer.

We 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.

If you do refuse, you will diminish the chances that draft creep will get the rest of your countrymen. You will, finally, be defending our freedom.

For everyone who fears that they just might be engulfed by draft creep, get educated now.

To some it may seem ironic that by writing this, I, an advocate of nonviolence, am defending the freedom of soldiers, soldiers who have had their freedom taken from them under the threat of imprisonment by the government they intended to serve. Stranger still is the knowledge that soldiers who resist this involuntary servitude will probably be arrested, prosecuted and possibly imprisoned by their own comrades in arms. But these ideas should not seem strange or ironic. After all, it was James Madison, the 4th President of the United States, who in August of 1793 wrote:

"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 Emergency Physician.

Copyright (c) 2004,
Strait Gate Ministries, All Rights Reserved
May be reproduced only in full.
Please send questions and comments to
info@whtt.org

Accessed August 4  at:  http://www.whtt.org/whtt.shtml?rpr/DrftCrp.htm



Updated August 6, 2008
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