Here’s a good article on why the US Government has been denying Wiccan and Pagan requests to get their symbols* on gravemarkers, even though Wicca is recognized as a religion by those same offices.
I used to be up in arms about this myself, until I looked at the number of religious markers they *do *approve. They are obviously not shy of approving “weird” religions. There’s some on here that even I’ve not heard of:
- Latin Cross - Christian; generic.
- Wheel of Righteousness - Buddhist.
- Star of David - Jewish.
Other: Shown on the back of the form are:
- Presbyterian cross.
- Russian Orthodox cross.
- Lutheran cross.
- Episcopal cross.
- Flaming chalice: Unitarian Universalist.
- United Methodist Church cross.
- Aaronic Order Church.
- Latter-day Saints: Angel Moroni with horn.
- Native American Church of America: Teepee with three feathers.
- Serbian Orthodox: cross.
- Greek Cross: similar to the Red Cross.
- Baha’i: 9 pointed star.
- Atheist: A stylized symbol of an atom with the letter A in the center.
- Islam: A crescent and star.
- Hindu symbol.
- Konko-Kyo faith.
- Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now called the Community of Christ): A child between a lion and lamb.
- Sufism reoriented symbol.
- Tenrikyo church symbol.
- Seicho-no-ie symbol.
- The Church of World Messianity symbol.
- United Church of Religious Science symbol.
- Christian Reformed Church: Cross and triangle.
- United Moravian Church: Lamb carrying flag.
- Eckankar: Stylized letters “EK”
29: Christian church - generic: A cup.
30: Christian & Missionary Alliance: a cross, chalice, crown and pitcher
31: United Church of Christ: a crown, cross and world symbol
32: Humanism: a stylized image of a human.
33: Presbyterian Church, USA: A flaming cross
34: Ixumo Taishakyo Mission of Hawaii: A hexagon surrounding a symbol
35: Soks Gakkai International - USA: A complex symbol
36: Sikh: The Khanda symbol; three swords and a rink
Listed separately because of copyright restrictions:
–United Church of Christ.
–Christian Science: cross and crown.
–Islam: Five pointed star.
So there had to be some basic beurocratic reason for this, not religious persecution. And there was. Basically, it boils down to this. Until the Fall of '05, to apply for approval for a new grave marker to be added to the list of possibilities, one had to fill out an application and provide:
- A written request from the recognized head of the religious group,
- A list of national officers, and
- A membership tally.
Wicca, like many neopagan religions, doesn’t have these things. The Church of Wicca does, of course, as they are incorporated and 501c3 and duly noted as a church and all, but thousands of people are “Wiccan” without belonging to The Church of Wicca. Why The Church of Wicca hadn’t gone ahead and pushed the paperwork through, I don’t know.
Anyway, in '05, they changed the rules to require “historic information about the religion and other documentation supporting the use of a specific faith symbol.”
*tashabot, what icon or symbol would you have them use? For that matter, what symbol should neopagans use? Should there be a separate one for Asatru (hammer seems obvious there), Thelemic, Dianic Wiccan, CAW, Theodism, Norse, Germanic not otherwise specified, Celtic, Druid, Slavic, O.T.O., Discordian, Egyptian Recreationist, Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Santeria, Ifa, Voudoun, African/Cuban/Carribean not otherwise specified, 101 flavors of Native American, New Age, etc.? Some of those have obvious or copyrighted logos, but not all. What about eclectics - which is probably the largest group of all?
At what point does putting a different, unrecognizable symbol become decoration, rather than a meaningful reminder of the person who has passed, or a political statement about variety of beliefs and tolerance?
It should also be noted that it’s always been permissible to obtain the grave marker from the VA and pay to have your own symbol put on it. What’s different here is that the VA finally did it for the soldier, just like they do for everyone else.