The Department of Veterans Affairs says that they allow 38 symbols to be used on government issued markers for fallen soliders during wars and other brave men and women who serve to protect the country and smaller municipalities such as police officers and firemen.
These symbols range from the Christian Cross to the Jewish Star of David to the Atomic Whirl that denotes Atheism.
Why then is the Pentacle that represents the Wicca faith NOT allowed on these markers?
The pentacle represent Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit, and is meant as a symbol of faith and protection within Wicca and Paganism. This ancient symbol is so wide spread that when anyone even hears the word "wicca" or "wiccan" this is normally the first image that pops into their head.
There have been lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and state that are asking the government to change it's policies on this subject, arguing that Wiccan's Constitutional Rights to religious freedom have been abridged.
It is no secret that Wiccans and Pagans are normally bastardized and out right called "satanist" by many closed minded people. The pentacle is often confused with the pentagram which is popular among Satanists and Occultists as a symbol of their own faith and religious beliefs.
This confusion and the fact that wiccans and pagans practice witchcraft(rituals and spell casting) within their faith unfairly labels them as Satan worshippers even though Wiccans and Pagans do not practice black magick or any form of negative based magick. These energies are strictly forbidden within these faiths and Wiccans especially do not believe in Satan.
The fact that an individual who is giving their life freely to protect our country as well as a country that is not even his or her own, then this alone should warrant the pentacle to be allowed as an acceptable symbol to be placed on these markers.
The fact that the pentacle cannot be allowed on markers does indeed break the religious freedom and choice right, and whether or not anyone disagrees, the government needs to uphold to everyone's constitutional rights.
Some states have already begun to work on these issues however. A pentacle on a plaque honoring a Nevada National Guard a one Sgt. Patrick Stewart who died in Afghanistan last year, was put in place not too long ago on the Nevada Veterans Memorial at the state run Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetary in Fernley, Nevada.
Stewart's widow Roberta, says the federal government originally balked at her request to have the pentacle on a plaque. However, Republican Gov. of Nevada Kenny Guinn insisted that the state provide the plaque and use the wiccan symbol and the federal government then withdrew and allowed it.
A Guinn's spokesman stated, quote "Honoring the service of this man who gave his life for his country was more important than the symbol," he says. "He felt it was important that the man be honored."
For nine years Wiccans have tried to get their religious symbol approved as an offical religious symbol. During this time as they patiently wait, SIX other symbols have been approved over them.
Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says he's baffled as to why the federal government continues the policy and has seen no explanation of the practice from the VA.
"I've been in Washington since 1973, and I have never seen a bureaucratic mechanism work in such a bizarre fashion," Lynn says.
The suits were filed on behalf of Wiccan widows of combat veterans and Wiccan churches that have sought to have the pentacle put on markers.
There is no central governing body for Wiccans, so it's difficult to find accurate numbers for how many Americans practice the religion. A study by City University of New York in 2001 found 134,000 self-described Wiccans in the USA.
Roberta Stewart, whose husband was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, is named in one of the lawsuits, even though she won her fight to have the pentacle placed on her husband's plaque in Nevada.
"My personal quest has been completed, but I continue this fight for all of our pagan, Wiccan veterans who have not been honored," Stewart says.
She believes that the federal government misunderstands Wicca. She says she and her husband often described their faith as a mixture of Native American and Celtic influences and rituals.
In Wicca, "you don't go off what's in a book," Stewart says. "You go off what's in your heart."