Editorial: Closure for Wiccan soldier’s family
For the family of Sgt. Patrick Stewart of Fernley, we hope some form of peace has arrived.
With last week’s announcement that a plaque for Stewart bearing the Wiccan symbol of the pentacle will be placed on the memorial wall at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, some closure has been brought to a yearlong struggle by his family.
We applaud the state for approving the plaque and correcting a wrong that has festered for the past year. It took gumption to investigate the laws regarding cemetery supervision and to grant approval amid inaction from the federal government. Yet, as Stewart’s widow said, the fight is not over.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs continues to drag its feet on the issue by refusing to recognize the pentacle as a religious symbol for use in its cemeteries. Religions such as Eckankar, Soko Gakkai, Sufism Reoriented, Bahai and even atheism are included in a list of 38 accepted religious symbols, but not Wicca. The logic behind delaying the approval of a pentacle as a grave marker in the face of a suffering family confounds and angers us.
Sgt. Stewart was a patriot. He gave his life for his country while fighting a hostile enemy. What he died for was more than a war against terrorists or radical Islam. It was to defeat a breed of fascism that permits no freedoms separate from its narrow philosophy.
The freedoms Americans enjoy include the right to practice a religion of our choosing. Those freedoms are also in place to protect the rights of the minority.
Though Stewart’s faith may not be considered a mainstream religion in American culture, it should not allow for discrimination by the government regarding a grave marker.
If our country is not willing to honor the religious requests of those who fight and die for it, our efforts to spread freedom and repel fascism are ultimately fruitless.
– From the Lahontan Valley News in Fallon, Nev.
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