Posted to Religious Diversity News on August 8, 1999
Source: The Herald-Sun
On August 8, 1999 The Associated Press reported that “Soldiers who believe in the Wiccan religion want Fort Bragg to allow their worship services and study groups on the post.
The Wiccans say they are good soldiers and patriotic Americans.
‘But we change ‘God bless America’ to ‘goddess bless America,’ said Laurie MacNeill, a former Army sergeant and the high priestess in the Coven of the Dragon Warriors.
There are about 10,000 pagans in the military and an estimated 200 to 400 at Fort Bragg, according to the Military Pagan Network, an international support group for military pagans that is based in Columbia, Md.
Members of the Coven of the Dragon Warriors, which named itself after the 18th Airborne Corps symbol, the dragon, say they have no place to worship off post. The 10-member coven has outgrown its high priestess’ small Spring Lake apartment where members meet for lessons, worship and fellowship.
The Wiccans, also known as witches, practice Wicca, a pagan religion whose practitioners say is older than Christianity and which is often referred to as witchcraft. They say they have just as much right to worship on the 42,000-soldier post as do Christians, Jews and Muslims.
Members of the coven, formed in January, said they sent a memorandum in April requesting to be sanctioned on Fort Bragg. Post officials said they did not receive the letter.
The Wiccans said they will resubmit their request…
‘We respect the right of military members to practice their faith consistent with the requirements of good order and discipline, and health and safety standards,’ said Maj. Scott Ross, a Fort Bragg spokesman. ‘The military services do not show preference for religious groups or particular religious beliefs.’
Although Wicca is a religion recognized by federal courts, as well as by the military, Fort Bragg’s Wiccans say many worship in hiding, fearing persecution from others and reprimands from their superiors.
‘We want to be allowed to worship like anyone else,’ MacNeill said. ‘But a lot of people don’t want to listen to us.’
The coven is asking for a room to hold classes and a place outside for its ceremonies, which include full-moon festivals and rituals to mark the changing of the seasons.
John Machate, coordinator for the Military Pagan Network, said 11 installations and one Navy ship already allow pagan worship.”