For a Wiccan Soldier, No Symbol to Represent Faith on Memorial Plaque

March 2, 2006

Source: Review-Journal

On March 2, 2006 the Review-Journal reported, "Nevada National Guard Sgt. Patrick Stewart gave his life for his country when the Chinook helicopter he was in was shot down in Afghanistan in September.

But those wishing to honor Stewart, who should have his name on the memorial wall at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley, 34 miles east of Reno, would have a difficult time doing so.

The space reserved for Stewart, right next to Chief Warrant Officer John Flynn, his comrade from Sparks who also died in the attack as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, is vacant.

Stewart was a follower of the Wiccan religion, which is not recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs for use in its cemeteries.

Stewart's widow, Roberta, said she will wait until her family's religion -- and its five-pointed star enclosed in a circle, with one point facing skyward -- is recognized for use on memorials before Stewart's plaque is installed... The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and its National Cemetery Administration prohibit graphics on government-furnished headstones or markers other than those they have approved as 'emblems of belief.' More than 30 such emblems are allowed on gravestones and makers in veterans cemeteries, from the Christian cross to the Buddhist wheel of righteousness. A symbol exists for atheists too... An application seeking recognition of the Wiccan religion, and the use of the pentacle as an emblem of belief on memorials in veterans cemeteries, is working its way through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Rev. Selene Fox, senior minister of a Wiccan group called Circle Sanctuary, said the group filed the application for the use of the emblem with the Department of Veterans Affairs in January by using a new administrative process." For ongoing coverage of this case, see