Friends and family of a Nevada soldier killed in Afghanistan more than a year ago plan to gather at a veterans cemetery Saturday to dedicate what they say is the first government-issued memorial plaque in the country to include a symbol of the Wiccan faith.Unfortunately the Nevada Office of Veteran Services had to be the one to issue the plaque while the family continues to fight the government in court:
The Nevada Army National Guardsmen and four other soldiers died Sept. 25, 2005, when their Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.
Since then, Stewart’s widow, Roberta, has been fighting to make the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognize the Wiccan pentacle — a five-pointed star enclosed in a circle — for plaques and headstones at veterans’ cemeteries.
Citing its jurisdiction over maintenance of the state cemetery, the Nevada Office of Veteran Services issued the plaque in September while Stewart’s family and others continue a legal battle with the VA.If a man dies for our nation, he should have whatever his family wants on his memorial. I strongly believe in the freedom of religion, people will believe what they want and it's their right to do so. I want to protect the rights of others because I never want my rights threatened.
VA rules recognize more than 30 symbols, including the Star of David, more than a dozen variations of the Christian cross and even the atomic whirl used by atheists, but not the pentacle.
VA officials have said they are rewriting rules and procedures for approving emblems, a process which also requires a public comment period.
Last month, Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit on the Wiccans’ behalf claiming the VA’s actions amount to constitutional violations of free speech, freedom of religion and due process.