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Pagan Leaders Champion Religious Freedom in Military
Date: 4 July 1999
For: Immediate Release

Leaders of the major U.S. Pagan organizations have rallied to uphold the First Amendment freedoms of military personnel. Calling for interfaith dialogue and the affirmation of religious freedom as an inalienable human right, the leaders rejected attempts by Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) and other government officials to ban the practice of Wicca on military bases [see accompanying statement].

Wicca is a constitutionally-protected religion, legally established in the U.S. for more than a quarter-century, said Rev. Selena Fox, senior minister of Circle Sanctuary, an international Wiccan church. If Rep. Barr and others succeed in outlawing this religion, what faith is safe?

Wicca has been included in the military chaplains handbook for twenty years. The military has consistently supported Wiccans right to worship, so long as they follow procedural guidelines for all religious groups.

Our diverse military is a model for states such as Yugoslavia and Iraq, demonstrating how to create an effective fighting force which embraces the American principle of religious pluralism, said John Machate, coordinator of the Military Pagan Network. Barrs actions, and subsequent calls by the radical religious right for Christians to boycott the Army, only serve to hurt the morale of our troops, who need to be focused on their missions.

Rep. Barr has suggested that elected officials, not military personnel, determine which faiths are acceptable for practice on military bases, added Rev. Wren Walker, chairperson of the Witches Voice, an educational network and the most popular Pagan Internet site. Besides being clearly unconstitutional, this proposal is exactly the kind of heavy-handed, bureaucratic policy most Americans dislike. If the military isnt complaining, what is Rep. Barr really after?

Wicca is a Pagan religion based on beliefs from tribal Europe. Adherents, numbering between 50,000 and 300,000 in the U.S., honor masculine and/or feminine deities, experience the Earth as sacred, and celebrate the cycles of the sun and moon. Wicca, also known as Witchcraft, has nothing to do with Satanism; Wiccans do not believe in Satan or any personification of evil. The central tenet of Wiccan faith is If it harms none, do what you will.

Pagan leaders are calling for interfaith dialogue and support for First Amendment freedoms: Members of other faiths need not fear working, training, fighting, or even dying alongside Wiccans and other Pagans. We respect all Americans right to worship as they choose. We do not proselytize or in any way seek converts. We welcome and support interfaith dialogue, exploring our similarities and differences. Pagans are proud to serve alongside members of all faiths, upholding a Constitution which supports all our rights.

Paganism is a collection of diverse contemporary religions which are rooted in or inspired by indigenous traditions worldwide. Pagan religions are characterized by belief in the interconnection of all life, personal autonomy, and immanent divinities. These faiths are often nature-centered and supportive of gender equity. Contemporary Pagan culture values diversity, respect, good works, living lightly on the earth, individual freedom, and personal responsibility. We cherish our children, our elders, and our communities, and believe that religious liberty is an inalienable human right which must not be abridged.

This project was coordinated by the Pagan Educational Network, Inc., and supported by the Aquarian Tabernacle Church; Blessed Bee, Inc.; Celtic Traditionalist Order of Druids; Church of All Worlds; CIRCLE Magazine; Circle Sanctuary; Covenant of the Goddess; Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, Inc.; Conversations with Pagans; Earth Religions Assistance Association; The EarthSpirit Community; Green Egg: A Journal of the Awakening Earth; The Henge of Keltria; International Pagan Pride Project; Irminsul ttir; Journey To The One; Lady Liberty League; Military Pagan Network, Inc.; Order of the Whiteoak; Ozark Avalon; Pagans in Action Council for Truth; Pagan Community Council of Ohio; Religious Liberties Lawyers Network; Sacred Well Congregation; Temple of Isis; Wiccan-Pagan Educational Association; Witches Anti-Discrimination League; Witches League for Public Awareness; The Witches Voice, Inc.; and WyrdWeavers Collective.

Our Freedom: A Pagan Civil Rights Coalition