Pagans to Rally for Religious Rights
In Front of the White House on July 4th
Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United to Speak
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC, June 1, 2007
A group of Pagan religious leaders from diverse denominations will gather in Lafayette Square Park on the Fourth of July to advocate for a Pagan military chaplain, request more approved Pagan religious symbols from the Department of Veterans Affairs and call for universal freedom of religious expression.
Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State will also address the crowd. “Until Pagans have the same rights as Presbyterians and Pentecostals, religious liberty is not safe in America. The Framers of our Constitution mandated no preference for any one religion over another or for all religion over secularist beliefs.”
Earlier this spring, attorneys from Americans United facilitated a settlement with DOJ lawyers representing the Department of Veterans Affairs to end a ten-year struggle over displaying the Wiccan Pentacle on veterans’ memorial markers and plaques. Rev. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, plaintiff of the federal religious discrimination lawsuit which settled the case, says “The Veteran Pentacle Quest victory has demonstrated the power Pagans can have when we work together, and with those of other paths, to uphold religious freedom. United we stand. United we win!”
Currently there are no Pagan chaplains in the U.S. Armed Forces, although other minority religions with similar, or fewer, numbers of devotees in the military have one or more chaplains. Rev. Michael Akins of the Military Pagan Network, a retired Army Chaplain Assistant, will talk about the need for a Pagan chaplain in the U.S. Armed Forces. He says: “Certainly those who protect the freedoms of all of us deserve freedom of religion for themselves.”
Rev. Marcia Drewry of Sacred Well Congregation will tell what it was like to lead the first Wiccan Open Circle in Iraq in 2003, as well as her years of leadership here at home, beginning at Fort Bragg. Rev. Drewry currently leads the Tidewater Open Circle in southern Virginia. She says, “A lay leader is unable to fully minister to the military Pagan community due to regulatory restrictions. So our military members do not have equality of religious rights currently."
Other speakers will outline the next steps in obtaining freedom of religious expression for all Pagan denominations. Steve McNallen of the Asatru Folk Assembly will speak about Thor’s Hammer: “Modern-day Asatru has a very high percentage of veterans. We've worn the hammer amulet into combat. It's only right that the same symbol be on our headstones.”
Rev. Skip Ellison, Archdruid of Ar nDraoicht Fein, will speak about the Druids’ Awen symbol. He says “It is important to remember that freedom of religion means freedom for all religions to worship as they choose.”
And acclaimed author and Pagan Elder Diana L. Paxson will lead the first public Pagan ritual performed this close to the White House. Paxson’s ritual will invoke the Founders of our Nation: “We will honor those who established our fundamental freedoms, especially Washington and Jefferson, and those who built on their ideas, from Lincoln to Teddy Roosevelt and FDR, offering our energies to preserve the liberties they fought for and the land they loved. We will offer our will to carry on the work of our Founding Fathers and Mothers, and to help America become what they hoped it would be.”
Immediately following the ritual, Mz. imani, shaman of the drum, will lead a Spirit Drum Circle lasting until 5pm.
Chesapeake Pagan Community is sponsoring this Fourth of July 2007 Pagan Religious Rights Rally and Ritual, in collaboration with Caroline Kenner, a shamanic healer and Washington Witchdoctor.
For more information, go to www.paganreligiousrights.org or email email@example.com
Quotes from Participants:
"Religion is skin deep, spirituality is to the bone and inside we are all the same, we just come from different perspectives."
"I am a U.S. Soldier, I do not fight for my religion, but the freedom to choose it."
"Picture if you will a Catholic Priest presiding over a Pagan ritual. It will never happen, so we need a Pagan Chaplain relieving him of his duties. The time has come."
"A DFGL is a lay leader, unable to fully minister to the military Pagan community due to regulatory restrictions. So our military members do not have equality of religious rights currently."
"In the Army, Pagans aren't counted. However every time we want to start a group, the brass wants to know how many of us there are."
Rev. Michael Akins, MPN
Retired Army Chaplain Assistant, veteran of Viet Nam and Desert Storm
"Certainly those who protect the Freedoms of ALL of us deserve the Freedom of Religion for themselves."
“I am glad that the Pentacle is finally on the list of emblems of belief that can be included on the veteran gravestones that the VA issues, and Iam relieved that widows and other family members finally have VA-issued gravestones with pentacles marking the remains of their veteran loved ones. Yet, there is something seriously wrong with state of affairs of our nation when grieving widows have to sue presidential appointed officials running the VA in order to have them uphold the US Constitution and stop a decade long pattern of bigotry and discrimination.”
“The Veteran Pentacle Quest victory has demonstrated the power Pagans can have when we work together with each other and with those of other paths to uphold religious freedom. United we stand. United we win!”
Stephen A. McNallen
"Thor's hammer has guarded our graves since the early Iron Age. That tradition is alive and well today."
“Modern-day Asatru has a very high percentage of veterans. We've worn the Thor’s hammer amulet into combat. It's only right that the same symbol be on our headstones."
"The hammer of Thor is the symbol most universally associated with the Asatru faith."
"What the cross is to Christianity, the hammer of Thor is to us."
"Thor's hammer stands for strength, courage, and protection. What better symbol for a veteran's grave?"
This rally and ritual is organized and sponsored by Caroline Kenner and Chesapeake Pagan Community.
For more information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org