Stars and Stripes article
Wiccans dedicate grave at Arlington
By Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Thursday, July 5, 2007
WASHINGTON The Rev. Selena Fox said Wednesday wasn't the first time
she visited a Wiccan's grave site at Arlington National Cemetery in
Virginia. It was just the first time one was identified that way.
"This is the first time the Christian cross and Wiccan pentacle have
both been engraved on a tombstone here, and it's great news for us,"
said the senior minister of Circle Sanctuary, a Wisconsin Wiccan
community. "It's recognition we've fought for for so long."
On Wednesday Fox, members of her congregation and other pagans held a
consecration ceremony at the grave site of Jan Deanna, a Wiccan
minister who passed away more than two years ago.
Her husband, Army Capt. William O'Rourke, passed away nine years
earlier and had the Christian cross engraved on his tombstone. But
Deanna's side was left blank, because until May the Department of
Veterans Affairs had no symbol to recognize her faith.
Wiccan groups have been pushing for the pentacle as a recognized
religious symbol for almost a decade, but efforts have been stymied
by paperwork and administrative delays by the Department of Veterans
This spring, after new rules from the department and continued
unsuccessful lobbying by pagan groups, Circle Sanctuary and Americans
United for the Separation of Church and State sued the department for
the right to put the symbol on gravestones and plaques.
In May the department settled the suit, agreeing to include it among
the 38 other religious symbols permitted for veterans' memorials.
Veterans and military spouses at Wednesday's event called it an
important First Amendment victory.
Retired Army Capt. Richard Briggs, who is working toward becoming a
Wiccan military chaplain, said over the years pagan servicemembers
have faced discrimination from commanders and other troops, but as
people learn more about the religion the military has become more
"Coming out of the broom closet can be dangerous, but we have to," he
Army Staff Sgt. Frederick Twombly, a member of the 63rd Engineer
Support Battalion, helped set up a Wiccan worship community in
Baghdad during both of his deployments over to Iraq.
"We had guys from all over, all different units, all different
ranks," he said. "People would look and say, `Wait, he's a major and
he's a Wiccan?' And then they'd understand that it's not just some
The event was designed not just to celebrate the legal victory but
also to remember Deanna, who friends called a kind and generous
woman. The Rev. Paula Johnson, who belonged to the same worship
community in Florida, said she worked with local charities every
Christmas to help poor families with gifts for their children.
"A year before she died, she spoke often about not tolerating
religious persecution," Johnson said. "She's an inspiration to us
Deanna's tombstone is one of two in the cemetery bearing the symbol;
Pfc. Abe Kooiman, a World War II veteran who died in 2002, also left
instructions to have his headstone marked once a Wiccan symbol was
approved. Fox said at least four other veterans have also had the
symbol etched into memorial plaques since the lawsuit was settled.
"And now, I'm hearing from people that are requesting and getting it
without me being included in a fight," she said. "That makes us very,