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Recently someone on one of the lists I belong to sent along one of those generally mindless "support the troops" emails with the following subject line:

Dedicated to all our VETS for what they mean to US... It's our turn now!!!

It was a copy of the Gettysburg Address that had been altered to include the words "under God". Specifically, the following phrase:

that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom

was altered to read

that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom

As a veteran who is also a heathen I fully appreciate this country's freedom of religion, and I don't appreciate the constant insertion of the religious right's agenda into the government's affairs at every level - but this really takes the cake.

When I took my oath of enlistment on February 11th 1986, I said "under GODS". I am a polytheist and swearing an oath to someone else's god would invalidate it in my eyes. I do the same thing should the occasion arise where I say the Pledge of Allegiance.

When they told me I'd have to go to church on Sunday in basic training or stay behind and clean the barracks, I told them I'd clean the barracks. Incidentally, no one stayed behind to make sure I did anything nor was I given any orders to clean, so I kicked back and relaxed for an hour.

When I was told at my next duty station, Biloxi Mississippi, that I'd better hide that "pentagram" or someone on the street would rip it right off my neck and call me a satanist, I said I'd take my chances because this is a country I defend, and I should be able to walk down any of it's streets wearing what religious items I please so long as they are not morally objectionable or insulting to other faiths. As a wiccan, I didn't believe in the Christian god - or the Christian satan, either.

I have worn the symbol of my heathen faith (today it's a silver Mjollnir, a Thor's hammer, because I'm an Asatruar) every day of my adult life since age 22 - with the single exception of my six weeks of basic training, where they made me take it off.

I am a Veteran. I am not a Christian. The country I swore to protect and defend with my life is not a Christian country. It is a country where any man or woman is free to practice any law-abiding faith, or none at all!

It was only in December of 2006, and after a nine year fight where requests from religious leaders and pagan veterans went completely ignored, that a coalition of heathens and pagans called the Order of the Pentacle affiliated with Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary's religious freedom branch, the Lady Liberty League, also working with the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, came together to work for the right for wiccan veterans to have the pentacle inscribed on their government issued headstones. That it took this long and this much public attention on the matter to get this accomplished is a disgrace. Sergeant Patrick Dana Stewart became the first authorized wiccan US veteran to have the symbol of his faith engraved on his VA-issued headstone - others have followed, and some families of veterans who served in prior wars have  applied to have the symbol changed or added. Sergeant Stewart died on September 25th, 2005 in Afghanistan, but his family did not see the pentacle inscribed on his headstone until March 31, 2007.

Speaking of cemeteries, Lincoln himself would be rolling in his grave (as if he wasn't already doing so for other reasons!) to know that religious extremists had tried to alter his speech to advance their message. As I mentioned in a previous diary where the Moonies tried to lie by omission in order to involve CodePink and other peace activist groups in their right-wing, monotheistic version of a peace rally; when the proponents of a faith feel that it's justifiable to lie in order to advance their agenda, and furthermore when that agenda violates the separation of church and state in this country, I don't care who they are - they're the bad guys, and I want no part of what they do.

Here is Lincoln's own recorded opinion on Christianity:

The Bible is not my book, and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma."
       Abraham Lincoln,1863

I'm right there with you, Abe.

Originally posted to Randgrithr on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 06:57 AM PDT.

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