Columbia, MD – May 20, 2004: In 1999, there was an unprecedented attack against military Pagans by Congressman Bob Barr of the 7th District in Georgia. The logic behind this attack was that our existence in the military was a threat the good order and discipline of the entire United States Armed Services. The Congressman jumped to this conclusion after viewing one story that originated from the Austin-American Statesman covering the Beltane observances by military Pagans stationed on the Fort Hood Army base. His ignorance of contemporary Paganism was overshadowed only by his willingness to publicly decry his dubious wisdom in this matter.
Bar demanded that the Pentagon ban the Heathens. He called for “an end to the tax payer-supported practice of witchcraft on military bases.” “What’s next?” he asked. “Will armored divisions be forced to travel with sacrificial animals for satanic rituals? Will Rastafarians demand the inclusion of ritualistic marijuana cigarettes in their rations?” qtd by Haught June 1999.
Twice, Barr and his supporters attempted to legislate against religious accommodations for military Pagans, and both attempts failed. He seemed to be in complete ignorance of Katcoff v. Marsh and the inevitable threat this posed to the Chaplain’s Corps if his anti-Pagan legislation passed.
Barr is no longer a Congressman; he is currently a columnist for United Press International, though ironically he is also a consultant on privacy laws for the American Civil Liberty Unions. In May of 2004 Bob Barr launched another attack against military Pagans. Actually it was an attack against the administration of the military in which he attempted to use military Pagans as his blunt, weapon of choice. The Washington Times printed a rant by Barr that attacks the military brass and the Bush administration for the abuses of Iraqi Prisoners of War. He claims that the hedonism depicted on national television conditions Americans to be depraved and indifferent. That the American media glorifies rape, and that we should not be surprised when our young soldiers emulate that act overseas. Then he points the finger at the administration, the military leadership, military Pagans, and homosexuals.
If our military leaders, stateside and in overseas operations, were concerned more with discipline and good order than political correctness and tolerance, perhaps we would at least have a reasonable shot at preventing or severely curtailing those MPs’ behavior. However, in the modern, 21st century military, in which the practice of Wicca or witchcraft is tolerated, accepted and protected as a bonafide religion, and in which “don’t ask don’t tell” is the watchword of the day, we haven’t a chance. Barr May 2004
Logic would dictate that it was a lack of tolerance that caused the inhumane treatment of the Iraqi prisoners. The only way to practice political correctness and tolerance is to have a basis of self-discipline and a desire for a civil society. Pointing the proverbial finger at a tiny religious minority as the symptom of this problem illustrates to the rest of the country, and to the world how desperate some folks are, to grasp at any excuse to ensure that chip falls in someone else’s court.
We at the Military Pagan Network are deeply disturbed by the photographs of prisoners of war suffering abuse and humiliation. However, we are not in a position to offer viable reasons for the cause of these distressing behaviors. No one outside of the Courts Martial, Senate Hearings and investigations can offer anything other than a hypothesis. The investigations are not complete, and it is not proper or germane for individuals who are part of those inquiries or the Chain of Command to offer information until the investigation and court proceedings are completed. The reasoning behind this is not to stump the press or the public, but to protect the right to due process for the defendants. Barr’s finger pointing is at best premature.
We can state with absolute certainty that contemporary Paganism does not support or facilitate the act of rape against any living being. It runs counter to the community standards that place a high value on human dignity, and the sacred right to live without fear of violation of the self. We can also state with certainty that Pagans do not control the media that we hold no such power and are often as unhappy with the content and especially the portrayals of our religious community, as every other group.
Mr. Barr owes this community an apology. We do not exist solely for him to use as a scapegoat whenever he is reminded how little control he has over society and the world. Modern Pagans are simply individual citizens who pay taxes, raise families, serve in the military and abide by the laws of this land. We do not deserve his abuse. After 36 years of visible service in the Armed Forces, Barr and others like him should pay their respects to us as they do any other American who is or has been a military member. In those 36 years military Pagans have more than proven their value and loyalty to the United States.
Any attempt to defame us or deprive us of our rights will end as it always does. With a quick and coherent response to any perceived threat to our civil rights as a unified community religious traditions and American citizens.
Founded in 1992, incorporated in 1997 the Military Pagan Network Inc. acted as a store and group information resource for Neopagans in the military. The corporation now provides material regarding various Neopagan religions to the Chaplaincy, as well as fulfilling its original goal of providing contacts near military bases around the world. In 1997 the corporation expanded its services to include assisting military members with the proper handling of harassment and discrimination. In 1999 the IRS awarded the Military Pagan Network, Inc. an advanced determination of tax-exempt status in accordance with Internal Revenue Code 501(a) as an organization described in section 501(c)3. In 2002 that advanced determination was lifted and the Military Pagan Network, Inc. has been found to be tax exempt as described in section 501(a) as an organization described in section 501(c)3 if the Internal Revenue Code.
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Copyright 2004, Military Pagan Network Inc.