To those of you new to the site, my name is Chad Anctil. I am a 6-year US Navy Veteran. I served during the Gulf War, and during my enlistment I received many awards and decorations, including two Admirals’ Letters and a Commendation from the Commander of the Pacific Fleet. I served proudly and I was considered an excellent Sailor by my command, receiving an Honorable Discharge at the end of my enlistment. I was also a practicing Witch.
Everyone in my command knew I was a Witch- I never hid it from anyone. During my six years, only three people ever had a problem with my religion. Everyone knew me, and I made sure they knew what Witchcraft was, and what it wasn’t. No one thought I was a Devil worshipper, no one was afraid to be my roommate in the barracks, and I had lots of friends and no real enemies. It’s true, there was no place for me to ‘officially’ worship on base, and there was no local circle or group I could connect with, but I was allowed my candles and my moonlit rituals undisturbed- people knew about it, and no one cared.
Naturally I was very interested when, a few months ago, an article appeared in a Texas newspaper, talking about a group of Witches who were allowed to openly practice their religion on a US Army installation- Ft. Hood, in Texas. In truth, this was not big news- the Witches of Ft. Hood Open Circle had been given permission to practice, as well as a Chaplain, over two years before the article ran, and save for a few unhappy local Christians, there had not been any problems at all. The article was positive in nature, and I don’t believe it was written to stir up controversy- it was just a newspaper article.
Enter Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia and the ‘Religious Right’, and their battle to stop Satan in his tracks by stopping the ‘Evil’ practice of Witchcraft on military bases worldwide. The reasons given were varied- Witches believe in harming none, so they don’t belong in uniform (I believe ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ is written somewhere in the bible- it must be towards the back); the objection to spending ‘Taxpayer money’ to allow Witches to practice their faith- I don’t fully understand this one, since the Witches’ Don’t have a full time Chaplain- they borrow one when they need him- and they aren’t even asking for a church or chapel like all the other religions have- they worship in an open field, and like it that way. Also, my personal favorite- If the Army let Witches practice their religion, they would have to carry sacrificial animals into combat for Satanists and Marijuana for Rastafarians- I won’t even comment on the ridiculousness of this one.
Never mind that every other religion is allowed to practice, from Christian to Bhuddist to Hindu, and never mind the argument of Religious Freedom- according to Mr. Barr, that doesn’t exist for members of the US Armed Forces- even though they are ready to lay down their lives to defend it.
After the initial coverage of the issue, I thought that this would be a minor political diversion, a few days of media coverage, and it would die. After all, the military has no intention to change the policy- Wicca and Witchcraft have been in the Chaplains’ Handbook since the late 1980’s, and the whole thing seemed so ridiculous; to be arguing about Religious Freedom in America, and using 16th century logic to do it! How wrong I was.
After almost 2 full months of controversy, the battle still rages. Several Christian organizations are calling for a boycott of the Army(!!) and articles and editorials still dot the news- some exceedingly positive, while others seem to take their information- and prejudices- straight from the Salem Witch Trials. Now, with a renewed media interest in Witchcraft due to the recent film ‘The Blair Witch Project’, the issue seems to be coming to the surface again, with two new articles about Ft. Hood this week alone.
To me, the main issue here should be this: Does it hurt anyone to allow Witches to practice their religion in the military? From six years of personal experience, I can definitely say no- it did nothing to combat readiness, it did nothing to morale- there just wasn’t an issue, and no one made it an issue. Once, a crew member who was born-again Christian went to the command, saying he was offended by my books on Witchcraft- the command told him if I got rid of my books, his bible had to go, too- he saw their point of view on religious freedom and that was the end of the problem. I did my job just like everyone else, and I did it well. Only once in 6 years did I receive ‘special treatment’ due to my religion – I was given Samhain (Halloween) off- but I also volunteered to stand Christmas duty to allow someone who celebrated Christmas to be home with their family. I am sure that the Witches’ at Ft. Hood- and all over the Military- are the same way, just regular soldiers and sailors who do their jobs, have friends and families, and worship the God and Goddess- There really should be no issue, and we should all work together towards a day when there is none.