13 conservative Christian groups asked Americans to not enlist or re-enlist in
the U.S. Army. The boycott is to continue until the Army terminates the freedoms of
religion, speech and assembly for all of its Wiccan soldiers while on base. Complete
The conflict involves a mixture of
religious intolerance towards minority faith groups, and
contempt for basic human rights.
This generated some interesting reactions:
1999-JUN-23:Rev. Jack Harvey is the pastor of Tabernacle
Independent Baptist Church in Killeen, TX. The Fort Hood army base is
close by. He is attempting to rally support to eliminate the religious
freedom of Wiccans on base. The U.S. Army recognizes Wicca under the
category of "natural religion" similar to the
classification that they give to Native America religions. Harvey is
reported as saying:
"I don't intend to shut up about it. I have an accounting to God to
speak out. I'd rather see them saved. I love all sinners; I have shed many
tears for sinners, but I am not going to sanction sin...There are 112 verses
in the Bible that specifically say witchcraft is wrong, whether they are
referred to as witches, wizards or charmers...So many people say, 'Oh, what
harm is being done?' but they [Wiccans] say their numbers are increasing. I
don't want even one person to lose faith in God and become a Witch."
He appears to be concerned that souls will be lost and sent to
Hell for eternal
[Author's note: Actually, the Hebrew and Greek words
that are translated "witch" in English versions of the Bible
refer to people who engage in black magic or use poison for the purposes of
harming people. These practices are completely unrelated to
are prohibited from harming others by their Wiccan Rede]
Robert Flowers is the associate pastor of the First United Methodist
Church in Killeen. He said that "I think the Wiccans are
misunderstood and misrepresented. When people hear the word 'witch' they picture
brooms, black hats and Satanic images...I have talked to some of the Wiccan
members. Their beliefs are not what many people perceive them to be."
Dr. David Oringderff, is the executive director of the Sacred Well
in San Antonio TX. The Wiccan coven at Ft. Hood forms part of his congregation.
He commented: "When someone holds strong beliefs, as Pastor Harvey
apparently does, there is not much one can do, or say to the person to change
those beliefs. I would invite him to learn more about our beliefs. He is welcome
to observe one of our open circles. I would only ask that he give us the same
consideration that we would have if we attended one of his services. If we
attended his service we would participate and treat his church as sacred ground.
We treat all sacred ground, as sacred ground, whether it is sacred to us or
Oringderff described the term Wicca as meaning a collection of many diverse
traditions, just as Christianity covers a wide range of denominations.
Commenting on the possibility of a Congressional investigation Wicca, he
said, "They can investigate us. We have nothing to hide. This is a
Constitutional issue, not a religions issue."
1999-JUN (Late): Texas Governor George W. Bush, Jr., the leading
Republican contender for the Presidency stated on national television news
that Wicca is not a real religion. (Exact date and program unknown).
1999-JUN-26: The Alternative Religions Educational Network
(AREN). [formerly called the Witches Anti-Discrimination League (WADL)]
created a free
web page graphic area. Images are free for use on any Pagan or
Pagan-positive web site. Some of the images are for use by military pagans.
Three are shown below:
1999-JUL-4: Many Neopagan groups issued the
following joint statement on religious freedom in the military:
"PAGAN LEADERS CHAMPION RELIGIOUS
FREEDOM IN MILITARY"
Leaders of the major U.S. Pagan organizations have rallied to uphold the First
Amendment freedoms of military personnel. Calling for interfaith dialogue and
the affirmation of religious freedom as an inalienable human right, the
leaders rejected attempts by Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) and other government
officials to ban the practice of Wicca on military bases.
is a constitutionally-protected religion, legally established in the U.S. for
more than a quarter-century," said Rev. Selena Fox, senior minister
of Circle Sanctuary, an international Wiccan church. "If Rep. Barr and
others succeed in outlawing this religion, what faith is safe?"
has been included in the military chaplains handbook for twenty years. The
military has consistently supported Wiccans' right to worship, so long as they
follow procedural guidelines for all religious groups.
diverse military is a model for states such as Yugoslavia and Iraq,
demonstrating how to create an effective fighting force which embraces the
American principle of religious pluralism," 7 said John Machate,
coordinator of the Military Pagan Network. "Barr's actions, and
subsequent calls by the radical religious right for Christians to boycott the
Army, only serve to hurt the morale of our troops, who need to be focused on
Barr has suggested that elected officials, not military personnel, determine
which faiths are acceptable for practice on military bases," added
Rev. Wren Walker, chairperson of the Witches' Voice, an educational network
and the most popular Pagan Internet site. "Besides being clearly
unconstitutional, this proposal is exactly the kind of heavy-handed,
bureaucratic policy most Americans dislike. If the military isn't complaining,
what is Rep. Barr really after?"
is a Pagan religion based on beliefs from tribal Europe. Adherents, numbering
between 50,000 and 300,000 in the U.S., honor masculine and/or feminine
deities, experience the Earth as sacred, and celebrate the cycles of the sun
and moon. Wicca, also known as Witchcraft, has nothing to do with Satanism;
Wiccans do not believe in Satan or any personification of evil. The central
tenet of Wiccan faith is "If it harms none, do what you will."
STATEMENT Pagan leaders are calling for interfaith dialogue and support for First Amendment freedoms:
Members of other
faiths need not fear working, training, fighting, or even dying alongside
Wiccans and other Pagans. We respect all Americans' right to worship as they
choose. We do not proselytize or in any way seek converts. We welcome and
support interfaith dialogue, exploring our similarities and differences.
Pagans are proud to serve alongside members of all faiths, upholding a
Constitution which supports *all* our rights.
is a collection of diverse contemporary religions which are rooted in or
inspired by indigenous traditions worldwide. Pagan religions are characterized
by belief in the interconnection of all life, personal autonomy, and immanent
divinities. These faiths are often nature-centered and supportive of gender
equity. Contemporary Pagan culture values diversity, respect, good works,
living lightly on the earth, individual freedom, and personal responsibility.
We cherish our children, our elders, and our communities, and believe that
religious liberty is an inalienable human right which must not be abridged.
project was coordinated by the Pagan Educational Network, Inc., and supported
by the Aquarian Tabernacle Church; Blessed Bee, Inc.; Celtic Traditionalist
Order of Druids; Church of All Worlds; CIRCLE Magazine; Circle Sanctuary;
Covenant of the Goddess; Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, Inc.;
Conversations with Pagans; Earth Religions Assistance Association; the
EarthSpirit Community; Green Egg: A Journal of the Awakening Earth; The Henge
of Keltria; International Pagan PrideProject; Irminsul Aettir; Journey To The
One; Lady Liberty League; Military Pagan Network, Inc.; Order of the Whiteoak;
Ozark Avalon; Pagans in Action Council for Truth; Pagan Community Council of
Ohio; Religious Liberties Lawyers Network; Sacred Well Congregation; Temple of
Isis; Wiccan-Pagan Educational Association; Witches' Anti-Discrimination
League; Witches' League for Public Awareness; The Witches' Voice, Inc.; and
1999-JUL-4: Lady Liberty League (LLL) is an
international Nature Religions civil rights organization, located at Circle
Sanctuary in Mt. Horeb, WI. On Independence Day, they issued a news release:
"The Wiccan religion is a world religion, with
churches and practitioners in more than three dozen countries around the
globe. Over the past twenty years, Wiccan ministers have been among
the speakers and delegates at international interfaith conferences.
Professors from universities in the USA, Europe, and elsewhere have identified the Wiccan
religion as a religion in the classroom and in published writings,"
said Rev. Selena Fox, senior minister of Circle Sanctuary, an international
"In the United States, there have been legally established Wiccan
churches for more than a quarter century, and federal court rulings have
consistently upheld the legitimacy of Wicca as a religion. In all
branches of the US Armed Forces, Wiccans have been effectively serving their
country along with members of other religions in both the past and present
at military installations within the USA and around the world."
"If Wiccans in the US Armed Forces lose their First Amendment
rights, what other religious practitioners will lose theirs next? Religious
freedom is a cornerstone of American democracy and must be upheld,"
continued Rev. Fox, a Wiccan minister who is directly descended from a
member of the first Continental Congress and from Revolutionary War patriot leaders and soldiers, including one who wintered with George
Washington at Valley Forge.
"This Fourth of July weekend, as we honor the birthday of the United
States of America, may we strengthen our resolve to uphold the free exercise
of religion for all as well as to preserve the unalienable rights of Life,
Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, upon which our country was
1999-JUL-5: In late June, Time Magazine
posted on its web site an article to be published in early July. It is a
reasonably accurate story describing the Wiccan situation at Ft. Hood. 2
They mentioned that Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC) "says he'll
introduce legislation to prevent witchcraft in the Armed Forces."
It is difficult to see how he can do this without first violating his oath
of office which requires him to support the U.S. Constitution.
1999-JUL-9: Armytimes.comis part of militarycity.com. They bill themselves as the "home
of the best military sites on the web." The site appears to be
mainly frequented by military personnel. They have organized a poll on the
Wiccan situation. Their question is: "Do you
think that the military should accommodate all forms of worship, including
Wiccan 'pagan rituals' and Native American ceremonies that require
peyote use?" The wording of their poll is unfortunate:
The term "Pagan" is viewed by some as a
"snarl" word that will generate feelings of hatred against the
They mixed two concerns: whether Wiccans should have
freedom of religion in the Army, and whether Native Americans should
have both freedom of religion and freedom to smoke a hallucinogenic
On JUL-9 at about 09:10 hrs, there were 39 votes tabulated;
92% were in favor of religious freedom. An hour later, the total had grown
to 285 with 89% in favor. Unfortunately, these polls usually degenerate into
a popularity contest between various outside groups,
rather than an indication of support levels within the military.
1999-JUL-12 (approx): Representative Baron P. Hill
(D-IN) responded to the joint press release of JUL-4. He wrote, in part:
"...one of our greatest American
values is tolerance...Our Founding Fathers had first-hand experience of the
vulnerability of religious believers to persecution from public officials
who did not share their beliefs."
"... I feel that protecting all
Americans religious freedoms is one of my highest duties as an elected
Representative of the United States Congress, and I will certainly keep your
concerns in mind on any future consideration of this issue."3
1999-AUG-7: Barry Shlachter, a Star-Telegram Staff Writer,
wrote an article reviewing the Ft. Hood situation, following the Wiccan
celebration of Lughnassadh. 4 He lists some of further
developments on this issue:
Governor George W. Bush (TX), a candidate for the Presidency, said:
"I don't think witchcraft is a religion. I would hope the
military would take a second look at the decision they made."
Rev. Jack Harvey of the nearby Tabernacle Baptist Church is
reported to have commented:
"This is war." He is organizing a "march
against wickedness" to demonstrate against religions freedom on
the army base. He sees no difference between Wicca,
devil worship and Voodoo. He is reported to
have arranged for
at least one member of his church to carry a handgun during religious
services, "in case a warlock tries to
grab one of our kids...I've heard they drink blood,
eat babies. They have fires, they probably cook them. This is
The reporter held "random interviews at a local Kmart"
among local townspeople. They "indicated a
live-and-let-live attitude toward the Wiccans."
In an apparent reference to Rev. Harvey, the Rev. Gary Kindley, senior
pastor at the First United Methodist Church of Killeen, said: "People
who are hypercritical to the point of paranoia do not represent mainline
Christian thought or mainline churches in Killeen...This may be a
conservative community, but they are very aware of constitutional rights
because we are near a military post, and that has a tremendous influence
1999-AUG-12: Melissa Jones wrote an article in the Sacramento Bee
about Staff Sgt. Loye Pourner, a teacher at Travis Air Force Base in
California. He also teaches, after hours, about his faith, Wicca. There are
about 30 Wiccans at Travis, about the same number as are Jews or Muslims. A
spokesperson for Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC)says
that the Senator is prepared to formally challenge the Department of Defense
policy of tolerating minority religions. Thurmond is opposed to allowing
Native American groups who use a drug in their ceremonies. He is apparently
not opposed to Roman Catholics who use alcohol. And he is opposed to
Wiccans, for unknown reasons.
Sgt. Lisa Olsen who until recently was the spokeswoman from Travis' Chapel
Services said that the Wiccans have not been funded by the Army nor have
their beliefs been approved or sanctioned. She commented: "If
it's a recognized faith group, we will recognize their right to
worship. That's not necessarily my position. That's
the Air Force position, and I support it."
1999-AUG-28: Lianna Costantino-Mead, a Wiccan high priestess,
organized an inter-faith dialog meeting at the Killeen Community Center,
near the Ft. Hood army base. People from a variety of Wiccan, other Neopagan
traditions, and several Christian denominations were present. Rev. Harvey,
the principal promoter of anti-Wiccan feeling in the area, was invited to
the meeting but apparently refused to attend. (See entries above dated JUN-23
1999-SEP-2: Lady Liberty League (LLL), issued a news alert. "LLL is an
international Nature Religions civil rights organization coordinated by
Circle Sanctuary, one of America's oldest and largest Wiccan churches."
5.6The alert concerns a protest march
organized by Rev. Jack Harvey, the pastor of an Independent Baptist Church
near Ft. Hood. (See entries above dated JUN-23 and AUG-7).
He calls it a "march against wickedness." It will start on
labor day morning, SEP-6, in Killeen, TX and end in the afternoon at a
Wiccan-owned inter-faith spiritual supply store in Copperas Cove, TX.
Two local Wiccans, Heidi Murrow and Lianna Costantino-Mead allege that
Harvey has told them that all Witches should be dead. He quotes Exodus 22:18
from the King James Version of the Bible. It contains a
mistranslation: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."
The passage actually refers to women performing evil,
black magic. That is an activity specifically forbidden to Wiccans.
"Some of the Christian ministers who took part in...[the AUG-28]
dialog meeting are planning to join Wiccans and other Pagans at Heidi's
store on Labor Day in a show of solidarity." 6 National
and local media are expected to cover the event.
1999-SEP-9: About 200 persons (Neopagans, Christians and
others) gathered at the New Age Connection shop in Copperas Cove;
some were local while at least one came from as far as Arkansas.
Representatives from Wiccan organizations were present, along with at least
4 free-lance journalists who represented various magazines, and a TV crew
from Dateline NBC. By all accounts, the event had a strong cohesive
effect on the Neopagan community.
Rev. Harvey and his supporters had held a rally and picnic elsewhere. He
allowed a high-school student press representative to videotape the event.
She happens to be a Wiccan. During the speeches Rev. Harvey allegedly stated
that Witches needed to be napalmed. Only about 40 Christian protestors
arrived at the New Age shop, counting both adults and children. One of their
signs read "Witchcraft is an abomination" on one side and
"Burn the witches off Ft. Hood" on the other. Among the
Neopagans were some Christian supporters of religious freedom. They stepped
in front of the line of Pagans with a wooden cross. A Christian soldier
asked the protestors "What would Jesus do?" He suggested
that Jesus would not be shouting hatred and intolerance, but would be
sharing a meal and fellowship with the Wiccans. The Neopagans had offered
bottled water to the protestors, but it was refused. As the protesting
Christians drove away in their bus, their last sight was the Neopagans
cleaning up the trash that the protestors had left behind.