The "Burning Times Award" given to U.S. Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia
"Congress shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
The establishment clause in
the 1st Amendment of the U.S. constitution.
"The military should rethink their position.
That's not a religion." G.W. Bush, governor of Texas,
referring to the Wiccan religion. 1
14 The award:
Occasionally, a North American political figure makes a statement or performs an act
that is profoundly religiously intolerant or which violates the federal
constitution in a major way. We recognize such events by issuing a Burning
Times award. More details about these awards.
This award was given
on 1999-MAY-20 to Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, in recognition of being the North American
political figure whose behavior most
closely exemplifies the spirit of the
Witch burning times of the 15th to 18th centuries.
Representative Bob Barr's Statements:
U.S. Representative Bob Barr (GA-7) has been a United States Attorney, and currently
serves on the House Judiciary, Government Reform and Banking committees. 2
On 1999-MAY-13, he issued a press release titled:
"BARR: CAUSES OF YOUTH VIOLENCE FOUND IN ADULT CULTURE." 3
He lists as one of the causes of youth violence the practice by the U.S. military to
permit Wiccan personnel to observe their religious faith. Wicca
is a benign, earth-centered religion, which is somewhat similar to Native
American Spirituality. A second source of youth violence that he cites is the
increasing acceptance by university students of humanism, a
secular, non-theistic philosophy with a strong ethical component.
On 1999-MAY-18, he issued a second press release. Copies were delivered to military and
congressional leaders. Recipients included Army Secretary Louis Caldera and Lt. Gen. Leon
S. LaPorte, commander of Fort Hood, TX. It is titled:
"BARR DEMANDS END TO TAXPAYER-FUNDED WITCHCRAFT ON AMERICAN MILITARY BASES."
He is reported as having viewed a report on The O'Reilly Factor, a program on Fox
News. It featured vernal equinox ceremonies by soldiers at Fort Hood, TX. He had
heard that military chaplains at Fort Hood, and other bases "are sanctioning, if
not supporting the practice of witchcraft as a 'religion' by
soldiers on military bases."
It is unclear exactly how the toleration of Wicca (a.k.a. Witchcraft) and other
minority religions are taxpayer-funded. Large armed forces bases frequently have one or
more Protestant ministers, Roman Catholic priests, and a Jewish rabbis on staff. The
Christian and Jewish soldiers' religious needs are met at some taxpayer expense. The
military pays clergy salaries, provides chaplains with offices and support staff, etc. In
a hypothetical case of an army base with 5,000 soldiers, and 3 chaplains at $75,000 per
year each, the government allocates $45 per year for the spiritual support of each
Christian or Jewish soldier. But there are, to our knowledge, no Wiccan Priests,
Priestesses, or chaplain office at any base in America. Wiccans are expected to fend for themselves,
and provide their own priests and priestesses from within their own membership. The cost
per Wiccan for spiritual support is essentially nothing. Some news sources stated that the
Army had increased security at Fort Hood "in order to deter members of Christian
groups from intimidating the witches, who meet in campgrounds..." 7
The army would certainly incur costs due to the need for this increased security. However, that is not
the fault of the Wiccans. It is caused by perceived threats from some Christian
Barr stated that allowing Wiccans to follow their religion on base: "...sets a dangerous precedent that could easily result in the practice
of all sorts of bizarre practices being supported by the military under the rubric of
He rejects Wicca (a.k.a. Witchcraft) as a legitimate religion, even though:
Rep Barr continues: "What's next? 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?..."
Religious Satanists do not engage in the ritual sacrifice of
animals. Teenage dabblers in Satanism sometimes have been known to kill a dog or cat or small animal; but
this is quite rare. Whether Rastafarians should be allowed exemption from drug laws is a
matter for the courts to decide. Some Native Americans have been allowed to consume peyote
as part of their religious services -- they follow a tradition which dates back millennia.
Roman Catholics are permitted to consume wine during Mass. Allowing Rastafarians to use
marijuana in their religious rituals may be similarly guaranteed by the 1st
Amendment to the U.S. constitution. Only a court case would tell for certain.
He ended his press release with the following: A print of the painting, 'The Prayer At Valley Forge,' depicting George
Washington on bended knee, praying in the hard snow at Valley Forge, hangs over the desk
in my office. If the practice of witchcraft, such as is allowed now at Fort Hood, is
permitted to stand, one wonders what paintings will grace the walls of future generations."
He seems to be expressing the feeling that only Christian themes should be used in
American religious artwork. We have scanned many Wiccan and other Neopagan web sites and
find some of their artwork to be quite spiritual in nature.
We get the impression that Rep. Barr's concept of Wicca and Witches is primarily based
on the religious propaganda from the 15th and 16th century, and is
almost completely unrelated to the reality of 20th century Wicca. He may have
obtained his knowledge of Wicca from some of the Christian
religious hate sites on the Internet.
Reasons for Representative Bob Barr's award:
We feel that Representative Barr's statements and actions are sufficiently bigoted to
warrant receipt of our second Burning Times Award. Our decision is based
Violation of the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment of the
U.S. Constitution which prohibits the promotion of one religion over any
Advocating the creation of a three-tiered system of religions in the Armed Forces:
A preferred status for Christianity, which he implies is the religion of George
Presumably a lower class status for most other world religions, like Judaism and Islam,
The active suppression of the religious rights of Wiccans.
Lack of respect for religious diversity.
Spreading misinformation and hatred about Wicca and Humanism by
suggesting that they are responsible for youth violence in the U.S..
Inability to separate his own personal religious beliefs from his political
responsibility to represent all citizens, including
Wiccans and other Neopagans.
Relegation of Wiccans to second-class citizenship in the armed forces and in the rest
America, to be stripped of religious freedoms of speech, belief and assembly.
Further developments in the Barr case:
TheMilitary Pagan Network issued a press release which
stated, in part:
"This is a direct attack on the Constitution of the United States. All
religions are protected, not just those that Congress, the President or the Supreme Court
determine. All religions are and should be permitted free practice on military bases,
within reasonable limits, to insure that the service can accomplish its mission, and to
quote Chief Justice Rehnquist, 'foster instinctive obedience, unity, commitment, and
esprit de corps...' . Wicca, also known as witchcraft, in no way prevents the
military from accomplishing its goals. By allowing service members and dependents to
worship on post they are increasing morale of the troops and families as well as
fulfilling their Constitutional obligation." 5,6
The Lady Liberty League, a Neopagan group, issued a news alert
on 1999-MAY-25. It stated in part:
"Rep. Barr of Georgia's 7th Congressional District not only ridiculed and
defamed the Wiccan religion with his remarks, but demanded that the US Military treat the
Wiccan religion differently than other religions in accommodating the religious needs of
military personnel. Having seen a news report about Wiccans in the military taking part in
a Spring Equinox ritual at Fort Hood in Texas, Rep. Barr called for an end to Wiccan
circles being held at military installations and began his campaign against fair and equal
treatment of the Wiccan religion by the US government.
Barr's press release and his subsequent remarks about this are specifically directed
toward Wiccans and contain comments that are insulting, demeaning, and derogatory to the
Wiccan religion. Barr advocates that the United States military treat those who
practice Wicca in a discriminatory manner, by revoking their Constitutional right to
worship. Barr maintained his stand even after he was inundated with educational material
and other feedback from numerous Wiccan and Pagan sources, including Wiccan constituents
from his own district.
This type of attack from an elected official of the United States government sets a
dangerous precedent and challenges our basic Constitutional right to worship in a manner
of our personal choosing. The impact upon the Wiccan-Pagan community could be horrific.
Because of the First Amendment implications of this campaign, it should be of
concern not only to Wiccans and Pagans, but to those of all religions."
People for the American Way selected congressman Bob Barr as the winner
of the 1999 Equinine Posterior Achievement Award on 1999-MAY-26. PFAW President Carole
Shields presented the second annual award. "The Equine Posterior Achievement
Award is given to a 'leader' whose abilities to misrepresent an issue and pander to our
baser instincts have reached ridiculous levels." 10,11Shields
"A number of Washington politicians competed for the award, but Barr
was flank and shoulders below the competition. He has tried to subvert the U.S.
Constitution and the will of the American people. He has misused his political power to
attack women, minorities and gays. He has voted against good, proven programs like Head
Start and Aid to Families with Dependent Children. He is, in other words, a genuine
The Sacred Well Congregation of Texas sponsors Wiccan covens at Fort
Hood and at many other U.S. army bases. 13 Its founder, Major David Oringderff, is a
psychologist, sociologist who served 22 years in the army. He has asked Rep. Barr for an
apology. He wrote: "...I am painfully aware that, despite constitutional
guarantees and protection under law, intellectual and spiritual bigotry is alive and well
in this country... Witches, are quite accustomed to naive notions and caustic rhetoric
from zealots...[but not] coming from a man of your stature... Minority faith
groups have been supported by chaplains for 20 to 30 years, and we follow the same
regulations and follow the same rules as Jehovah's Witnesses, Buddhists, Mormons and any
other minority faith groups. I find it ridiculous that we as a group are singled out for
who we are and what we do and that we choose to express our faith in ways other than what
the dominate culture chooses to express theirs."
Military spokespersons: Navy Capt. Russell Gunter is the executive
director of the Armed Forces Chaplains Board at the Pentagon. He said that the
military is obligated to respect and make provisions for the religious needs of its
members without passing judgment on their beliefs. Chaplain Jerry
Haberek, the III Corps head chaplain, agreed. "...I raised my right hand
when I came in the Army to support and defend the Constitution, and that's what I'm doing:
defending the constitutional right of soldiers and family members."
George W. Bush on 1999-JUN-24,
Interviewed on ABC's Good Morning America. Peggy Wehmeyer.
asked for his opinion about the U.S. military's policy of allowing Wiccan
soldiers to practice their religion on the Fort Hood, TX army base.