September 11th and shadows

I read Hecate’s excellent post on the dark moon and working with shadows last week, and while I had done a ritual to observe the dark/new moon, I thought to myself, “I wish I’d done that instead.” One of the things about being a Witch is that you learn to be careful what you wish for. Over the next few days, my body reminded me that while my personal monthly cycle is not always in sync with the moon, it does present me with an unenviable opportunity to face my shadows on a regular basis. Now, on the heels of that, we arrive at a day that in the US will be used for contemplations of several kinds, and I am thinking that we should bring the skills of shadow work to this conversation, too.

Each grief proceeds at its own pace, and for some people who grieve September 11th, it will never be far enough away to try to approach it again from the different angle of shadow work. I understand that; I honor that, and wish that I had other comfort to offer. I do not write primarily to those people.

I write because I have experienced the ways that facing one’s shadows, recognizing them, understanding them, and ultimately integrating them, leads to healing and to wholeness. In the absence of this process, we feed our shadows’ power. We see our (denied or unrecognized) shadows everywhere, and we project them even where they don’t belong. We act out their patterns when other behavior would be a better use of our time and energy.

We should talk about our national shadows because they are very real, just as real as our national psyche and self-perception. And because our ideas of what it means to be American are diverse and varied, so are our shadows – but the shadows have an extra power, because they are harder to discuss, harder to see clearly. This inherent power makes them potent political weapons.

For example, I believe that the response of conservative news media to last year’s attack on the US compound in Benghazi was nothing more nor less than a deliberate attempt to inflame a shadow of September 11th in order to reinforce their political attitudes, especially the idea that we desperately need a Strong (Republican) Leader.

Similarly, some Congress members recently distorted the facts of September 11th in order to invoke its shadow to drum up support for one side of the current conflict in Egypt. But if we’ve observed anything in Egypt, it is that the Arab Spring will not lead directly to some miraculous Summer of Democracy. As a country, we should be careful what we wish for, and who we arm.

As a result, the discussion of what action to take with respect to Syria is covered in shadows: One of the biggest might be called World’s Policeman. This shadow is cast by some heroic history, but it is a shadow, not the thing itself, and it is one we need to be wary of. It often interacts with Sole Superpower, a shadow with even uglier implications. There are also shadows related to actions taken or not taken in military, political, and diplomatic ways more recently and more specifically.

Just as with individual shadow problems, there is a wealth of history that informs the development of these shadows and should be addressed as part of understanding them. (Have you ever seen the photo of Don Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein?) I may yet write more about that. For now, I want to plant the idea of working with our national shadows as something we should do.

But when I write we, I mean the individuals of the country, out of whom the country and her psyche are made. Specifically those of us who do magic, who work with shadow as part of our practice, we should take the lead here. I don’t have a simple recommendation; I don’t think shadow work is ever simple. So I ask you: how would you do shadow work with the country?

For me, I will work with Columbia, engaging with her and with my own personal corner of what it means to be America. I will dialogue with her, and her shadows, and my shadows, the way I have dialogued with my own shadows in the past, and I will try to integrate just a fragment more, so that in the future, I will have the wisdom of honest history and the resulting courage of my convictions to take a stand.

Recognizing reality: women in combat

The only reasonable response to the fact that the armed forces are dropping their ban on women in combat positions is: It’s about damn time.

Women have been exposed to combat in various ways for 20-odd years, depending on how you count. Certainly since September 11th women have been in a war with no front lines. More importantly, they’ve been a vital asset for working with civilian women in the population. The ban on women in combat has been a polite fiction, a way of soothing peoples’ consciences at the cost of harming the careers of military women.

I agree with Hecate and Echidne that I wish we didn’t have wars and combat, and I’m sorry that anyone is fighting in them. But while we do, one of the very least things we can do is be darn well honest about what women are doing in those situations.

Of course the religious right is losing their collective minds over this, but that means they haven’t been paying attention to reality in the meantime. I’m also particularly amused that this happens just a few weeks after the Military Officers Association of America, a private organization that my dear spouse joined for the job-networking benefits after he gets out of the service, announced that the winner of its annual essay contest was a piece about how women shouldn’t be in combat. It was full of the usual essentialist tripe; something about women as the creators of life shouldn’t be in a situation of death really rubbed me the wrong way, and another part basically saying that America wouldn’t have been able to handle it if pictures of a woman’s dead body (possibly with, gasp, private parts showing!) were shown on TV made me convinced that the author hasn’t actually looked at American TV in the last 20 years.

Very little will change because of this, almost certainly nothing that your average civilian will notice. Still, it’s a step in the right direction, and it will matter to the women who have been held back because of it. So: it’s about damn time.

Now we need to fix the problems some of those servicemembers, male and female, face when their spouses aren’t recognized as spouses. DADT repeal was a good step – that was also recognizing a basic reality. Now we should treat their families on equal footing. DOMA has to go.

Commissary accepts food stamps (link to DeCA site)

Does the commissary accept food stamps? Yes.

In reviewing some of the statistics for my site, I’ve discovered that a surprisingly high number of people stumble across my site searching for this information. Since my original post about this over a year ago was a long discussion of the social justice issues involved, I’m making a new post to help people to the actual information they probably want. is the official DeCA site with information about commissaries in general and specific locations.

Per their site, all commissaries accept food stamps and related programs – EBT, WIC, and TANF – in any form.

Friendly Fire

Before the recent community kerfuffle, I was talking about the Pagan blood libel and how that affects the experience of being Pagan and Wiccan today. I want to share a couple of my own experiences to try to convey just a bit of what it’s like.

My partner and I were at a social event with people I’ll call A and B. A has been a friend of LitSpouse for over a decade; B is A’s relatively recently-married spouse, whom we don’t know as well. LitSpouse, A, and B are all in the military.

In the course of other conversation, I mentioned how someone I love, C, had been having a hard time recently because she’s in the broom closet. In that situation, when others treat her as if she’s Christian – talking about her relationship with the Christian god and so on – it causes mixed feelings and a lot of frustration.

B started saying that the others meant well. I acknowledged that and said neither of us was anti-Christian. But some of the actions others have taken – including a Christian spontaneously laying hands on C and praying over her out loud in public without asking first – are simply insensitive and intrusive.

B proceeded to say that since most of the country is Christian, it’s “a reasonable assumption” for people to think that C’s Christian. I pointed out that regardless of reasonableness, it’s rude, and maybe they should ask. She might be umpteen things besides Christian, and no matter what she is, she might not want to be prayed over.

I pointed out that I don’t just tell people I’ll cast a spell on them (or start doing it in public!), and that all I’m asking for is the same level of regard in return. B kept defending this and started saying that we’d just have to “agree to disagree.”

I was frustrated. Finally I said that he simply doesn’t understand how hard it is to be part of a tiny minority religion. Nobody is threatening his religion, or treating him badly because of it, and that changes the context for things like this.

He really didn’t get that. Finally I gave him an example: a preacher on the religious right had recently said (again) that the practice of Witchcraft ought to be outlawed in the military.

B looked me right in the eye and said, “But you’re not in the military, so why should that bother you?”

I was speechless. I have done some martial arts, so I know what it feels like to hit the ground so hard your wind is knocked out of you. That’s exactly how I felt.

There he sat, in his uniform, with his spouse and my spouse in their uniforms, asking me why hate speech directed at my religion and at a fundamental freedom enshrined in the document that he swore to defend “bothers” me.

I was visibly furious. I explained that Christian conservatives want to make Wicca illegal entirely, and they think they can use the military as a leverage point to make that happen. (They’ve only been trying since the mid-1980s, after all.) Then I got very quiet so that I didn’t have a real outburst. I almost left, and if I hadn’t valued LitSpouse’s friendship with A so much, I probably would have.

B realized he’d screwed up and started to back and fill, saying something about how maybe he should have left the subject alone because I obviously have “a deeply held feeling” about this.

I snapped, “It’s not a deeply held feeling, it’s a Constitutional right.”

You could have heard a pin drop.

Spouse and A gradually worked on patching up the social situation by making conversation, and the party broke up shortly thereafter. When I walked out, I was still shaking.

I don’t make a habit of taking offense. But I really think there are some things that should make people stop and think. Defending hate speech is one of those things.

And yes, I think “Your religion should be illegal” is hate speech. My religion is part of my identity and my way of life; you can’t separate me from it. Especially when the people who want to ban my religion also perpetuate vicious, dangerous lies about me and my coreligionists and see excluding us from public life as only the first step to eradicating us entirely, saying that is another way of saying “People like you shouldn’t be allowed to exist.”

I’m lucky: I haven’t had to face too much crap in person about being Wiccan. I don’t have to deal with it in a lot of ways other people do. Maybe that made me overconfident that most people would be reasonably decent about this.

But these were my friends, people I thought I knew, who I thought I could trust. They knew I was recently ordained. Heck, they had been invited to my ordination party less than a month before this happened. In light of this, I guess I’m glad they hadn’t attended.

I thought they might at least try to exercise a modicum of imagination and empathy, or even begin to believe that they don’t fully understand how my experiences are different from theirs. I was so utterly unprepared for this. It took me by surprise and made it hurt a lot more than if it had come from someone else.

This is one of the hard realities of being Wiccan: You’re always at risk of friendly fire.

Nonsectarian is no substitute for tolerance

I’m a little late to the party celebrating the latest success of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, but I thought I’d add my two cents anyway.

MRFF succeeded in getting some material removed from the Squadron Officers’ School curriculum – which the Air Force describes as the “first step” in professional military education that all officers undertake – because that material said that officers needed to go to chapel.

As the MRFF pointed out, this is unconstitutional on its face because it constitutes government advancement of religion and because it could create an unconstitutional religious test for office. The Air Force yanked the reading. Progress!

I’d like to point out one other thing here, though, that is becoming increasingly irritating to me. Part of the offensive language in the reading states:

“If you attend chapel regularly, both officers and Airmen are likely to follow this example,” according to the paper. “If you are morally lax in your personal life, a general moral indifference within the command can be expected.”

This says, in effect, that the only way to be a good person – and a good officer! – is to go to chapel. And while “chapel” could theoretically be seen as a “non-denominational” term, its connotation is blatantly Christian, especially in the Air Force. Sure, some “chapel” facilities also host Jewish services – those are okay, they’re almost like honorary Christians – and if you’re lucky, your command isn’t prejudiced against Muslims – but the message here is an unsubtle “Be an active, practicing Christian.”

Non-denominational is not an acceptable substitute for tolerant.

This is why as a member of a minority religion my goal is not to somehow get “approval” from the Real Religions so that I can be a junior member and have an acceptable alternative way to fulfill the “spiritual practice” expectation, so that then they can use me as an example of how “tolerant” and considerate they are, even when they’re not.

Do I want recognition? Sure – it’s an important means to protect my practice. But I don’t want to become part of pushing some kind of practice on everybody else. In situations like this, my goal is to get the spiritual practice expectation removed entirely. That will help me and my coreligionists, but also practitioners of other minority religions, agnostics, atheists, and, ultimately, everybody.

Why does the commissary take food stamps?

The Witches’ Pyramid is a saying about the steps to take action: to know, to will, to dare, and to be silent. I’ve said before that I believe this is a cycle, and that being silent means listening, paying attention to the outcome of what has happened so that you can gather new knowledge to shape your next actions.

The silence of the Witches is not passive. It’s the silence that comes from asking questions and then listening, really listening, to their answers, because those answers guide the knowing, the willing, and the daring to make real changes happen.

Today, I ask: Why does the commissary take food stamps?

Take a look at this story from the Washington Post about military members needing help to feed their families for Thanksgiving. They don’t mean that dad’s having trouble cooking his first turkey while mom’s away on deployment (although that’s an issue, too). They mean that many military families have trouble affording food. It’s not just at Thanksgiving; all year round, commissaries take WIC and SNAP and other kinds of “food stamps.”

What does it say about our society that the amount of money it takes to get someone to risk her life is less than the amount it takes to feed her family?

We have a story, in this country, about how anyone can get ahead through hard work and all the other good Puritan values. At times, that story has given hope to people, so much hope that they would come across the ocean to settle in a new land. It still gives so much hope that people struggle to enter the country without papers just so they can have a shot at that kind of success – or just enough to feed their families, maybe.

The military has traditionally been the bedrock of that story. “Look,” people say, “anyone can join the military and get three hots and a cot, and maybe even work for 20 years and then collect a pension afterwards.” After WW II, it was true that many, many people were able to get an education, get a job, and raise a family, largely thanks to the start the military gave them.

Today, that story is a lie.

This is what I learn from asking why the commissary takes food stamps.

People are enlisting in the military not just to have a chance at a college education and a pension. They’re enlisting in order to have their rotten teeth pulled and to get enough money that with food stamps and the commissary discounts and the help of a food bank they might be able to feed their kids.

There’s something that happens when the people with the guns don’t have enough to eat. It’s called a revolution. It’s not pretty.

Telling people to “get a job” when there are no jobs – and when those jobs, even at the risk of your life, don’t pay enough to feed your family – is a variation on “let them eat cake.” It’s the noise made by people who aren’t listening.

Today, as a Witch, I’m listening to the silence, and I’m trying to find the will and the daring to deal with the knowledge that comes from asking a simple question: Why does the commissary take food stamps?

Review: Lale, Asatru for Beginners

Lale, Erin. Asatru for Beginners. e-book second edition, 2009. 157 pages.

Asatru for Beginners is by Erin Lale, an Asatruar who has run for office as a candidate for the Libertarian party. Lale moderated an MSN group for Asatruar for several years, and the book grew out of the FAQ and resources for that group. The book’s origins show clearly, and while it tries to be representative of many or most Asatruar, at times the author’s personal and political agendas come through with startling clarity.

Despite the title, I wouldn’t actually recommend this book for beginners. I think it would be most useful for someone who has a foundation in Asatru and wants to see what the collective documents of a group of Asatruar look like. Reading the book, I think I get a sense of what a lot of the conversations on the list must have looked like to come to these mostly-consensus positions. Encountering those as filtered through the author could be useful for someone trying to get more involved in Asatru, but it does not even attempt to be an unbiased look at Asatru written for someone with no basis.

Perhaps the most useful parts of the book are an alphabetical listing of deities, which I can see as a great resource for beginning practitioners, and the simple rituals for major life events. There is also a rune chart and some straightforward descriptions of how magic might be incorporated in an Asatru framework, plus an overview of additional resources. All of these would be valuable for anyone starting to follow the Asatru path.

The book could certainly do with more thorough editing. It is repetitive, reflecting its structure as parts of a FAQ rather than a book meant to be read linearly. Some things are a little oddly placed or phrased. A warning against not taking oaths in a language you do not understand is included in the FAQ answer on initiations, which seems strange to me. (13) In another place, the text seems to say that the political power of the Roman Empire was only broken after the Protestant Reformation. (33) Surely this is a mistake of confusing the religious power of Rome in Catholicism with the Roman Empire, but it seems to demonstrate a lack of attention to detail, especially since this is the second edition of the book. Some capitalization issues (“Science,” “Lesbians”) and paragraph problems also make the book look less professional than it might otherwise.

Unfortunately, the bigger problem is that some issues that have plagued Northern European reconstructionists show up here too. Lale says that there is disagreement within Asatru about “whether a person must belong to a particular nation in order to be that particular type of heathen.” She continues: “Those who say no are called universalists.  Those who say yes are called folkisch.  However, even among the folkisch, the tradition of tribal adoption is honored, and those of mixed ethnicity are welcomed as long as they have some ancestors from the given nation.”

This seems to me to only begin to scratch the surface of the tremendous issues surrounding race within Asatru. That may be appropriate for beginners, and is certainly okay on a website’s FAQ, but this is a missed opportunity for Lale to expand this material into a better form. Later, the Asatruar involvement in Kennewick Man situation is mentioned, and the author says that Kennewick Man “is 9,000 years old, and dates from a time before the modern races evolved,” which seems to me to confirm an outdated form of thinking about races as simply biologically distinct, rather than a complex interaction of biology and culturally-defined categories that can vary greatly. (15)

The issue of race in Asatru’s history comes up: Lale disavows any connection between Nazi Germany and Heathenism in confused ways; she acknowledges that some Nazis used some Heathen symbols, but maintains that Hitler was a Christian and that Heathens were persecuted in Nazi Germany as well. (33, 34) Again, I understand the limitations of a FAQ, but in a book, surely this could have been addressed with more nuance. The Nazis and their attitudes toward religon were not monolithic, and the text here seems too much like an attempt to claim fellow-victim status to deflect reasonable criticisms that have been raised and continue to crop up about Asatru interactions with white supremacy and other forms of racism.

The strangest part of the whole book for me was the way it addressed – or didn’t – issues of gender and sexuality. Responsible reconstructionists have to grapple with the ways that ancient traditions did or did not address gender and sexuality, especially given the fact that the ancients may have had very different conceptions of those issues than we do today. Lale seems determined on the one hand to insist that Asatru is not hostile to gays and lesbians and on the other to maintain the gender essentialist structure of historical Northern European cultures, right down to using derogatory terms for queer people. This is especially baffling because Lale herself is bisexual.

Addressing gays, Lale writes: “In any case, homosexuality was certainly never outlawed among the heathens.  Some of the gods were sexually ambiguous.” (106) I’m sure the fact that this was “never outlawed” in the past will be reassuring to gay people uncertain of their possible reception in Asatru today. There seems to be an assumption that gay men are effeminate, as another related statement points out that “Both transvestism and changing gender are practiced by some of the gods in our myths.” (105) Given the plethora of easily-available information on trans* issues, it is especially strange that Lale retains the outdated and pejorative “transvestitism.”

Further confusion arises when Lale states that “Modern male seidh practitioners are generally presumed to be gay unless they are transvestites.” (142) The relationship between seidh and gender and sexual identity in the myths is a complex and fascinating topic, but this offhanded statement obscures the potential richness of the topic as point of great interest to queer people interested in Asatru.

This approach also reflects the simplistic gender essentialism that pervades the book. Simple rituals for life events are included, but they are extremely gender-specific (at coming-of-age, women get a jewel, men a weapon) and only mention heterosexual unions.

Lale takes pains to assure women that “In heathen times, the traditional roles of women had value and power.” (102) Yes, the economic power of the home manager is not to be disregarded, but what of the contemporary female Marine who feels drawn to Asatru as a way to embrace her warrior identity?

Finally, in some places, Lale makes flat-out assertions and presents her personal positions as definitive, normative, and inherent in Asatru. For example, she says simply, “Asatru women do not cut their hair,” with a related explanation that women who cut their hair are whores or slaves. (94)

Her libertarian position comes out in statements this FAQ entry on gun control: “A free people is an armed people, because only an armed people has the means to remain free. Slaves are forbidden weapons; free people carry them openly.  A society in which only the police carry weapons openly is a police state.” (104) She does mention that not all Asatruar will agree with all the answers she gives, but in other places she tends to at least acknowledge variation of opinion. This topic is treated as an essential part of Asatru belief and practice.

All in all, this book may be helpful for some beginners, but it is not one I would recommend to someone just starting to explore Asatru. It falls prey to several problems specific to Heathenism, but more importantly, it seems to reflect the opinions of a relatively narrow subsection of that culture with very specific political and social views.

I thank Ms. Lale for providing a review copy of her book to me. It did not prejudice me in favor of her work.

Teaching stupidity

A whole new industry has sprung up in the US that peddles bigotry. Worse yet, it does so with government funding and teaches government agents to fear and hate part of the population they’re supposed to serve. It’s the anti-terrorism training industry, which is full of hucksters and frauds.

I’m sure there are some good people doing good work teaching federal employees and maybe even cops about Islam, terrorism, and so forth. But this article points out that the system of government funding for this “training” is ripe for abuse and is clearly contributing to cops being taught arrant nonsense about Islam and Muslims, arrant nonsense that ensures those cops will view Muslims as their enemies and a constant threat: How We Train Our Cops To Fear Islam.

A similar piece of utter incompetence comes with graphics. Slacktivist and the original poster point out that this isn’t even a good graphic with a bad message – it’s a crappy graphic, too.

ETA: What this really reminds me of is self-proclaimed experts who came out of the woodwork to profit from the Satanic Panic in the ’80s and ’90s. These guys would slap together some photocopies of metal album covers and a couple of pentagrams and declare that they would teach police to recognize the signs of ritual killings and/or child abuse. Dead animal in the woods? Devil worship! Skulls in artwork? Devil worship! And so on.

They, too, got rave reviews and lots of attendees at their seminars. The results? False arrests, incorrect convictions, and wrongful imprisonment. Just ask the West Memphis 3. Let’s not let that happen to Muslims.

I’m probably going to write to my elected officials about this issue. You might want to, too. If you don’t, or if we can’t effect change that way, then do what you can: stand up to this kind of bigotry when you see it. Call it out for what it is.

Social change, socialization, and the end of DADT

How ending DADT will spread the idea of equality for people of all orientations among parts of the US population which have previously been most homophobic.

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” compromise which allowed gays and lesbians to be members of the US military as long as they concealed their orientation will officially end tomorrow. This is a great triumph not just for gays and lesbians but for all people who want to live in a society that accords QUILTBAG people their full rights. [1] This transition will help pave the way to that society.

Homophobia has been waning swiftly among certain sections of the population: for people who are more educated and have a higher socio-economic status, being QUILTBAG is often actually treated as kind of cool, having its own cachet as a way of being “special.” Younger people are also more in favor of QUILTBAG rights; marriage equality is generally considered only a matter of time among the under-30 set in most surveys.

But the military draws primarily on people from the lowest-educated and lowest-SES portions of the population. Even in times of recession, the military is seen by many as a back-up option if a “real job” doesn’t pan out. It is precisely these young people, who come from populations likely to stigmatize QUILTBAG people most severely, who could potentially carry on traditions of homophobia for another generation.

Ending DADT means that these young people will likely experience serving with a gay or lesbian airman, soldier, or sailor in the course of their enlistment. They will learn to see that person first and foremost as a comrade, a fellow servicemember, rather than a nebulous and dangerous Other. And that will make all the difference.

In the study the military did to assess the potential impact of ending DADT, the respondents who said that they didn’t think having gays and lesbians in their unit would be a problem were overwhelmingly those who knew or suspected that they had served with gays and lesbians in the past. Getting to know these people personally, seeing first hand that QUILTBAG folks are people just like anyone else, was the biggest factor in defusing and dispersing homophobia.

Now that service members can be “out” and open about their orientation, a lot more people will be having a first-hand experience of working with someone gay or lesbian. Some of them will be disturbed by it, just as some people were disturbed when the military desegregated. This may be the primary way that people from poorer, less-educated communities come into contact with openly QUILTBAG people, which is why it is such an important step forward in civil rights.

(I know the end of DADT does diddly-squat for trans* folks. But in the communities that lump all QUILTBAG people together, lessening homophobia is the first step to lessening transphobia, and the movements in support of trans rights can build on this foundation.)

Even some older people who hold the military in high respect may be receptive to evidence that removes “reasons” for homophobia. When their sons and daughters come home and tell them that their comrades are all people, equally valuable, and when they see the first openly gay and lesbian service members being decorated for valor, some members of the older generation may find their positions on QUILTBAG rights shifting.

Hate groups such as the American Family Association have been screaming their heads off about all kinds of doom, from the disintegration of the military to more natural disasters. And some conservative people in the military are going to complain that their “right” to discriminate against others is being infringed. I fully expect that the first photos of public displays of affection involving someone in uniform will be splashed all over the conservative news, and the first photos of a gay or lesbian couple marrying with one partner in uniform will be cause for enough frothing at the mouth to make some conservative sites look like they’ve been occupied by a mad barista with a passion for steamed milk.

The only reason these people have to be afraid is if their predictions don’t come true. If members of the American military discover that gay and lesbian people are, well, people, then this crusade of hate will have lost a major stronghold of institutionalized discrimination that protected entirely too much homophobia in the general population. If gay and lesbian people are as awful as these hate-spouters insist, that will become clear, and they will be banned again from the military. But if – just if – gays and lesbians are people too, and not demented perverts out to destroy the world, then a whole swath of the population will learn that, and these hate-propagandists will lose a significant portion of their audience.

Finally, this change is going to force a decision on the federal Defense of Marriage Act. I predict that DOMA will be repealed within five years, ten at the most. I hope it’s sooner, and I hope that the Obama administration’s strategy of not defending it will enable that transition as soon as possible. If that doesn’t happen, though, someone will sue to force the military to grant spouse benefits to people who are legally married in their own state. Whether overtly or not, the end of DADT will be a stepping-stone to the end of DOMA.

The military, like the public school system, is a place where people learn what it means to be American. With the end of DADT, we take another step towards teaching our citizens that respecting civil rights – the very rights the military fights to defend – is part of what it means to be American.


[1] QUILTBAG = queer/questioning, undecided, intersex, lesbian, trans*, bi, asexual, and gay. Coined at the Slacktiverse as the most inclusive non-cis-hetero acronym possible.

An open letter to Gen. Schwartz

Dear Gen. Schwartz,

I was very heartened to hear about your recent release of guidelines for maintaining “government neutrality regarding religion.”

When I met you at [a recent event] in the DC area, you told me that you’ve always seen the Air Force as “a team sport.” Your advocacy of First Amendment rights makes me feel included as part of that team.

As both an officer’s wife and a Wiccan priestess, it has been painful for me to be excluded by the invocations given at nearly all formal Air Force events. Hearing about specifically Christian-centric actions like the nuclear ethics training makes me even more concerned for servicemembers who are not Christians and what they must go through on an all-too-frequent basis.

Thank you for speaking out against efforts to co-opt military means for improper, intrusive, and unwelcome religious proselytization. Your reminder to the Air Force as a whole to respect both the Establishment and the Free Exercise clauses of the First Amendment for all people shows how you are upholding your oath to protect and defend the Constitution to its fullest extent and working to create a service culture that embodies the American ideal of religious liberty. For that I offer my deepest thanks.