By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Military veterans are entitled to have their headstones engraved by the government with a symbol of their religion. Families of the deceased may choose from emblems representing a variety of 18 Christian churches, a number of Buddhist sects, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism and atheism (represented by an atom with an A inside) — 38 religious symbols in all. But not the Wiccan pentacle, which the Department of Veterans Affairs has neither approved nor disallowed despite various petitions over the last nine years.
Yesterday three Wiccan families and two Wiccan churches sued to force the department to include their symbol — a five-pointed star inside a circle — on the list of approved emblems. Wiccans, also called pagans, are often wrongly confused with Satanists. Theirs is a nature-based religion recognized by the Internal Revenue Service, and by the military itself in its chaplains’ handbooks and on the dog tags that troops wear around their necks. There are an increasing number of Wiccans (pronounced WIK-ens) in the armed forces — 1,800, according to a Pentagon survey cited in the suit.
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