Military Religious Freedom Support

Religious Freedom Support For Wiccans & Other Pagans in the US Military

by Rev. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary
excerpted & adapted from materials provided to
Department of Defense Armed Forces Chaplains Board at the Pentagon
in November, 1998; updated March 2003

Established in 1974, Circle Sanctuary is one of America's oldest Wiccan churches and Pagan resource centers. Throughout its history, Circle Sanctuary has had Pagans in the military in its membership. Pagans in the military have included those on active duty, in reserves, and veterans in all branches of the US Armed Forces.

Circle Sanctuary's quarterly magazine CIRCLE and other religious materials have been sent to its members at military installations throughout the United States as well as around the world. Circle Sanctuary presently has members in more than forty military installations within the United States, as well as military members stationed in Europe, the Middle East, the Pacific, and elsewhere in the world.

Circle Sanctuary staff and volunteers have provided and continue to provide information, counseling, and referrals to its military members and their families as part of its work. Over the years, Circle Sanctuary's annual spiritual retreat, PSG, and other events have included networking and support group meetings for military Pagans.

Furthermore, when requested to do so by members in the US Armed Forces, Circle Sanctuary ministers and others associated with the church's religious freedom support ministry, Lady Liberty League, have corresponded and dialogued with military chaplains, commanders, and other administrative personnel in order to assist in the delivery of appropriate religious support services for Wiccans and other Pagans and Nature religions practitioners within the US Armed Forces.

The numbers of Wiccans, Pagans, and practitioners of related forms of Nature religions serving within the US Armed Forces continue to grow as does the need for US military chaplains to provide religiously and culturally appropriate counseling and other ministerial support to them, including meeting space for the conducting of Wiccan religious ceremonies at military installations.

During the 1980's, Circle Sanctuary's senior minister, Rev. Selena Fox, assisted Pentagon personnel in revising the section on the Wiccan religion in the Army Chaplains Handbook., During the 1990's, she and others associated with Circle Sanctuary provided updated and additional information on the Wiccan religion to US Armed Forces Chaplains Board staff and other Department of Defense personnel at the Pentagon.

Rev. Drake Spaeth, Psy.D. is Circle Sanctuary's first Military Members Support Minister. In November, 1998, he became the first Wiccan trained minister to be put forth as a candidate for chaplain in the US Armed Forces and Circle Sanctuary became the first Wiccan church to apply for Department of Defense Ecclesiastical Endorsing Organization status. Circle Sanctuary's application received recommendation for approval of the subcommittee of the Armed Forces Chaplains Board in April 1999 and recommendation for approval of the entire Armed Forces Chaplains Board in January 2002. Circle Sanctuary's application is in the final stages of receiving approval.

In 1999, Circle Sanctuary was among those defending the right of Wiccans in the US Military to practice their religion at military installations, when this right was attacked by several federal government officials. Fortunately, anti-Wiccan legislation that would have outlawed this right was defeated both times it was introduced in Congress. In addition, a better understanding of the Wiccan religion and Paganism emerged publicly as a result of the widespread media coverage generated by the controversy. More information about Circle Sanctuary's work on behalf of Military Pagans in this religious freedom battle is described in the Fall 1999 LLL Report and in the Barr Wars archive.

In Fall 2001, shortly after the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, Rev. Selena Fox, Dr. Drake Spaeth, and others formed the Psyche Healing Corps, a network of Pagan mental health professionals and ministers available to do networking and counseling healing support to Pagans serving in the United States Military and their families.

In February 2003, Circle Sanctuary produced and began distributing Military Pagan prayer cards to Pagans on active duty in the US Armed Forces. Cards are being carried by Pagans around the world. Circle Sanctuary also is maintaining an altar of support for Military Pagans and their loved ones at its headquarters in Wisconsin

The Lady Liberty League has a Task Force on Military Affairs. Among other projects, the Task Force is presently working on making it an option for Pagan veterans and those on active duty to have a Pagan emblem on their headstones after death.