Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Wow. Impressive.

This has been a big week for religious open-mindedness.

First, the Vatican decided that kids who die before they're baptized aren't necessarily doomed to an eternity in Limbo. Very big of them, I must say. I always find religions that punish the innocent to be particularly attractive, but I suppose it was time for them to finally move out of the 12th Century. And it only took them 800 years.

Okay, Limbo wasn't official church doctrine and has been informally repudiated for decades. And Limbo itself was an improvement on the thoughts of St. Augustine, who decided that such luckless kids ended up in Hell instead. But come on.

Then today, the Veterans Adminstration yielded to a lawsuit and decided Wiccan veterans could have their own symbol on their tombstones.

For nearly a decade, the department had refused to act on requests for the pentacle, without a clear reason. VA spokesman Matt Burns said that approximately 10 applications were pending from adherents of Wicca, a blend of witchcraft and nature worship that is one of the country's fastest-growing religions.

In yesterday's legal settlement, the VA agreed to grant all the pending requests within two weeks and to approve new ones on an expedited basis for 30 days. The department will also pay $225,000 to the plaintiffs for attorneys' fees.

How big of them, letting soldiers choose which religious symbol they would like to have on their own grave. I realize there have to be limits -- otherwise I'd want a pirate suit on mine, to honor the Flying Spaghetti Monster -- but it's hard to deny that Wicca fits whatever criteria you could name for a religion. So one is left with the notion that the opposition was based on simple prejudice.

In that regard, this is interesting.

The settlement stipulates, however, that the plaintiffs must not keep or disclose any documents handed over by the government during the discovery phase of the lawsuit. Lawyers familiar with the case said that some documents suggested the VA had political motives for rejecting the pentacle.

So the VA goes to discovery, then capitulates completely -- and wants the evidence kept hidden. Nah, nothing going on there.

And people wonder why majority religions are sometimes looked upon sourly by nonadherents.

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