Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Read this now: "How Thor's Hammer Made Its Way Onto Soldiers' Headstones."

As we learned yesterday, the Hammer of Thor is included among the VA-approved emblems for federal military cemeteries cited yesterday.

The posting produced this comment from a blog reader.

The VA's list of available emblems for headstones and markers might help Dan Coffey choose invocation contestants.

So emblem 16 just demonstrates the intolerance and lack of respect shown by some elected members of New Albany's City Council.

The US government respects folks' religious opinions so much they even have a symbol for non-believers, allowing all to be equal in a federal military cemetery. No one's belief or non-belief is held up as better than any other.

Exactly why compulsory Council prayer to some one's notion of a "legitimate religion" is so repugnant.

Ranging back to the Hammer of Thor, reader KS provides this link, which helpfully explains ...

How Thor's Hammer Made Its Way Onto Soldiers' Headstones

... To summarize, Thor’s hammer represents heroism, nobility, self-reliance, and honor. It’s a symbol with a history that extends back a thousand years to pre-Christian Europe. And adherents of Odinism, the religion that Thor’s hammer represents, tend to make natural soldiers. Oh, and it also shares a pretty strong cultural heritage with a superhero who is, in his own weird, Technicolor, space viking way, as American as apple pie. How strange would it be, then, if the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs—the organization that oversees cemeteries dedicated to U.S. veterans and ultimately says which symbols can be used therein to represent your religious faith—had a problem with Thor’s hammer?

But for decades, the VA did have a problem with Thor’s hammer. Not so much for what Mjölnir stood for but because it was a pagan symbol, and pagan symbols were verboten.

With paganism usually viewed as an "umbrella term of convenience" covering numerous traditions, there isn't a single shared symbol or emblem.

What's more, "legitimate" religions like those venerated by Dan "Manic 7th Street Preacher" Coffey commonly denounce paganism, associating it with Satanism and witchcraft, thus complicating the decision-making process. In this instance, families of dead soldiers refused to compromise with the VA, and fought for the wishes of their loved ones.

 ... On September 25, 2005, Sergeant Patrick Stewart was killed in action in Afghanistan when a rocket-propelled grenade shot down his Chinook helicopter. An avowed Wiccan, it was Sgt. Stewart’s wish to be buried underneath the Pentacle. His widow, Roberta Stewart, petitioned for her husband to have his wishes respected by the Department of Veterans Affairs, but the VA stuck to their guns, claiming that the Pentacle was not a "recognized emblem of faith." The matter quickly came to a head, with Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filing a lawsuit on Stewart’s behalf in November 2006, arguing that the VA was showing favoritism for some faiths over others by having an "approved list" of religious symbols under which a soldier could be buried.

There was a settlement and the Pentacle was approved. Subsequently, "the Department of Veterans Affairs got out of the deciding game," but not until testimony from an embarrassing source was unceremoniously discarded.

On May 10, 2013, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs quietly made an update to its official list of approved emblems, adding Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir. "There was no press release, no announcement, nothing," Pitzl-Waters marvels. "They just dumped the symbol, and all of a sudden, there was Thor’s hammer."

It's an article worth reading in its entirety.

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