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Department of Veterans Affairs settles headstone lawsuit

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The US's Department of Veterans Affairs has bowed to requests to allow pentacles to be "added to the list of emblems allowed in national cemeteries and on goverment-issued headstones of fallen soldiers", AP reports.

Eleven families across the US had issued a lawsuit demanding the right to honour their fallen sons with the five-pointed star. The VA decided to settle "in the interest of the families involved and to save taxpayers the expense of further litigation", a spokesman explained.

The settlement also agreed to the VA stumping up $225,000 in attorneys' fees and costs and that the pentacle be "placed" on the grave markers within 14 days.

We should point out that the pentacle in question indicates affiliation to the Wiccan religion, and not the Aleister Crowley Appreciation Society. The five points represent earth, air, fire, water and spirit, and the symbol joins those of Buddhism, Christianity, Eckiankar, Islam, Judaism, Seicho-No-Ie, and Sufism Reoriented* on a list of 39 which the VA "permits on gravestones".

Reverend Barry W Lynn, boss of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which represented the Wiccans in the lawsuit, trumpeted: "This settlement has forced the Bush Administration into acknowledging that there are no second class religions in America, including among our nation's veterans."

Wiccan high priestess and plaintiff Selena Fox said: "I am glad this has ended in success in time to get markers for Memorial Day."

The VA settlement also satisfies another lawsuit brought last year by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of "two other Wiccan churches and three individuals", AP notes. ®

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* No, Jedi does not feature on the list, in case you were wondering.

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