The military has been uneven in its acceptance of Paganism and Wicca as “real” faiths. The success of the Pentacle Quest may have opened some other doors, though. Earlier this year, I had a planned overnight admission to a military hospital for testing. (My husband is an active-duty servicemember.) When I filled out the admission paperwork, I clearly wrote my religious preference as “Wiccan.” Unfortunately, my bracelet read “NRP,” for “no religious preference.” I was concerned that someone in the admissions office hadn’t understood my expression of my faith preference or was choosing to disregard it. When I pursued the issue, (after successfully getting out of the hospital) I found out that it was much more mundane than that: the admissions office has a drop-down menu listing religious preferences, and they can only select one of the preexisting options or NRP. I didn’t get to see the whole list, but it had forty-odd options, of which, on a quick glance, about thirty appeared to be monotheistic faiths. Neither Wiccan nor Pagan was a possible choice.
I went to Patient Advocacy and asked how to get my religious preference added to the list. I was impressed: no one laughed at me, no one asked me if that was a “real” religion, no one asked if I was a Satanist. In fact, they were well aware of the VA decision regarding the pentacle. I also cited the fact that “Wicca” and “Pagan” are both allowable choices for servicemembers to put on their dog tags as religious preferences. Patient Advocacy did a great job researching the technical issues, and within a week I had a phone call saying that Wiccan and Pagan were both now available as options for religious preference when a patient is admitted to the hospital.
Kudos to the military for when it does a good job of upholding the Constitutional value of freedom of religion!