5 Tips for Pagans in the Military
While there is opposition to pagans, in particular to Wiccans and witches, in the military from conservative Christian groups such as the Family Research Council, military members can openly practice their beliefs.
As an active duty Marine, I attended a Wiccan "Sunday school" while in boot camp on Parris Island and later while stationed in North Carolina I was able to meet with other pagans serving with me for religious meetings when off duty.
There are a few things that military members need to be aware of when requesting the right to worship:
1. Pagan holidays are not recognized as government holidays, except for the Spring equinox ("Easter") and Yule ("Christmas"), so do not expect to receive these days off.
As when requesting leave at any other time, you will need to speak with your command and put in the proper requests to receive Sabbath
days off. Also as with any other leave request, such requests
can be denied.
2. Upon request, the military must provide religious clergy for you to speak with.
Be aware that this will usually mean a Christian chaplain who's taken a "what is Wicca" course. They'll be largely unknowledgeable, but are very kind and trustworthy. I spoke with my Christian chaplain many times and greatly appreciated him. More and more chaplains are joining the military as Wiccan chaplains, so ask - you never know who you'll be
3. You can have an altar in your barracks like you can have a stereo system.
As long as your tools, books and herbs comply with allowable materials (not illegal drugs, Nazi worship, or other ridiculous items) you are allowed to have them. Know that you may have to stow your supplies and put away your altar during inspections, just like you may have to do with stereo equipment or decorations.
4. Don't take sacred items to a training environment.
Religious reading material such as the Bible is allowed to be taken into basic training and other training environments. Because there is no officially recognized "scripture" for pagans, you aren't guaranteed
the right to bring your Book of Shadows. In training environments you
aren't normally allowed unnecessary equipment, so don't bring
your tools as you'll just have to ship them home or have them
5. Be conscious of your barrack mate's comfort level.
If they are an evangelical Christian, don't expect them to be open and accepting of your need to meditate or cast Circles. Religious discrimination is not tolerated in the military, so report instances up through your chain of command - always start at the lowest level to try and resolve problems, such as with your squad leader.
The best tip for pagans in the military? Don't be a pain!
Respecting yourself and others goes a long ways.