Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wiccan Widow Not Invited To President's Meeting With Soldiers' Families;[Update- Bush Apologizes]

On Tuesday, President George W. Bush was in Nevada to address the American Legion Convention (full text of speech). While he was there, he met with family members of soldiers from northern Nevada who had been killed in battle. Yesterday's Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that one relative was conspicuously not invited to the meeting. Roberta Stewart, whose husband was killed when his helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan in 2005, was not asked to attend, even though her husband's parents and brother were. Roberta and her late husband Sgt. Patrick Stewart were Wiccans, and Roberta has battled for the right to display the Wiccan pentacle on Sgt. Stewart's memorial marker in the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery. (See prior posting.)

Americans United for Separation of Church and State criticized Roberta Stewart's exclusion, saying: "President Bush seems to be continuing a pattern of hostility toward the Wiccan faith. That’s an outrage. America is a nation of great religious diversity, and all public officials, especially the president, have an obligation to serve all of the people. Our Constitution mandates equal treatment of all faiths." (AU Release.)

UPDATE: On Thursday, President Bush phoned Roberta Stewart and apologized for failing to invite her to the meeting with veterans' families. He offered her his condolences and said that he would not discriminate against someone because of their religion. (AU Release.)