Bob Barr recants position on Wiccans in the military

From Nate Uncensored (excerpt):

Apparently someone did get around to asking Bob Barr some substantive questions when he made an appearance at Netroots Nation. Ed Brayton (Dispatches from the Culture Wars) asked Barr if he would now, as Libertarian candidate, repudiate his 1999 attempt to prohibit the practice of Wicca, a neo-Pagan religion, on military bases. Barr said that he has changed his mind, citing “reports” that the practice of Wicca was causing problems that are apparently not an issue now. Brayton writes:

I did ask him for any specific problems that were reported to him back in 1999 by these military leaders, but he said he didn’t want to get into specifics. I’m sure that’s because there are no specific incidents and those military leaders who complained to him did so out of bigotry, or because the problems it caused were really caused by bigotry against Wiccans. He likened it to his stance on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell for gays, which he previously supported but now that it’s clear that allowing gays to serve doesn’t really cause any problems with unit cohesion and good order, he thinks it should be repealed and they should be allowed to serve openly.

33 thoughts on “Bob Barr recants position on Wiccans in the military

  1. Arthur Torrey

    Good news if true, but the source is second hand, and even he sounded like he thought Barr was rather weak on it.

    Needs to be CLEARLY posted by Barr on his own website, in language that doesn’t contain weasel worded escape lines like “states rights”…

    Even with the most positive of interpretations, this still leaves him with unacceptable views on a host of issues…

    ART – STILL not casting an electoral vote for Barr!

  2. paulie cannoli Post author

    That’s the primary source, and the quote:

    I got to ask Barr a question I’ve wanted to ask him for quite some time. He’s repudiated and apologized for many of his previous positions and I asked him if he would repudiate his absurd anti-Wiccan crusade of 1999, when he wanted all Wiccans banned from the military. He said yes, with a bit of hemming and hawing.

    He said that he had reports from several military leaders that Wiccans doing rituals on military bases were causing problems and that’s why he did what he did, but that since that time it’s become clear that there are no problems with allowing Wiccans to serve and to practice their religion on military bases like any other religion.

    I did ask him for any specific problems that were reported to him back in 1999 by these military leaders, but he said he didn’t want to get into specifics. I’m sure that’s because there are no specific incidents and those military leaders who complained to him did so out of bigotry, or because the problems it caused were really caused by bigotry against Wiccans. He likened it to his stance on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell for gays, which he previously supported but now that it’s clear that allowing gays to serve doesn’t really cause any problems with unit cohesion and good order, he thinks it should be repealed and they should be allowed to serve openly.

  3. paulie cannoli Post author

    Needs to be CLEARLY posted by Barr on his own website, in language that doesn’t contain weasel worded escape lines like “states rights”…

    If he can apply states rights to the question of what is allowed on federal property, it may be worth it just for the entertainment value.

  4. paulie cannoli Post author

    Even with the most positive of interpretations, this still leaves him with unacceptable views on a host of issues…

    At this point, sans time machine, it’s mostly about whether you choose to see the glass as half fool or half empty.

  5. Eternaverse

    Finaly Barr says something libertarian.

    Barr should put out a formal appolgy on his website for surporting this Ban on Wicca in the military, surporting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and writing the Defence of Marriage Act. Once he does that then he will have my vote.

  6. Mike Theodore

    I’m not sure if it’s better to outright apologize for that or if they just want to ignore it slightly. If he outright says, I supported it, but now I don’t, most people don’t believe him (see Libertarian Convention).

  7. David Tomlin

    See what about the Libertarian Convention? Barr got the nomination.

    I don’t know how many people believed what Barr said about DOMA at the convention, but I know he repudiated it on CNN the very next day.

  8. Bill Woolsey

    On Barr’s website, under issues, there is a section on racism and equality. There it states his position in opposition to religious discrimination. (As well as discrimination regarding race, sex, and sexual preferences.)

    On Barr’s website, under press releases, there is a release regarding religious liberty. While the thrust of the release is that the U.S. should speak out against the persecution of Christians overseas, it specifies that toleration of all religions is important. Paganism isn’t mentioned, but Islam is. (I wonder why wicca/pagans don’t point to Hinduism more frequently.)

    On the website, Barr has a release where he insists that all the Bill of Rights must be respected. He specifically takes McCain to task for failing to respect the 1st amendment. The implication is that Barr respects the first amendment.

    And, of course, finally, a nonlibertarian blogger asked Barr about opposition to Wiccan ceremonies on military bases in 1999 (and also in 2000.) And Barr said that he no longer thinks there is a problem with such ceremonies being permitted on base.

    During the controversy some 8 years ago, Barr distinguished between our first amendment right to practice our religions in the private sector (which he endorsed) and the use of taxpayer money to fund various religions in the military. I have not been able to find the language of the 1999 amendment he proposed regarding Wicca, but the 2000 amendment stated that no taxpayer funds will be used to support Wicca.

    On its face, this seems consistent with libertarianism. The core of religious liberty is our right to be left alone by government.–to be able to advocate our religious views, worship in our homes, build churches, have cermonies in them, train our clergy, and so on.

    What government employees have a right to do “on the job,” is much less clear cut. This is because no one has a right to a government job. No one has a right to taxpayer money. At best, paying people any taxpayer money is a necessary evil.

    However, the 1st amendment goes further than mandating religious tolerance and states that government (initially, the Federal government) should not set up an official state religion. From a libertarian perspective, people should choose what religion (if any) they support and not be compelled to pay taxes to support the “official” state religion.

    The problem is that, the military does fund religious activities. While the “clean” solution is to move all religious activity “off base,” the reason to have a chaplains’ corp is for deployment (like in combat,) and that the chaplains need to be training with their units when they are “on base.” (Or so a retired chaplain explained to me.)

    So, if at least some government employees can practice their religion “on the job,” (and, as a practical matter, religious counseling and the like is important to many soldiers when they are “on the job,) then the second best option would be treating all religions equally.

    Some time ago, the chaplains’ corp accepted Wicca as an option for soldiers–in respect for their first amendment rights. Wiccan groups could (and can) schedule rooms for relgious activities like other religious groups. (However, there are restrictions. No nudity is permitted.)

    I don’t believe that satanist soldiers can schedule rooms through the Chaplain’s office. I have no idea how Christian Identity or Black Muslims are handled. The general explanation for why some religious groups do not receive “equal” treatment from the Chaplains’ Corp is “good order and discipine.”

    Thankfully, Bob Barr has come to the realization that there is no good reason to see Wiccan ceremonies as a threat to good order and discipline in the military.

    Call me an idealist, but this is one more reason to look forward to a libertarian world of peace, so that there is no longer a need for government military forces and so no longer this sticky issue of dealing with the Chaplains’ corp.

  9. Mike Theodore

    “See what about the Libertarian Convention? Barr got the nomination.”

    Was referring to the more disinter like comments that were in everyone’s mind. Aside from his supporters, of course.

  10. David Tomlin

    ‘Barr should put out a formal apology on his website for supporting this Ban on Wicca in the military, supporting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and writing the Defence of Marriage Act.’

    I think he also needs to repudiate the 2007 column ‘When Oral Sex Gets ’em More than 15 Minutes of Fame — not Shame’.

    http://www.conservative.org/columnists/barr/070704bb.htm

    No true friend of liberty would characterize someone in Genarlow Wilson’s situation as ‘not terribly sympathetic’. I am on Wilson’s side in this, and until Barr recants his vicious and gratuitous attack on Wilson, I regard Barr as a political enemy and in no way a potential ally.

  11. svf

    Bill, nice effort but this is hopeless. No matter what “offensive” past position (or perceived position) Barr explains and/or apologizes for, it will never be “enough”, or “sincere”, and/or there will always be something “else” he has to do in order to satisfy the “true libertarians”.

    At this point it’s a waste of energy attempting to reason with these folks. Their minds were made up before the nomination and they aren’t going to change, even if Barr smokes a spliff on the White House Lawn with his gay lover.

  12. svf

    ah, disinter… the truest, most righteousest, most wittiest, most bestest of all libertarians!

  13. Arthur Torrey

    Paulie – I realize that even Barr would have a hard time using “states rights” on the military, but I’m sure there are other weasel word clauses that would do the same task – perhaps something like “leaving it to base commanders to decide”

    Bob – Barr explicitly attacked the Wiccans, so I’d expect an explicit apology naming them… Generic boilerplate defending religious freedom doesn’t get it, especially from someone who said he didn’t think Wicca was a “real” religion (leaving the question open about whether his boiler plate would even apply…)

    Note that he also has a blurb claiming to be against discrimination over sexual preference, while backing the “states rights” version of homophobia – about like claiming not to be racist, while taking a “states rights” stance on Loving vs. Virgina…

    As to the question of including Hinduism and other eastern religions in the definition of Paganism, (Wicca is a subset of Pagan) that is a subject of debate in Pagan circles (almost like the definition of libertarian!) – Some people do include it, but most Hindus don’t feel that it does, and it definitely hits the “gray area”. More commonly Pagans tend to define it as pre-Christian, indigenous faiths, not related to Jehovah – often the ones that the Christians tried to do in as part of their “Prince of Peace” practices…

    I don’t know what the military’s rules are on providing facilities for Satanists and other such groups, but I do know that SEVERAL prominent leaders in the “dark side” groups are in the military, often as fairly senior officers… (BTW, Satanists are considered Christian variants by most Pagans – after all if you don’t believe it represents the flesh and blood of Jesus, it seems like an awful lot of trouble just to insult a cracker…)

    In general, I think that the issue should be all or none – either all faiths are allowed to practice on an equal footing, or all should be barred…

    ART

  14. Ayn R. Key

    http://www.wildhunt.org/2008/07/bob-barr-kinda-sorta-recants.html

    A very weak, limp-wristed recanting. It was all about mysterious commanders making classified comments about how it is bad for military order, which is why Barr said during his jihad:

    A print of the painting, “The Prayer At Valley Forge,” depicting George Washington on bended knee, praying in the hard snow at Valley Forge, hangs over the desk in my office. If the practice of witchcraft, such as is allowed now at Fort Hood, is permitted to stand, one wonders what paintings will grace the walls of future generations,”

    And he also said:

    “And we wonder why we have kids that are drifting around aimlessly when the United States Army allows not faith in God, but witches to worship on military bases by active duty military personnel; and the best that we can tell our young people and our service people is that we have to struggle through this.”

  15. David Tomlin

    If sfv wants me to stop criticizing LP candidates, that’s easy. Change the name of the party. Some ‘reformers’ have expressed interest in that.

    http://www.reformthelp.org/party/name/name.php

    I wouldn’t caer who they nominated or what else they did if they would stop pretending it has anything to do with libertarianism.

    I suspect most of the ‘reformers’ only adopted the label because they coveted the LP’s ballot status. They’ve got it now. It’s time to finish the job and jettison the name.

  16. Gene Trosper

    As a Pagan, I am happy with Barr’s recant. So long as he’s moving in the correct direction, that’s what ultimately matters to me.

  17. RedPhillips

    Ed Brayton complaining about anti-Wiccan bigotry is really rich. He is a first class anti-Christian bigot. His whole blog is one big exercise in anti-Christian bigotry in the name of naturalism and materialism uber alles. Follow some of his threads and you will see. Follow the threads when the subject of Ron Paul and evolution came up, for example.

  18. Trent Hill

    “(BTW, Satanists are considered Christian variants by most Pagans – after all if you don’t believe it represents the flesh and blood of Jesus, it seems like an awful lot of trouble just to insult a cracker…)”

    Did you just use an ethnic slur after insulting Barr repeatedly for racism and unequality.

  19. paulie cannoli Post author

    That “cracker” argument is indeed a chink in the armor of ART’s egalitarian message. One should chew on such turns of phrase thoroughly, be niggardly in their use, and keep one’s speech spic and span, lest Juan get a wop on the head.

  20. RedPhillips

    I think the “cracker” remark was a reference to the communion wafer. Do Satanists desecrate it or something? Hence the notion that Satanism is a branch of Christianity, which is laughable.

    BTW, cracker originally referred to the inhabitants of South Georgia and Northern Florida. I wasn’t necessarily a term of derision. Personally, I wouldn’t mind being called a cracker. It would certainly be more accurate than calling me a hillbilly which technically only applies to residents of Appalachia. The book Cracker Culture influenced the Neo-Confederate movement.

    I was in the military when the Wicca stuff was going on. I heard some about it. As I recall, there was some question of whether Wicca is compatible with military service. Some Wiccans are pacifists. Hopefully this won’t offend; I’m just passing on what I can recall. I am sure there are sincere Wiccans, but the feeling among some was that it was a surrogate for a certain element – disaffected, Goth, etc. And that people were affiliating with it not so much because they believed but because it was what a certain element did. But the main issue was people not wanting them to meet in the Chapel. Some Chaplains were protesting this as well.

    I don’t know what the purpose of whatever Barr was endorsing was, but those were some of the concerns as I recall.

  21. paulie cannoli Post author

    I think the “cracker” remark was a reference to the communion wafer.

    Yeah, I got that. I was being facetious, and I’m pretty sure Trent was too.


    Do Satanists desecrate it or something? Hence the notion that Satanism is a branch of Christianity, which is laughable.

    Yes, they desecrate it, and in general their religion, ceremonies, etc., are just mirror images of and reactions to Christianity, rather than being their own thing like Wicca. Thus Satanism has far more in common with Christianity than with Wicca.

  22. Steve LaBianca

    How many changes of mind are acceptable to libertarians before come to realize that such “recants” are simply bogus?

    Throw in the numerous half “changes”, and the realization is that Barr is really just trying to save face with libertarians, while at the same time telling conservatives, “pssst, I’m really not changing my mind, I’m just pacifying them libertines”.

  23. RedPhillips

    I have always thought that Christians who equate Wicca with Satanism are not helping the case. It just makes them seem like they don’t know what they are talking about. I think it is the association of Wicca with “witchcraft” that does it. There is a sense in which Christians believe that all non-Christian religions are “Satanic.” The if you are not for God you are against Him dichotomy that appears in Scripture. But Wicca and Paganism are clearly distinct from Satanism. (Does anyone really practice Satanism anymore, anyway?

    Legitimate Satanism has always baffled me. It does, as you say, seem to presuppose the Christian narrative. So these folks are knowingly siding with the loser. Why would anyone in their right mind do such a thing? That is why I don’t think a lot of them actually believe it. Satanism is just a great big thumb in the eye of convention. I think most of them are just acting out.

  24. paulie cannoli Post author

    Does anyone really practice Satanism anymore, anyway?

    Yes.

    Legitimate Satanism has always baffled me. It does, as you say, seem to presuppose the Christian narrative. So these folks are knowingly siding with the loser. Why would anyone in their right mind do such a thing?

    That may be the one part of the Christian narrative they don’t agree with (the predicted outcome of the events in Revelations).

    That is why I don’t think a lot of them actually believe it.

    I’ve known Satanists who definitely believe it.

  25. mutabletao

    As a US Combat Veteran and Pagan, let me clear the air on a few items:
    1) Pagans don’t believe in Satan (neither do Jews BTW).
    2) Satanists are by definition Christians, or at minimum of the Judea-Christian pantheon.
    3) My son in law is a SSGT in the Army right now, serving in Korea, and a practicing Pagan.
    4) Wiccan Rede : (in part) “And it harm none, do as thou wilt” – so if you want to be Christian, go ahead.. (although we reserve the right to chuckle a bit when Christians put up “xmas” trees or do bunnies and eggs for easter)
    5) Pagans are not necessarily pacifistic – while the rule is to “harm none”, like Christians who “shall not kill”, there’s an implied moral flexibility in choosing to be a solider. As Patton said, ” You do not win a war by dying for your country, you win a war by making the other poor son-of-a-bitch die for his”

    Lastly – I worry about all politicians, but anyone who supports a bigoted position at any time (obviously without doing any research on the subject) is potentially a problem in office.

  26. Krue Robert Karnbach

    I found Barr’s coments on Wicca vary offending to me because im wiccan! Not right at all!!!!!!!!!

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